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Rózsa, Béla, 1905-1977



  • Existence: 1905-02-14 - 1977

biographical statement

Composer, pianist, organist, and chess enthusiast, taught at The University of Tulsa School of Music from 1945 to 1974, serving as head of the department of music theory and director of graduate study. He was born February 14, 1905 in Kecskemet, Hungary, son of the opera singer Lajos Sandor Rózsa, a leading baritone in Vienna and Budapest. Bela Rozsa began his musical studies at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and at age thirteen he began to accompany his father in concerts. Two years later, in 1921, the family came to the United States, where his father joined the New York Metropolitan Opera.

In a letter found in the collection, he writes "Shortly after our arrival here, my father became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Co., and died a year after in very tragical circumstances. As a teenager, he goes on to relate how he had been supporting himself and his mother, working “from as a stock boy up to a movie pianist, playing in one of those cheap uptown theatres. At the same time he continued his musical studies at the Institute of Musical Art (later the Juilliard School of Music), receiving a diploma in composition in 1928. Winning the Seligman Prize for chamber music composition gave him the opportunity for further study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger.

He continued to live in New York City, conducting orchestras and choruses, producing operas, and serving for five years as staff pianist and organist at the National Broadcasting Company. He undertook graduate studies at the University of Iowa, and in 1943 he was awarded a doctorate in Composition and Psychology of Music. Before joining the faculty of the TU School of Music, he taught at Baylor University and was the head of the music department at Iowa Wesleyan University.

Dr. Rozaa was also an avid and passionate chess player. In 1940 he won the North Texas Championship, and twice (1942 and 1948) tied for first place in the prestigious Southwestern Open. He was a ten-time Oklahoma State Chess Championship, and in 1952 won the Tenth Grand National Correspondence Chess Tournament, a ten year event in which over 1,000 players competed. The Oklahoma Chess Association continues to honor him with an annual tournament. He leaves a legacy at the University of Tulsa School of Music is considerable, and continues to the present day. He is honored every year with a memorial concert and nationwide composition contest for high

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Bela Rozsa archive, 1923-2006

Identifier: 2006-001
Scope and Contents Contains manuscripts, ozalid prints and masters, photocopies, and sketches of Rozsa's works, student notebooks, correspondence, ephemera, and materials relating to his enthusiasm for chess; scores by Rozsa's friends, colleagues, and students also included, as well as ephemera from the School of Music's annual Bela Rozsa Memorial Concert and Student Composition competition.
Dates: 1923 - 2006; Majority of material found within 1923 - 1968

Thomas Amburn collection of Bela Rozsa chess games, 1952-1973

Identifier: 2006-018
Scope and Contents Comprised of chess score sheets, transcriptions of chess games, and chess related press cuttings. The collection was donated by Thomas Amburn of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Frank Berry of Stillwater, Oklahoma, a member of the Oklahoma Chess Foundation, transcribed all of the chess games onto a compact disc in chess base format ( and then donated the book in the summer of 2006.
Dates: 1952 - 1973