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St. Kate's musical icon is memorialized Wednesday

Professor Emeritus Al Biales.
Professor Emeritus Al Biales.
Photo supplied.

Professor Emeritus Albert Biales, who was a revered member of the St. Catherine University faculty from 1962–1997, died late Thursday, Dec. 6.  Services will be Wednesday, Dec. 12th, at O'Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home in St. Paul.

The son of Russian immigrants, Biales was born in Cleveland where his love of music was nurtured both at home and at school.  He earned an undergraduate degree in music education and a master of arts degree in composition and theory from Ohio State University.

In 1954, he was drafted into the army and was trumpet player in the base band at Fort Knox. He also played with jazz groups that performed on the base and in the Louisville area. Following his discharge from the army, he was accepted into the University of California, Los Angeles’ graduate program and received a doctorate in historical musicology in 1962.  

While at UCLA he studied with composer Lukas Foss, served as a teaching assistant and played professionally in L.A. clubs. He also spent two summers performing in show bands at Lake Tahoe’s Harrah’s and Cal-Neva casinos, accompanying performers such as Lena Horne, Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra, among others.  

At St. Catherine’s, he served as music department chair for 18 years and taught a variety of courses, from music history and theory to jazz. He also performed and composed orchestral music, operas, concertos and chamber music.  His opera, Mozart in Manhattan, with libretto by St. Kate’s Sociology Professor Brian Fogarty, was performed for the University’s Centennial celebration in 2005.

He was the recipient of a number of scholarly awards, including a Fulbright Grant for European Study and three Bush Foundation faculty development grants—for the opera, Belisa; for the composition, “Concerto for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra;” and for an electronic score to accompany a slide presentation of Minnesota Redstone Buildings. The Women’s Guild of the St. Paul Opera Association also provided a grant for production costs for Belisa.

It was at St. Catherine’s that he met his wife, Barbara Boyce '57, who taught psychology and with her raised four daughters, who all graduated from St. Kate’s: Ann Biales '89, Ellen Biales '91, Joan Biales Frankel '92 and Susan Biales '96.

Final composition to be premiered spring 2013

The St. Catherine Choral Society will premiere a  new composition from Biales, featuring text by Professor Russell Connors, under the direction of Music and Theater Department Chair Patricia C. Connors.

Dec. 11, 2012 by Julie Michener

See also: Arts, Faculty