Thursday, June 28, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dorothy Hokanson, composer

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Her music made children sing and entertained audiences at orchestral concerts in this country and Canada.

Dorothy Cadzow Hokanson, 84, died Tuesday (June 26) in Seattle after a four-year battle with multiple systems atrophy.

For nearly the past half-century, Mrs. Hokanson and her husband, Randolph, were fixtures in the Seattle concert world, a familiar smiling couple who arrived arm in arm and gathered with friends at intermission to discuss the performances.

Mrs. Hokanson was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on Aug. 9, 1916. Her education began with piano studies with her mother and went on to include the violin before settling on composition.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 1939, she taught music in the Tacoma public schools (1940-42) and then returned to academia with a fellowship at the Juilliard graduate school in New York, where she studied with Frederick Jacobi.

Mrs. Hokanson and her husband met in 1949 at the University of Washington, where both were music teachers. They married in 1952, and Mrs. Hokanson left the faculty because of a nepotism rule.

"She was such a delightful person with such a charming sense of humor," her husband said. "I'm going to miss her horribly."

Before she was 30, Mrs. Hokanson's "Northwestern Sketches" was performed by the Toronto Symphony. It was later performed by the Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle symphonies.

"When `Northwest Sketches' was played at a Seattle Symphony community concert, the conductor, Milton Katims, interviewed her before the audience," her husband said. "He said, `Dorothy, there aren't many women composers. What do you suppose is the reason?'

"She looked at him rather ironically and responded, `Maybe they're too busy playing baseball.' "

A longtime family friend, piano technician Steve Brady, said Mrs. Hokanson was noted for distilling the essence of a work in post-concert dissections. Following one particularly long-winded piece by contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski in a piano recital, she remarked, "This guy makes Liszt look like a terse minimalist."

Former UW faculty colleague James Beale praised Mrs. Hokanson's "lyric gift and considerable wit" in her smaller scores and the "sustained power and drama" in her larger ones.

Her diverse career included such milestones as being a member of the famed Robert Shaw Chorale; orchestrating music for broadcast by the NBC Orchestra on the "Stars of the Future" and for the Broadway revival of "Show Boat"; and creating music for children.

Collaborating with Margaret Wise Brown, author of "Good Night, Moon," Mrs. Hokanson produced many settings of Brown's children's poems. Other compositions included a string quartet, choral settings, a piano sonata and numerous songs.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Hokanson is survived by two sisters, Mary Cairns of Calgary and Frances Bracken of Spokane; three nieces, Dorothy Bracken of Bellevue, Frances Heuessy of Essex, Vt., and Penelope Starritt of Lac Labiche, Alberta; and two nephews, Michael Cairns of Vancouver, B.C., and Thomas Bracken of San Francisco.

Arrangements have not been finalized.

Information in this article, originally published June 28, was corrected June 29. Composer Dorothy Cadzow Hokanson died Tuesday, June 26. An earlier version of this article gave the wrong date.


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