CHARLES RUGGIERO (b. June 19, 1947; Bridgeport, CT) holds degrees from the New England Conservatory and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in composition, 1979). His principal composition teachers were H. Owen Reed and Jere Hutcheson. In 2017 Ruggiero retired from Michigan State (MSU), where he had taught in three disciplines, composition, music theory, and jazz studies. Ruggiero's 44 years as a member of the MSU faculty began in 1973. Prior to his association with MSU, Ruggiero held several teaching positions in Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Instrutor of Percussion at the University of Bridgeport (CT).
Ruggiero's compositions have been performed in Asia, Europe, South America, and throughout North America. As a composer, Ruggiero has received numerous grants and commissions, including a 1987-88 National Endowment for the Arts Consortium Commissioning Grant, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Special Awards and ASCAPLU$ awards every year since 1987, and several MSU All-University Research Grants.
Three of Ruggiero's compositions that feature the saxophone, THREE BLUES FOR SAXOPHONE QUARTET, DANCES AND OTHER MOVEMENTS, and INTERPLAY, were written for saxophonists James Forger and Joseph Lulloff. Notable performances of these works have been given at the 9th and 12th World Saxophone Congresses (Kawasaki, Japan, and Montreal, Quebec, respectively), Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Jordon Hall (Boston), the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC), several North American Saxophone Alliance national and regional conventions, the Pro Musicis Foundation Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Series at Florence Gould Hall (New York), the American Society of University Composers Region V Conference and C. Buell Lipa Festival of Contemporary Music (Ames, IA), the Midwest Music Conference (Ann Arbor, MI), a Composer's Inc. concert at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and several Annual Fischoff Music Competitions (South Bend, IN).
Ruggiero's INTERPLAY, composed for Joseph Lulloff and Jun Okada, is featured on a Channel Crossings compact disc by Lulloff (1997) and a CRI compact disc by Dan Gobel (2001). Recordings of Ruggiero's THREE BLUES FOR SAXOPHONE QUARTET have been issued on four different labels: AUR, Centaur, Klavier, and Sunrise.
Ruggiero has composed other instrumental music, ranging from solo pieces to works for large ensembles. IL FOCO, for solo flute, was written for the composer's daughter Susan, who gave the premiere of this work in 1999 at Michigan State University. Ruggiero's STUDIES FOR CLARINET AND VIBE (1979-80) has been performed many times by the Uwharrie Clarinet-Percussion Duo during several of their regional tours. Ruggiero's FROM TWO RAMPARTS (1992), for wind symphony, was commissioned by Kenneth Bloomquist and performed at the 1992 North Central Convention of the College Band Directors National Association and the National Band Association.
FRACTURED MAMBOS, for tuba and electronic tape, which Ruggiero composed in 1990 for Philip Sinder, was performed by Sinder at the 1990 International Tuba/Euphonium Symposium (Japan) and is included on Sinder's compact disc recording Aerodynamics (Mark, 1995). In the May/June 1996 issue of American Record Guide, reviewer Kilpatrick called FRACTURED MAMBOS "one of the most dramatic and entertaining electroacoustic works I have ever heard." FRACTURED MAMBOS was selected as a required piece for the artist-level tuba competition which took place during the 2000 International Tuba-Euphonium Conference (University of Regina, Saskatchewan).
Ruggiero's AFTER MIDNIGHT, for piano, was given its premiere by Deborah Moriarty at the Sixth Fontana Music Festival (Shelbyville, MI, 1985). Moriarty has since performed the work several times, including in Leningrad, Tbilisi, and Moscow during her 1989 tour of the former Soviet Union. AFTER MIDNIGHT also was performed by Sara Okamoto in several Midwestern states during her American "Classical Exposure" tour (1991), by Eui-Kyung Erica Ohm at the Seoul Arts Center, South Korea (1994), and by Marie Blair at Spectrum in New York City (2014).
The premiere of Ruggiero's CONCERTO FOR SOPRANO SAXOPHONE AND ORCHESTRA was given by saxophonist Joseph Lulloff, conductor Leon Gregorian, and the Michigan State University Symphony Orchestra at MSU's Wharton Center for the Performing Arts in 1996. This concerto received an Honorable Mention in the 2000 Annual ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Competition for new large-ensemble compositions and is included on the AUR compact disc Joseph Lulloff Plays the Saxophone Music of Colgrass, Dahl, and Ruggiero (released in 2000).
Although his compositional style is eclectic, much of Ruggiero's music reflects his lifelong interest in jazz. A manifest example of Ruggiero's jazz-related writing is his concert setting for alto saxophone and piano of Billy Strayhorn compositions. In 2000 this arrangement was performed by Joseph Lulloff and Jun Okada at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the North American Saxophone Alliance National Convention (Phoenix, AZ), and several universities. In 2001 AUR released Lulloff and Okada's recording of Ruggiero's Strayhorn arrangement on America's Tribute to ADOLPHE SAX, Vol. VI. In 2010 the composer arranged this piece for violin, viola, and piano for members of the Atlantic Ensemble.
Ruggiero's composition FANFARES, GROWLS AND SHOUTS FOR SIX TRUMPETS was inspired by the trumpet virtuosi who populated Duke Ellington's bands from the 1920s until Ellington's death in 1974. This work was performed at the 1998 Conference of the International Trumpet Guild held at the University of Kentucky. Another of Ruggiero's works that is strongly influenced by jazz, BLUES, TIME, CHANGES, was premiered by bassoonist Barrick Stees and the Arianna String Quartet in 2000 and was recorded by them for release on Centaur Records.
Other compositions by Ruggiero include: FANTASY ON A THEME BY RAVEL, for clarinet and piano, written for Suzanne Tirk and premiered by her at the International Clarinet Association's ClarinetFest 2004 (University of Maryland-College Park); DIG: JSB-1, commissioned by the Capitol Saxophone Quartet and performed by them at the North American Saxophone Alliance 2004 Biennial Conference (University of North Carolina-Greensboro); and, a concerto for alto saxophone, piano, winds, and percussion,DANCE COMPULSIONS, Ruggiero's second saxophone concerto, which was commissioned by John Whitwell and the MSU Bands and premiered by Joseph Lulloff, Jun Okada, John Whitwell, and the MSU Wind Symphony at Michigan State University's Wharton Center in 2003. Ruggiero also wrote NIGHT SONGS AND FLIGHTS OF FANCY for Joseph Lulloff and Jun Okada. Since the completion of this work in 2005, Lulloff and Okada and other performers have performed NIGHT SONGS many times at festivals and conferences throughout the United States. In 2007 Lulloff gave the Russian premiere of NIGHT SONGS at Moscow's Scriabin House recital hall.
The Atlantic Ensemble, based in Nashville,TN, and led by violinist Wei-Tsun Chang, has played several of Ruggiero's works, including his quartet, INTIMATE RECOLLECTIONS (which was composed for the ensemble), in Nashville, New York City (Symphony Space), and Paris.
In 2014 saxophonist Jonathan Nichol and pianist Michael Kirkendoll gave the world premiere of Ruggiero's TENOR ATTITUDES, a work that marks, as does another substantial composition, 5 GROOVES FOR 10 TRUMPETS AND ELECTROACOUTIC PERCUSSION, a significant change in the composer's output. The premiere of TENOR ATTITUDES was given at the 2014 Biennial Conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
From 1959 to 2006, Ruggiero was active as a jazz drummer. Beginning in the early 1990s, he performed frequently with his Michigan State University colleague, Joseph Lulloff. As noted above, Ruggiero has written several works for Lulloff, including SizzleSax II, a Coltrane-inspired piece for solo tenor saxophone and percussion that Lulloff premiered at the 12th World Saxophone Congress international convention in Montreal in 2000. In 2010, Lulloff, with the Musique 21 ensemble, conducted by Raphael Jiménez, gave the world premiere of Ruggiero's third saxophone concerto, BOPISH BLUE TINGED, one of three major Ruggiero works included on the CD Jazz-Tinged - Lulloff Plays Ruggiero, which was release on Blue Griffin Recording in 2014. BGR nominated this CD in 2014 for Grammy awards in three categories: best classical soloist, best new classical composition, and best audio engineering.
Ruggiero has performed with such notable jazz musicians as Marcus Belgrave, Randy Brecker, Nick Brignola, Pete Christlieb, Eddie Daniels, Nathan Davis, Eliane Elias, Carl Fontana, Hal Galper, Milt Hinton, Robert Hurst, Clay Jenkins, Rich Matteson, Rick Margitza, John Mehegan, Mark Murphy, Frank Potenza, Kim Richmond, Sal Salvador, Woody Shaw, Jim Snidaro, Phillip Strange, Sunny Wilkinson, Kai Winding, Rodney Whitaker, and many outstanding Michigan-based artists. Ruggiero directed and performed in the Michigan State University Improvisation Ensemble from 1974 to 1978 and was a cofounder, with pianist Ron Newman, of the MSU Faculty Jazz Trio and Quartet (1980-95).
Charles Ruggiero performing with the MSU Jazz Faculty, 1991 MSU Jazz Spectacular (photo by Mark Ladenson)
Ruggiero studied jazz drumming with Pete D'Addario and Harry Ashmore and orchestral percussion with Vic Firth, former principal percussionist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1970-71 Ruggiero taught percussion at the Weston School of Music and, as noted above, the University of Bridgeport (both in Connecticut). Ruggiero also studied piano with Jean Poole Alderman and jazz theory and improvisation with John Mehegan.
Early in his career Ruggiero served as director of Michigan State University's jazz and new-music ensembles. In the 1970s Ruggiero became interested in computer technologies and their applications in music, and in 1983 he founded the MSU Collegel of Music's first computer-music studio. In the 1990s Ruggiero's Set Analysis Programs (1986) and CASAP: Computer-Assisted Set Analysis Program (1990) for the analysis of atonal music were used at many colleges and universities in North America, Korea, and Australia. For 16 years, from 1988 to 2005, Ruggiero served as chairperson of the music theory area of MSU's College of Music.
In 2011 Charles Ruggiero received the MSU College of Music's Dortha J. and John D. Withrow Excellence in Teaching Award.
Charles Ruggiero lives in Okemos, Michigan, with his wife, Pat.