Walter Arlen

Message from the President
Sept. 8, 2023

Dear LMU Community:

I am saddened to share that Walter Arlen, emeritus professor of music, passed away on Sept. 2, 2023, after a long illness. He was 103 years old.

Professor Arlen was a composer and music critic who wrote for the Los Angeles Times when he began teaching music at Marymount College in the 1960s. A visionary with a passion for teaching, Professor Arlen founded the music department in 1969 at what became Loyola Marymount University. He was a steadfast supporter of the department well beyond his retirement in 1988.

Professor Arlen was born Walter Aptowitzer in Vienna on July 31, 1920. He received his first piano lessons at age five when Schubert researcher Otto Erich German recognized his perfect pitch. After his father was arrested by the Nazis in 1938 and his mother was admitted to a mental hospital, Professor Arlen emigrated alone in March 1939 to join relatives in Chicago. In 1946, he reunited with his parents and sister, who had escaped to London.

While in Chicago, Professor Arlen studied composition with Leo Sowerby and won first prize in a composition competition. He also studied with Roy Harris, one of the most distinguished American composers, and was a music critic for the Times from 1952 until 1980. Professor Arlen also received teaching assignments at several universities in America and took over the administration and artistic direction of the American Academy of Arts in Verona, Italy, and was a musical consultant for the José Iturbi International Piano Competition in Valencia, Spain.

A film about his extraordinary life, “Walter Arlen’s First Century,” premiered in 2019.

Details for a celebration of Professor Arlen’s career and impact are forthcoming.

Please keep Walter, his spouse, Howard Myers, his former students and colleagues, and his friends in your thoughts and prayers.


Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.