20 Composers Honored at American Academy Ceremonial

Murakami's Induction to the Amreican Academy of Arts and Letters

Nearly every year at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, new members are inducted in from the fields of art, literature, and music. In addition, the academy also inducts honorary members–either Americans working in fields outside of art, literature, and music or foreign honorary members working in those fields. Among the 2014 honorary inductees were chef Alice Waters, who unfortunately could not attend, and the iconic Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami pictured here during his induction. (Sorry for the blurry photo, it was as close as I was able to get.) Unfortunately I was unable to find Murakami during the reception; I’m a huge fan–FJO

During the 2014 American Academy of Arts and Letters Ceremonial, held on May 21, 2014, eighteen composers received awards in music totaling over $200,000. In addition, during the two-hour ceremony, composers David Lang and Alvin Singleton were officially inducted as members of the academy. As per tradition, the official ceremony was followed by a reception plus the official opening of the academy’s art exhibition (devoted to the work of the year’s awardees and inductees).

Joan Tower presented the four 2014 Arts and Letters Awards in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice. The cash award of $7500 is supplemented by an additional $7500 grant to help fund a recording of the composer’s work. The 2014 awardees are: Kati Agócs, Daron Hagen, Anthony Korf, and Marjorie Merryman.

Mario Davidovsky presented the Walter Hinrichsen Award to Scott Wheeler. The Hinrichson Award, established by the C. F. Peters Corporation in 1984, funds the publication of a work by a gifted composer. (Previous recipients of the award include Victoria Bond, Reena Esmail, Richard Festinger, Mark Gustavson, Jing Jing Luo, Louis Karchin, Paula Matthusen, Kurt Rohde, and Rand Steiger.) Tobias Picker presented the $10,000 Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award in Music, for an exceptional mid-career composer, to Mikael Karlsson.

Stephen Hartke presented the two Goddard Lieberson Fellowships of $15,000 each to A. J. McCaffrey and Ju Ri Seo. The fellowship, given to mid-career composers of exceptional gifts, is named in honor of composer Goddard Lieberson (1911-1977) who served as president of Columbia Records from 1956 to 1951. It was endowed in 1978 by the CBS Foundation.

In 1970, composer Charles Ives’s widow, Harmony Ives, bequeathed to the academy the royalties of Charles Ives’s music, which has enabled the academy to annually give two Ives Fellowships, as well as six Ives Scholarships. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich presented the two Charles Ives Fellowships of $15,000 each to Nathan Shields and Dan Tepfer. Martin Bresnick presented the six $7500 Charles Ives Scholarships for composition students of great promise to William David Cooper, David Kirkland Garner, Bálint Karosi, Jeremy Podgursky, Daniel Schlosberg, and Nina C. Young.

The ongoing importance of Charles Ives’s legacy to the academy was acknowledged during the afternoon in other ways as well. Prior to the commencement of the ceremonial, Daniel Beckwith played a selection of Charles Ives’s compositions on the academy’s Skinner organ. (Though all-too-rarely performed nowadays, Ives wrote a considerable amount of organ music and, since he served as a church organist and performed his own music, these works are among the few compositions of his which were played during his lifetime. Surprisingly the first complete critical edition of all of Ives’s organ works was only published in 2012.) More significantly, the academy has reconstructed Ives’s personal compositional studio on its premises and opened the room for public viewing following the ceremonial.

Charles Ives's Composition Studio

The American Academy of Arts and Letters now devotes a room on its premises to Charles Ives’s composition studio, reconstructed as it was on the day he died.

Tania León presented the Richard Rodgers Award in Musical Theater to composer Matt Gould and librettist Griffin Matthews to fund a production of their musical Witness Uganda. The Richard Rodgers Awards were created and endowed by academy-member composer Richard Rodgers in 1978 for the development of the musical theater. These awards subsidize full productions, studio productions, and staged readings by nonprofit theaters in New York City of works by composers and writers who are not already established in this field. The winners are selected by a jury that includes both American Academy of Arts and Letters members and non-members. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the only awards for which the academy accepts applications.

Finally, a new award was unveiled during the 2014 ceremonial–the Virgil Thomson Award for Vocal Music. Poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy presented the inaugural award to Lowell Liebermann. The $40,000 award, endowed by the Virgil Thomson Foundation and administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, recognizes an American composer of vocal works. Liebermann was among five finalists selected from composers nominated by members of the academy. Their work was studied closely over the course of several months by a special jury comprised of McClatchy and composers David Del Tredici, Carlisle Floyd, Ezra Laderman, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

Aside from the Rodgers and Thomson awards, candidates for the music awards were nominated by the 250 members of the academy and the winners were selected by a committee of academy members: Joan Tower (chair), Samuel Adler, Martin Bresnick, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, Tania León, and Tobias Picker.

A final reflection on the day from 2014 Ives Scholarship recipient Daniel Schlosberg:

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