Composer Dorothy Cadzow Hokanson, 84, died June 26, 2001, in Seattle after being ill four-years with multiple systems atrophy.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, on August 9, 1916, Hokanson began her musical studies at the piano with her mother. She later took up the violin before devoting herself to composition.
Hokanson graduated from the University of Washington in 1939 and a fellowship at the Juilliard School later allowed her to study with Frederick Jacobi in New York. She then returned to the University of Washington to join the faculty and met her husband, Randolph, there in 1949. They married in 1952, but nepotism rules in effect at the time forced her resignation from the university.
Stuart Dempster, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, remembers Hokanson as a reserved and humble person. “When I first came on the scene at the University of Washington in 1968 I didn’t know anything about her career. It was quite a while later that I crossed paths with her compositions and was suitably impressed.”
Hokanson’s orchestral work, “Northwestern Sketches,” was performed by the Toronto, Vancouver, and Seattle symphonies. During her career, she orchestrated music for broadcast by the NBC Orchestra on the “Stars of the Future” radio program and for the Broadway revival of Show Boat. She was also well known for her settings of Margaret Wise Brown‘s children’s poems. Other compositions included a number of songs, a string quartet, choral settings, and a piano sonata.
“To me her music is quite deep, yet warm and approachable,” Dempster says. “It is certainly well crafted and demonstrates not only a knowledge of compositional techniques but also orchestration. Her compositions seem to ‘belong’ on the instruments they are written for.”
It was only after reading her obituary, Dempster says, that he found out she had once taught composition at the University. “I feel that it was a great loss. Someone of her background and diverse interests would have been a great benefit to the University community more than the ‘faculty wife’ role to which she was confined.”