Do you still identify yourself as an American composer? Nancy Van de Vate



American writers, composers, and artists have lived abroad for generations but have almost always continued to identify themselves as Americans. Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Gertrude Stein, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber—the list is very long. Although I have now lived outside the continental USA for more than 25 years, and in Austria since 1985, I still consider myself and my music American. Even the traits that enable me to live and work effectively in another country are American, namely practicality and adaptability.

There are now many musicians from the US in Europe—more than half of all singers in German opera houses are Americans. They are there because they are good: hardworking, well-trained, and dedicated to their art. They are also there because there is opportunity for them that they cannot find in the United States. They live where they can do their work.

I have dual citizenship and expect to stay in Vienna permanently. Although Austria is notoriously malely chauvinist (the Vienna Philharmonic is the last orchestra in the world with no women), I still have far more opportunity here as a composer than I would have in the US. In Vienna I am usually referred to as an Austrian-American composer, which recognizes not only where I come from, but also where I now live and work. Most European musicians, however, say they hear my music as “very American.”