Jennifer Higdon

Performance Year: 2022

Pulitzer Prize and three-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and began formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite these obstacles, Jennifer has become a major figure in contemporary classical music. Her works represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral to chamber, to wind ensemble, as well as vocal, choral and opera. Her music has been hailed by Fanfare magazine as having “the distinction of being at once complex, sophisticated but readily accessible emotionally,” with the Times of London citing it as “traditionally rooted, yet imbued with integrity and freshness.” The League of American Orchestras reports that she is one of America’s most frequently performed composers.

Her first opera, Cold Mountain, won the prestigious International Opera Award for Best World Premiere in 2016, the first American opera to do so in the award’s history. Upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia, a string quartet for the Apollo Chamber Players, a double percussion concerto for the Houston Symphony, an orchestral suite for the Made In America project, and a flute concerto for the National Flute Association’s 5oth anniversary.

Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing the work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” She has also received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, The Independence Foundation, the NEA, and ASCAP. In 2018, Higdon received the Eddie Medora King Award from the University of Texas at Austin.

Higdon has been a featured composer at many festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Vail, Norfolk, Grand Teton, and Cabrillo. She has served as composer-in-residence with several orchestras, including the Cincinnati Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Fort Worth Symphony. Between 2016 and 2018, Higdon served as the prestigious Barr Laureate Scholar at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

She received the esteemed 2018 Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University which is awarded to contemporary classical composers of exceptional achievement who have significantly influenced the field of composition.

Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances a year of her works. Her orchestral work blue cathedral is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire, more than 650 performances since its premiere in 2000.

Her works have been recorded on more than 60 CDs. Higdon has won three Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: first for her Percussion Concerto in 2010, then in 2018 for her Viola Concerto, and most recently in 2020 for her Harp Concerto. In 2020, Higdon’s Percussion Concerto recording was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Higdon received a bachelor’s degree in music from Bowling Green State University, an artist diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Hartt School and Bowling Green State University. In 2019, she was inducted into the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States. She currently holds the Rock Chair in Composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

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