A graduate of Swarthmore (Phi Beta Kappa), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Charles held a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Charles also studied with Paul Hindemith at Yale University and Vincent Persichetti and Peter Menin at the Juilliard School and independently, with Vladimir Ussachevsky. He served in the Navy during World War II.
In 1977 the family moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, Ann Bestor's hometown where Charles became head of the music and dance department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It was here that Charles would really assume the role of composer.
In addition to VCCA, where he was in residence 13 times between 1987 and 2006, Charles had residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland). At the time of his death he was working on a double CD set of his music entitled "The Summing Up" (available on Albany Records).
Charles also collaborated with visual artist and VCCA Fellow Barbara Cornett and the lighting designer John Wade on the installations “Cycles and Time” and “The River's Flow”, both commissioned by Randolph College’s Maier Museum of American Art in Lynchburg, “Into the Labyrinth”, commissioned by the Fine Arts Center of the Virginia Museum in Lynchburg and “The Unfound Door”, commissioned by the College Music Society. His collaboration with Sherry Healy, “Pathways” from the “Dream Spell Series” was installed at the Chicago International Art Expo at Navy Pier.
After his wife died in 1999, Charles set up the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Endowment Fund through the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust to honor her and their 47-year union. Charles leaves their six children: Charles and Geoff, both of Washington D.C., Phill of Pittsburgh, Leslie Ann of Amherst, MA, Wendy of Taiwan, and Simsbury, CT, and Jenner of Amherst, MA. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Charles’s family and wide circle of students and friends