Born in Boston on 16 January 1938, Paul Martin Zonn spent most of his youth in Miami, Fla., where an astute band director gave him a copy of Paul Hindemith's book on music composition. Already busy playing in Miami Beach clubs, Zonn attended the University of Miami on scholarship and later studied clarinet in Baltimore and New York and earned advanced degrees from the University of Iowa. Internationally acclaimed as an innvator in composition and clarinet, Zonn was respected and admired by a diverse and distinguished circle of friends and colleagues. He appeared on stage as clarinet soloist at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and Ravinia, and with the Lenox String Quartet, country music great Vince Gill, the Miami Philharmonic, the Nashville Jug Band, and the New Orleans Eagle Band. Zonn taught at Grinnell College (1967-70) and at the University of Illinois (1970-1997), where he headed the Theory and Composition Division and led the Contemporary Chamber Players. Zonn received honors and awards from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, New York Composers Forum, the Berkshire Music Center, and the Fromm Foundation. He was perhaps most pleased to have been named a Distinguished Alumnus of his alma mater, the University of Miami, in 1998. Paul Martin Zonn died on 8 December 2000 after a long illness. His papers are deposited at The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois.
Heralded as an innovator both in composition and in clarinet performance, his musical influences and interests were diverse:
He appeared on stage as clarinet soloist at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood and Ravinia, and with many different styles of musical artists that include the Lenox String Quartet, country music great Vince Gill, the Miami Philharmonic, the Nashville Jug Band, and the New Orleans Eagle Band
He played mandolin at Lincoln Center and the Library of Congress with Julliard Quartet cellist Joel Krosnick.
He played saxophone and slide saxophone in performances and recordings of avant-garde jazz with Anthony Braxton, and was on stage with the Tennessee Dance Theatre and at Opryland playing traditional jazz.
He toured and recorded with fiddle legend Vassar Clements.
In writing about Paul Martin Zonn's music the press has been uniformly exuberant:
"Stretching the definition of music beyond Mozart's wildest dream..." - Colorado Journal
"Composes with virtuousity..." - The New Record.
"Robust enthusiasm, jazz-like passages and expanded tonal resources..." - Las Vegas Sun.
"Compositional standout..." - Chicago Tribune
"New sounds and experiences that evoke images of space and computers..." - Woodwind-Brass-Percussion World
"Inevitably mixed with surprise..." - Clarinet Magazine
"Deliciously artful..." - Musical America
Zonn was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including:
Three Ford Foundation Fellowships