John Luther Adams with hat and sunglasses in a park.
John Luther Adams Wins William Schuman Award

John Luther Adams Wins William Schuman Award

The Columbia University School of the Arts has announced that John Luther Adams is the newest recipient of the William Schuman Award, a major recognition given periodically over the past three decades. Named for its first recipient, the award, in the form of a direct, unrestricted grant of $50,000, is one of the largest given to an American composer.

In a NewMusicBox conversation with Molly Sheridan in 2011 (which can be read in its entirety here), Adams talked about how he uses composition as a way to explore and understand the world around him, regardless of borders real and imagined.

In the language of the gift establishing the prize, the purpose of the William Schuman Award is “to recognize the lifetime achievement of an American composer whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance.” It is awarded by the Dean of the School of the Arts at Columbia University. The award was established in 1981. Previous recipients of the award have been William Schuman (1981), David Diamond (1985), Gunther Schuller (1989), Milton Babbitt (1992), Hugo Weisgall (1995), Steve Reich (2000), John Zorn (2007), and, most recently, Pauline Oliveros (2010).

The prize will be awarded to Adams during a three-night tribute presented at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre on October 7-10, 2015. The performances will showcase a trio of New York premieres: Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing (1991-95); In the White Silence (1998); and for Lou Harrison (2003-04). This trilogy of large-scale memorial works, which were written in memory of Adams’s mother, father, and mentor Lou Harrison respectively, will be played by the JACK Quartet and the International Contemporary Ensemble, under the direction of conductor, percussionist, and longtime Adams collaborator Steven Schick.

“I am so excited to be able to celebrate John Luther Adams and his incredible work,” says Melissa Smey, Executive Director of Miller Theatre at Columbia University. “Working with John on the urban outdoor premiere of Inuksuit in Morningside Park was a career highlight for me. During that performance, I watched as young children, dog-walkers, new-music enthusiasts, joggers, and students all came together and stopped to listen to this amazing music in our local park. John’s music connects with people from many different backgrounds, on many different levels. I can’t wait to share more of it with New Yorkers.”

(–from the press release)

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