2018 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition

Jennifer Higdon

2018 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition Prize

Jennifer Higdon

Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia

For her highly acclaimed and wide-ranging compositions that have led to her status as one of the most prolific and frequently performed living composers.

Pulitzer Prize and two-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and began formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite this, Higdon has become a major figure in contemporary classical music.

Her compositions represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral to chamber, to wind ensemble, as well as vocal, choral and opera. Her music has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as having “the distinction of being at once complex, sophisticated but readily accessible emotionally,” with the Times of London citing it as “…traditionally rooted, yet imbued with integrity and freshness.” The League of American Orchestras reports that she is one of America's most frequently performed composers.

Higdon's list of commissioners is extensive and includes the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, the LARK Quartet, Eighth Blackbird and “the President’s Own” United States Marine Band.

She has also written works for such artists as baritone Thomas Hampson, pianists Yuja Wang and Gary Graffman, violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn. Her first opera, “Cold Mountain,” won the prestigious International Opera Award for Best World Premiere in 2016, the first American opera to do so in the awards’ history. It sold out its premiere run in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as in North Carolina, and Philadelphia, becoming the third highest selling opera in Opera Philadelphia’s history.

The 2017-18 concert season has included the successful premiere of her Low Brass Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra, her Tuba Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Harp Concerto for Yolanda Kondonassis with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

Upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia, a string quartet for the Houston-based Apollo Chamber Players, a double percussion concerto for the Houston Symphony, an orchestral suite for the “Made In America” project and a flute concerto for the National Flute Associations’ 50th anniversary.

Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing Higdon’s work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” She also has received awards from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the Independence Foundation, the NEA and ASCAP.

She has twice won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: first for her Percussion Concerto in 2010 and also for her Viola Concerto in 2018. Her orchestral work, “blue cathedral,” is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire with over 600 performances thus far. Her works have been recorded on over 60 CDs.

Higdon received a bachelor’s degree in music from Bowling Green State University, an Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music and an master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently holds the Rock Chair in Composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press. For more information visit www.jenniferhigdon.com