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About the composer: Joan Tower

Even as she prepares for her 70th birthday in 2008, Joan Tower is looking forward as much as she is looking back on a career that already spans over five decades.

Hailed as "one of the most successful woman composers of all time" in The New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower was the first woman ever to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. She was inducted in 1998 into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004.

In January 2004, Carnegie Hall's Making Music series featured a retrospective of Tower's work. This special event showcased numerous artists who regularly perform her music, including the Tokyo String Quartet, pianists Melvin Chen and Ursula Oppens, violist Paul Neubauer, oboist Richard Woodhams, and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble. Most of these works were then recorded for August 2005 release on the Naxos recording label.

In March 2004, Tower attended the premiere of her new piece, For Daniel, written for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio at the Tucson Winter Festival, and the New York premiere at the 92nd Street Y. She performed the piano part with members of the Muir Quartet at the 2004 Deer Valley Festival in Utah to great acclaim, and returned to Utah in 2005 as composer-in-residence with performances of her orchestral tour-de-force Tambor and several chamber works. A new viola concerto for Paul Neubauer by an orchestral consortium led by the Omaha Symphony and a commission by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra will also premiere in the 2005-2006 season.

Joan Tower is the first composer chosen for the ambitious new "Ford Made in America" commissioning program, a collaboration of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet The Composer. In October 2005, the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra will present the world premiere of Tower's 15-minute orchestral piece. The work will go on for performances by orchestras in every state in the Union during the 2005-06 season. This is the first project of its kind to involve smaller-budget orchestras as commissioning agents of a new work by a major composer.

The 2004-05 season has seen Tower in numerous residencies including UCLA, Vanderbilt and Eastman universities and the Bloch, Deer Valley, Aspen and Menlo Park festivals. Tower has added "conductor" to her list of accomplishments, with engagements at the American Symphony, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Scotia Festival Orchestra, and the Anchorage Symphony, and Kalisto Chamber Orchestra, among others.

Since 1972, Tower has taught at Bard College where she is Asher Edelman Professor of Music. She is composer-in-residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a title she also held for eight years at the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Other accolades include the 1998 Delaware Symphony's Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composers and the 2002 Annual Composer's Award from the Lancaster (PA) Symphony. "Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music" (The Detroit News).

Tower's 2003-04 season featured two significant world premieres: DNA, a percussion quintet commissioned for Frank Epstein and his New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble; and her third string quartet, Incandescent, for the Emerson String Quartet performed at the opening of the new Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College. The Emerson Quartet has embraced Incandescent and is touring it throughout the world.

The success of Tower's second string quartet, In Memory, premiered by the Tokyo String Quartet in 2002 at the 92nd Street Y was a highlight of their tour of three continents. Her percussion concerto, Strike Zones, was performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center by Evelyn Glennie with the National Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin.

Other compositions have crossed many genres: 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) is a solo piano piece for John Browning; Big Sky (2000) a piano trio premiered by David Finckel, Wu Han, and Chee-Yun; Tambor (1998) for the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of Mariss Jansons, remounted for the ASOL concert in Pittsburgh in 2004; and Wild Purple (1998) for violist Paul Neubauer. Tower's 1990 Grawemeyer Award-winning Silver Ladders was written during her 1985-88 St. Louis Symphony residency, and was subsequently choreographed in 1998 by Helgi Tomasson and the San Francisco Ballet. Her 1993 ballet Stepping Stones was commissioned by choreographer Kathryn Posin for the Milwaukee Ballet.

Joan Tower's bold and energetic music, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms, has won large, enthusiastic audiences. 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, with performances by orchestras including St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tokyo NHK, Toronto, the National Symphony and London Philharmonia. A choreographed version by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet toured throughout Canada, Europe, and Russia. Tower's tremendously popular five Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 400 different ensembles.

On disc, Tower's popular Petroushskates opens the new first recording by the innovative group, eighth blackbird, on the Cedille label. Fanfares Nos. 1-5, Duets, and Concerto for Orchestra with the Colorado Symphony (Marin Alsop) may be heard on Koch; and Tower's Four Concertos—with Elmar Oliveira, Ursula Oppens, David Shifrin, Carol Wincenc and the Louisville Orchestra &mdash is available on d'Note Records. Turning Points (1995), a clarinet quintet for David Shifrin and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is on Delos. A Nonesuch Records CD with the St. Louis Symphony (Slatkin), highlights Sequoia and Silver Ladders, along with Music for Cello and Orchestra (Lynn Harrell, cello), and Island Prelude (Peter Bowman, oboe). Naxos releases an all chamber music CD in August 2005 and First Edition celebrates her legacy with the St. Louis and Louisville Symphonies with an all-Tower all-orchestral disc.

Joan Tower has been the subject of television documentaries on PBS's WGBH television station in Boston, on CBS Sunday Morning, and MJW Productions in England. She is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers, a division of The Music Sales Group.

Read an article from SYMPHONY Magazine about Joan Tower and Ford Made in America.
About this Music
A brief tour, with Joan at the piano, of the thematic material of Made in America.
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"I Grew Up in South America..."
Joan describes her formative years in South America and its impact on her life, her view of the United States, and the inspiration for Made in America.
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Why Made in America?
The story of how the commission came about and what attracted Joan to the project.
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The Composing Process
An in-depth look into Joan's creative process, especially the way she thinks of her pieces as they are composed and then performed by musicians.
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A Day in the Life
Joan talks about her daily schedule, the way she balances teaching and composing.
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The Importance of New Music
Joan talks about the place of living composers in classical music.
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Composing for Orchestras
Two stories: one about Silver Ladders, a piece that was premiered and toured by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the other about a consortium commission from the band world.
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A Composer's Voice
Joan describes her own musical voice and the place of female composers in today's musical world.
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