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John Hidden Van Buren ’74

January 15, 2022, in Stuttgart, Germany, of stomach cancer.

An internationally recognized composer, John was the second of three sons born to Helene Hidden ’32 and Evans Van Buren. He attended Lincoln High School before starting at Reed. In his junior year, he traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, to study German language and music, and ended up living there for 50 years. He entered the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst (State University of Music and Performing Arts) in Stuttgart, where he studied composition with Milko Kelemen, piano with Edgar Trauer, and electronic music with Erhard Karkoschka.

As a composer, teacher, and performance coach, John’s life was music. He taught music composition, theory, and history at the University of Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart and was a professor for eight years at the University of Augsburg. He organized new music concerts in Stuttgart, and his compositions were performed on the radio and in concert halls in Europe and North America. His most played composition, Divertimento, was performed by the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. His Momento was performed by the Portland Youth Philharmonic with Jacob Avshalomov conducting. His collaborations with choreographers and filmmakers led to productions on German television, on New York public television, at opera houses in Germany, and at important theaters in London and New York.

John suffered a stroke in 2000, but, with some impairment, was able to continue living in his third-floor walkup apartment in the Stuttgart neighborhood of Dan Cannstatt. He loved to travel, take in art exhibits, and visit friends and Portland family at their Oregon coast home in Tolovana. After another stroke in 2013, he moved into assisted living in Stuttgart. Though he could not travel as before, he continued his interest in sharing fine food and wine with friends. John had a keen wit and a caring spirit, and was generous with others to the end of his life. He is survived by his companion of 47 years, Margaret Schaal; his brothers, Evan and Mason; and his beloved goddaughter, Uli Fischer.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2022

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