Tom Manoff

Composer and author Tom Manoff has been the classical music critic for NPR's All Things Considered since 1985.

In addition to his work at NPR, Manoff has written for the New York Times and other newspapers. Manoff's compositions include music for the Oscar-winning documentary Down and Out in the USA and Honor is so Sublime Perfection, performed at Tanglewood.

Currently, Manoff is working on an opera "The Trials of Katherina Kepler" and Chase the White Horse, a political memoir about his family.

His first book The Music Kit (WW Norton and Company, 1976-2001) has long been among the top-selling college textbooks for fundamentals of music. His second text, Music: A Living Language (Norton, 1982), was praised for its groundbreaking approach placing standard music history in a broader historical, cultural and musical context. The publication was the first college text from a major publisher to explore all musical styles as equal art forms.

At age five, Manoff started playing the piano. By the time he reached 10, Manoff began studying piano, theory and analysis with pianist and conductor David Labovitz.

Manoff studied at the Manhattan School of Music. His teachers included Ludmila Ulehla for theory and composition, Bronson Ragan in keyboard improvisation and figured bass, Hugh Ross in choral conducting, Anton Coppola in orchestral conducting, and Nicholas Flagello for orchestration.

In 1967, while still a student, Manoff joined the faculty of the Manhattan School's Preparatory Division. He taught theory, ear training, and composition for 11 years. A year after his faculty appointment, Manoff was appointed head of theory, composition, and teacher training at the Third Street Music School Settlement. In this role he developed intensive programs for young minority students with professional musical potential.

Manoff was a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worker during the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in 1964 and 1965.

Even heard in modern synthesizer arrangements, the melody of the carol "Good King Wenceslas" brings the words and images of the story into my head: "Good King Wenceslas looked out / on the Feast of Stephen / When the snow lay 'round about / deep and crisp and even.

Wenceslas was a real person: the Duke of Bohemia, a 10th-century Christian prince in a land where many practiced a more ancient religion. In one version of his legend, Wenceslas was murdered in a plot by his brother, who was under the sway of their so-called pagan mother.