Joan Tower

b. 1938

American

Summary

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, Paul Neubauer, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Nashville, Albany NY, and Washington DC among others. Recent awards: in 2020 Chamber Music American honored her with its Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award; Musical America chose her to be its 2020 Composer of the Year; in 2019 the League of American Orchestras awarded her its highest honor, the Gold Baton. Tower is 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).
Overtones: Joan Tower (1988)

The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville’s latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. 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 (2010-11). She was the Albany Symphony’s Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season. Tower was cofounder and pianist for the Naumburg Award winning Da Capo Chamber Players from 1970-85. She has received honorary doctorates from Smith College, the New England Conservatory, and Illinois State University. She is Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972.


The New York Times: At 80, Joan Tower Says Great Music Comes 'in the Risks'
 
BMI MusicWorld®: An Uncommon Woman - Composer Joan Tower Reflects Upon Six Decades in Classical Music
Critical Acclaim
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.
The New York Times

Biography

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, Paul Neubauer, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Nashville, Albany NY, and Washington DC, among others.

Recent awards: in 2020 Chamber Music American honored her with its Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award; Musical America chose her to be its 2020 Composer of the Year; in 2019 the League of American Orchestras awarded her its highest honor, the Gold Baton. In 1990, Tower became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders. She is 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 Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville's latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

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 six Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 600 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 2010-11 season, as well as the St. Louis Symphony, the Deer Valley Music Festival, and the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. She was in residence as the Albany Symphony's Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season. She has received honorary doctorates from Smith College, the New England Conservatory, and Illinois State University.

Upcoming premieres include an orchestral work for the New York Philharmonic's PROJECT 19 and a viola quintet, Purple Rain, for the Boston Chamber Music Society. Among her recent premieres: Wing Span (2018) for String Theory at the Hunter; Wild Summer (2017), premiered by the Jasper String Quartet; Power Dance (2016), premiered by organist Michel Bouvard at the American Guild of Organists Convention; the orchestral Sixth Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (2016), commissioned and premiered by the Baltimore Symphony; Second String Force (2014), commissioned and premiered by violinist Bella Hristova; Red Maple (2013), commissioned by the South Carolina Philharmonic, Vanderbilt University, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Pomona College — premiered by bassoonist Peter Kolkay and the South Carolina Philharmonic; White Water (2012), commissioned by Chamber Music Monterey Bay and premiered by the Daedalus Quartet; Stroke (2011), commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Rising (2010), premiered by Carol Wincenc and the Juilliard String Quartet; 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 from 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: Descending (2012) for chorus, premiered by the New York Virtuoso Singers; Copperwave (2006), written for the American 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.

— January 2020

For specific inquiries about this composer, please contact Ed.Matthew@schirmer.com or call 212-254-2100 x 1121.
 
The New York Times: At 80, Joan Tower Says Great Music Comes 'in the Risks'
 
BMI MusicWorld®: An Uncommon Woman - Composer Joan Tower Reflects Upon Six Decades in Classical Music

News

Performances

3rd July 2020

PERFORMERS
Bellingham Festival of Music
CONDUCTOR
Michael Palmer
LOCATION
Performing Arts Center Concert Hall, Bellingham, WA, United States

9th August 2020

PERFORMERS
Interlochen Philharmonic
CONDUCTOR
Carolyn Watson
LOCATION
Corson Auditorium, Interlochen, MI, United States

9th August 2020

SOLOISTS
Stewart Goodyear
PERFORMERS
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music
CONDUCTOR
Cristian Macelaru
LOCATION
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA, United States

25th October 2020

SOLOISTS
Performing Selections
PERFORMERS
National Symphony Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Michelle Merrill
LOCATION
Howard University / Washington, DC / United States

25th October 2020

PERFORMERS
South Orange Symphony
CONDUCTOR
Susan Haig
LOCATION
South Orange Symphony / South Orange, NJ / United States

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Photos

Discography