Gabriela Lena Frank receives Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities

Gabriela Lena Frank receives Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities
© Gabriela Lena Frank, photo: Mariah Tauger

The Heinz Awards have announced that acclaimed composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank, who has been commissioned by major institutions, orchestras, and festivals around the world, will receive the 25th Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities at a ceremony on November 19, 2021.

Frank responded, "I’m honored beyond words to receive this award and to be standing in the company of so many incredible fellow awardees. The work that is being done out there is just amazing! It makes me feel that my efforts as a composer, mentor, and activist are having a positive impact. As I have been so fortunate in my life, including having the support of the G. Schirmer team, I am more inspired than ever to forge ahead and to give back."

Established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Awards celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of the Senator by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him: Arts and Humanities, Environment, Human Condition, Public Policy, and Technology, the Economy and Employment. Previous recipients of Heinz Awards include Wise Music Group composers John Harbison and John Luther Adams.

Frank’s vibrant works draw on her mixed-race Latina heritage, weaving Latin American influences into classical constructs and breaking gender, disability, and cultural barriers in classical music composition. Currently composer-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, she is widely considered to be one of the most important composers of her generation; her works have been premiered by luminaries such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano with guitarist Manuel Barrueco, and conductors Marin Alsop and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She is currently working on her first opera, El último sueño de Frida y Diego, with longtime collaborator and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, co-commissioned by Fort Worth Opera, San Diego Opera, the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, and DePauw University, with additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and OPERA America.

Born with near profound hearing loss in Berkeley, CA, to a mother of mixed Peruvian-indio/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank music often reflects her personal studies of Latin American culture. She draws on poetry, mythology, and native musical styles, fusing the colors and textures of her heritage into a musical language that is uniquely her own.

Frank is also recognized for establishing the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music at her home and farm in the rural mountains of Mendocino County. There she provides professional mentorship to emerging composers from all music backgrounds, guiding them to become artists who prioritize eco-conscious ways of making music as well as giving back to their community. As part of their residency, composer participants, together with their mentor performers, volunteer their time through performances and music coaching in the surrounding Anderson Valley. In doing so, they are following her lead to prioritize arts citizenship as central in the life of an artist.