Wrote 434 opus numbers and 67 numbered symphonies, making him one of the 20th century's most prolific composers. He taught future jazz notables Sam Rivers and Gigi Gryce while a professor at the Boston Conservatory from 1948 until 1951.
He studied at the New England Conservatory of Music where he won the Samuel Endicott prize for composition in 1932.
He was looking for a fresh start with his composition in the 1930s and 1940s, so he destroyed all of his early work, numbering upwards of 1000 pieces.
His father Haroutioun Hovanes Chakmakjian was a chemistry professor at Tufts College, and his mother Madeleine Scott was of Scottish ancestry and had attended Wellesley College.
He heard a Franz Schubert work when he was four, leading him to compose his first piece.