Samuel Barbor, one of America's most accomplished composers, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1910. He grew up in a musical family-his mother was a pianist, and his aunt, Louise Homer, was a famous opera contralto. Barber began studying piano at the age of six. The following year he wrote his first composition, a piano piece entitled Sadness. When he was nine, Barber planned a full-length opera. While he was attending high school, Barber performed for Harold Randolph, director of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Randolph advised Barber to devote himself entirely to music and encouraged him to apply to the Curtis Institute, a newly founded school of music in Philadelphia. At the institute, Barber studied piano, composition, and singing. In 1928 he received the Bearns Prize for a violin sonata. However, it was not until several years later, when Barber wrote two highly innovative orchestral works that he became recognized as a composer of considerable status. The first of these works was Overture to the School for Scandal (1933) which brought Barber the Bearns Prize for a second time. The second was Music for a Scene from Shelley, a piece inspired by Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley. After winning the Prix de Rome, Barber settled in Rome at the American Academy. There he composed his first symphony, the Symphony in One Movement (1936), in which he compressed four sections of a traditional symphony into one movement. While he was serving in World War II, Barber was commissioned to write a symphony in honor of the U.S. Air Force. Obviously influenced by the war, this piece was considerably more dissonant and astringent than his previous work had been. After being discharged, Barber returned to Capricorn, his home in Mount Kisco, New York. There Barber wrote the major works that included Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1945) and the ballet Medea (1946) for which he would be placed first among American composers. By the late 1940s, Barber had had established his style. He combined strong lyrical and emotional elements with modern harmonic and rhythmic approaches. Barber's first opera, Vanessa (1958), received the Pulitzer Prize in Music. He received a second Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1962 for his Piano Concerto.