Composers Christopher Rouse and Joseph Schwantner have been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Hollander, Secretary of the academy, will induct them, along with three new artists and four new writers, at the academy’s annual Ceremonial in May.
Reached shortly after the announcement and still reeling from his recent Grammy win, Rouse commented that “being a member of the academy has always meant something to me. It is an honor given by one’s peers, which is always special.
“It also presents an opportunity to interact with wonderful people from literature and the fine arts. I’m still enough of a ‘fan’,” he admits, “to find the notion of breaking bread with a John Irving or a Helen Frankenthaler quite exciting.”
The academy was founded in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts.” Election is considered one of the highest formal recognitions of artistic merit in this country.
New members are elected annually to fill vacancies in the academy’s membership of 250 American artists, architects, writers, and composers. Each year the academy also distributes cash awards to non-members in these disciplines, such as the recently announced awards to composers covered last week in NewMusicBox.
Acknowledging the academy’s power to assist the careers of up and coming composers through these awards, Rouse says he will simply encourage support for good work. “I know this sounds simplistic and pretentious, but my only criterion for decision-making in this area has always been quality.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner, in the midst of exams and auditions at Yale, was unable to comment on his election at the time of this posting.