1961: Cumberland Gap Overture

Joseph Willcox Jenkins (1928–2014) was an American composer and professor of music. Jenkins served as faculty at the Mary Pappert School of Music, at Duquesne University, where he served as head of the theory and composition department and taught music theory, orchestration, and composition, and ended his career as Professor Emeritus.

Jenkins studied pre-law at Saint Joseph's University (then St. Joseph's College) in Philadelphia. During this time he also studied composition and counterpoint with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory. Jenkins received a master of music degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied under Thomas Canning, Howard Barlow, Bernard Rogers, and Howard Hanson, among others, and he received his doctorate from Catholic University, where he studied with William L. Graves and Conrad Bernier.

During his military service, Jenkins was the arranger for the United States Army Field Band and the Armed Forces Radio Network, as well as chief arranger and assistant conductor of the United States Army Chorus.

In addition to his university teaching, Jenkins worked in Pittsburgh as the organist and orchestra director at St. Edmund's Academy and composed works for the orchestra at the Ellis School. He composed works for other elementary and secondary schools, including the Holy Innocents High School of Pittsburgh and the Marlborough School of Los Angeles.


Joseph Willcox Jenkins


Jenkins won the 1961 ABA Ostwald Award for his Cumberland Gap Overture, inspired by the Cumberland region of the Appalachians between Kentucky and Tennessee. The preface to the score states, β€œIt is a concert overture which conforms to the sonata-allegro form and is mildly descriptive of the Cumberland region. The themes are original although they are in the spirit of the folk music of southern Maryland.”