Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Photo by Andrew Sacks
It’s a shame that my teacher Roger Sessions‘s work was not recognized with a Pulitzer until he was in his 80s. I was very lucky in that when I received the award I was young enough to get a good kick out of it and felt that I still had a tremendous amount of music in me. At the same time, I was also old enough to have a body of work behind me and old enough to know that things like this really do not measure your worth.
There are lots of other awards that a composer can win where your name doesn’t necessarily get in the newspaper. The fact that the whole journalism community is eagerly waiting to see who has won the various Pulitzers gives it an extra degree of interest. I believe it was a writer from the Los Angeles Times who mentioned to me that I was the first woman to win the award. At the time I won, I had no idea.
It doesn’t really do anything except open some doors. But any time people are curious about our work, that’s always a good opportunity for a composer. But you’re still faced with the same issues as every other composer. When you’re putting new notes on the page, there isn’t a lot of time to sit around resting on your laurels, whatever they might be. You’re still struggling just like everybody else.
[Hear a sample of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Pulitzer Prize winning piece in our Sonic Gallery of the Pulitzer Prize.]