© Bernie Mindich
Joan Tower, a composer whose directness and eclecticism make her music instantly accessible, and whose imaginative sense of development — often by way of insistent but evolving rhythms and surprising juxtapositions — gives it an original, distinctive personality.
— Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
Brief Biography: Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). Tower studied piano and composition at Bennington College and Columbia University. Her earliest works were serial in concept, but her music soon developed the lyricism, rhythmic drive, and colorful orchestration that characterize her subsequent works. She co-founded the Da Capo Chamber Players in 1969 as pianist — its accolades included the 1973 Naumburg Chamber Music Award — but also wrote several well-received pieces for the ensemble. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972. Her music is published by Associated Music Publishers.
For a complete biography, click here.
|Key Works: |
(1980; chamber ensemble)
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
(1986; brass, percussion)
- Silver Ladders
- Night Fields
(1994; string quartet)
- Made in America
- Purple Rhapsody
(2005; viola, orchestra)
|Career Highlights: |
- 1969 Founded the chamber music ensemble, the Da Capo Players
- 1985-87 Composer-in-Residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
- 1990 Awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders
- 1997 Composer-in-Residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's
- 2005 First composer to be commissioned for the Ford Made In America Project, involving sixty-five orchestras throughout the United States
- 2008 Nashville Symphony's recording of Made in America received three Grammy Awards, including "Best Classical Contemporary Composition"
...expertly wrought, full of character and instantly communicative.
— The New York Times
[Tower's] efforts have immensely enriched American music...She has emerged as one of America's foremost and most colourful composer. Nearly impossible to pigeonhole stylistically, her numerous works for orchestra and chamber-music ensembles are characterized by rhythmic vitality, power, and often raw emotion.
One of the most successful woman composers of all time...
— The New Yorker
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than 50 years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others.
In 1990, Tower became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders. She was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. The Nashville Symphony and conductor Leonard Slatkin recorded that work, Made in America, with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra for the Naxos label. The top-selling recording won three 2008 Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance.
From 1969 to 1984, she was pianist and founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, which commissioned and premiered many of her most popular works. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, quickly entered the repertory. Tower's tremendously popular five Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 500 different ensembles. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972.
Her composer-residencies with orchestras and festivals include a decade with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Composer of the Year for their 2010-2011 season, as well as the St. Louis Symphony, the Deer Valley Music Festival, and the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.
Among her recent premieres: White Water (2012), commissioned by Chamber Music Monterey Bay and premiered by the Daedalus Quartet; Stroke (2011), commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; White Granite (2009), commissioned by St. Timothy's Summer Music Festival, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, and La Jolla Music Society for SummerFest; Angels (2008), her fourth string quartet, commissioned by Music for Angel Fire and premiered by the Miami String Quartet; Dumbarton Quintet (2008), a piano quintet commissioned by the Dumbarton Oaks Estate (their third commission after Stravinsky and Copland) and premiered by Tower and the Enso String Quartet; Chamber Dance (2006), commissioned, premiered, and toured by Orpheus; and Copperwave (2006), written for the American Brass Quintet and commissioned by The Juilliard School of Music. A Gift (2007), for winds and piano, was commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest and premiered by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS). Other CMS premieres included Trio Cavany (2007) and Simply Purple (2008) for viola, performed by Paul Neubauer.
Her compositions cross many genres: Can I (2007) for youth chorus and percussionist; Copperwave (2006), written for brass quintet; DNA (2003), a percussion quintet commissioned for Frank Epstein and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble; Fascinating Ribbons (2001), her foray into the world of band music, premiered at the annual conference of College Band Directors; Vast Antique Cubes/Throbbing Still (2000), a solo piano piece for John Browning; Tambor (1998), for the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of Mariss Jansons; and her ballet Stepping Stones (1993), commissioned by choreographer Kathryn Posin for the Milwaukee Ballet and revisited by Posin with the Bulgarian Ballet in June 2011.
Joan Tower's music is published by Associated Music Publishers.
— September 2012