Aaron Jay Kernis

b. 1960

American

Summary

Winner of the 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and 2011 Nemmers Award, Aaron Jay Kernis is one of America's most honored composers. His music appears prominently on concert programs worldwide, and he has been commissioned by America’s preeminent performing organizations and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco, Toronto, and Melbourne (AU) Symphonies, Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, Walt Disney Company, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Sharon Isbin. Recent and upcoming commissions include his 4th Symphony for the New England Conservatory (for its 150th anniversary) and Nashville Symphony; concerti for violinist James Ehnes, cellist Joshua Roman, violist Paul Neubauer, and flutist Marina Piccinini; a horn concerto for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Grant Park Music Festival; a work for the Borromeo String Quartet; and a piece for the San Francisco Girls and Brooklyn Youth Choruses with The Knights for the New York Philharmonic Biennial.

His works have been recorded on Virgin, Dorian, Arabesque, Phoenix, Argo, Signum, Cedille and many other labels. Recent recordings include his Goblin Market, and Invisible Mosaic II (Signum); Three Flavors, featuring pianist Andrew Russo, violinist James Ehnes and the Albany Symphony with conductor David Alan Miller (Albany); and a disc of his solo and chamber music, On Distant Shores, (Phoenix). Kernis’s conducting engagements include appearances with the Pascal Rioult Dance Company, at major chamber music festivals in Chicago and Portland, and with members of the San Francisco and Minnesota Orchestras and New York Philharmonic.

He is the Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab and, for 11 years, served as New Music Adviser to the Minnesota Orchestra, with which he co-founded and directed its Composer Institute for 15 years. Kernis teaches composition at Yale School of Music, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Leta Miller's book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press as part of its American Composer series.

— August 2017

Management and Public Relations:
Dworkin & Company
thematic catalog
Music in Color
worklist
Critical Acclaim
With each new work and new recording, Kernis solidifies his position as the most important traditional-minded composer of his generation. Others may be exploring musical frontiers more restlessly, but no one else is writing music quite this vivid or powerfully direct.
The San Francisco Chronicle

Biography

Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis draws artistic inspiration from a vast and often surprising palette of sources, among them the limitless color spectrum and immense emotional tangle of the orchestra, cantorial music in its beauty and dark intensity, the roiling drama of world events, and the energy and drive of jazz and popular music. All are woven into the tapestry of a musical language of rich lyric splendor, vivid poetic imagery, and fierce instrumental brilliance, and he has been praised for his "fearless originality [and] powerful voice" (The New York Times).

Among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation, he is dedicated to creating music which can be meaningful to other people's lives, and extend communication among us to make an emotional connection with listeners — while frequently challenging audiences and performers alike. That connection has brought his music to major musical stages world-wide, performed and commissioned by many of America‘s foremost artists, including sopranos Renée Fleming and Dawn Upshaw, violinists Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and James Ehnes, pianist Christopher O'Riley and guitarist Sharon Isbin, and such musical institutions as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra (for the inauguration of its new home at the Kimmel Center), Walt Disney Company, Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York's American Museum of Natural History, The Knights, Ravinia Festival, San Francisco, Melbourne, Dallas, Toronto, London, and Singapore Symphonies, London Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Great Performers Series, Minnesota and Royal Scottish National Orchestras, American Public Radio; Orpheus, Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, Aspen Music Festival, beyond. Recent and upcoming commissions include his Symphony No. 4 for the New England Conservatory (for its 150th anniversary), Nashville Symphony and Bellingham Festival; a work for cellist Matt Haimovitz; concerti for cellist Joshua Roman, violist Paul Neubauer, flutist Marina Piccinini, and a Grammy winning concerto for violinist James Ehnes, recorded by the Seattle Symphony; a quartet for the Borromeo String Quartet; a series of works for Tippet Rise Art Center; a horn concerto for the Royal Liverpool Orchestra and Grant Park Music Festival.

thematic catalog
Music in Color
thematic worklist
One of America's most honored composers, he won a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (which also won best Classical Instrumental Solo) for his violin concerto, Northwestern's Nemmers Award and was inducted in to the Classical Music Hall of Fame. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he received the coveted Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for the cello and orchestra version of "Colored Field", and a Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 ("musica instrumentali"). He has also been awarded the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Award. He is the Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab, and for 11 years, served as New Music Adviser to the Minnesota Orchestra, with which he co-founded and directed its Composer Institute for 15 years.

His works have been recorded on Nonesuch, Koch, Naxos, Onyx, Signum, Virgin and Argo, with which Kernis had an exclusive recording contract. Previously issued CDs include a widely acclaimed album with Hugh Wolff conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in his Symphony No. 2, Invisible Mosaic III, and Musica Celestis that was nominated for a Grammy, and won France's Diapason d'or Palmares for Best Contemporary Music Disc of the Year. Other recordings include a disc of his Pulitzer Prize-winning String Quartet No. 2 ("musica instrumentalis") and Musica Celestis, both on Arabesque with the Lark Quartet; works for violinists Pamela Frank and Joshua Bell with David Zinman and the Minnesota Orchestra, and his Double Concerto with guitarist Sharon Isbin, violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Hugh Wolff leading the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Originally released on Virgin/EMI was his cello version of Colored Field and Air, created for the Norwegian virtuoso Truls Mørk and the Minnesota Orchestra with Eiji Oue. Several of his important works recorded on Argo have been re-released by Phoenix, including his Second Symphony, Musica Celestis for string orchestra, Invisible Mosaic III, and Symphony in Waves, with Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Symphony. Other critically acclaimed recordings include his Goblin Market, and Invisible Mosaic II on Signum with The New Professionals, Rebecca Miller conductor, and Mary King narrator; Three Flavors, featuring pianist Andrew Russo, violinist James Ehnes and the Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller's direction, and a disc of his solo and chamber music, On Distant Shores, (Phoenix); vocal music with soprano Talise Travigne and the Albany Symphony; his third string quartet (River) as part of The Kernis Project, a complete cycle of his quartets with the Jasper Quartet, and a concerti disc with cellist Joshua Roman and violist Paul Neubauer with conductor Rebecca Miller (Signum); his Grammy-winning violin concerto for James Ehnes (Onyx) and a disc with his new flute concerto and Air for flute and orchestra with flutist Marina Piccinini and Leonard Slatkin/Marin Alsop and the Peabody Symphony (Naxos).

Kernis first came to national attention in 1983 with the acclaimed premiere of his first orchestral work, dream of the morning sky, by the New York Philharmonic at its Horizons Festival. He was born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960 and began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano and, the following year, composition. He attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Manhattan and Yale Schools of Music. Leta Miller's book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press as part of its American Composer series. He has taught composition at Yale School of Music since 2003.

His music is published by AJK Music/Associated Music Publishers

— October 2019

For inquiries about Aaron Jay Kernis, please contact Rachel.Sokolow@schirmer.com or Dworkin & Company

News

Performances

3rd April 2020

PERFORMERS
Yale Philharmonia
CONDUCTOR
Carlos Kalmar
LOCATION
Woolsey Hall / New Haven, CT / United States

26th July 2020

PERFORMERS
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Simon Emery
LOCATION
Philharmonic Hall Liverpool

29th July 2020

PERFORMERS
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Simon Emery
LOCATION
Albert Halls Stirling

30th July 2020

PERFORMERS
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Simon Emery
LOCATION
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Glasgow

1st August 2020

PERFORMERS
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Simon Emery
LOCATION
The Sage Gateshead

Photos

Discography