Augusta Read Thomas
Augusta Read Thomas’s music is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful — "it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
A Grammy winner, her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker magazine called her "a true virtuoso composer." Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession.
An influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, and Aspen Music Festival, she is only the 16th person to be designated University Professor at the University of Chicago (one of only seven currently holding the title). Augusta said, "Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others." She founded and leads the Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago.
Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, from 1997 through 2006. This residency culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned orchestral works, but was also the central force in establishing the thriving MusicNOW series, through which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers. (photo credit: Anthony Barlich)
Laura Kaminsky’s “music is full of fire as well as ice, written in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide).
Social and political themes are common in her work, as is an abiding respect for and connection to the natural world. Her first opera, As One (commissioned by American Opera Projects; co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed), debuted in 2014 at BAM. Some Light Emerges was commissioned and premiered in March 2017 by Houston Grand Opera. Upcoming are a Piano Quintet for Ursula Oppens and the Cassatt String Quartet, and her seventh string quartet, for the Fry Street Quartet.
Awarded the 2016 Gold Cross of Merit (Zloty Krzyż Zasługi RP) from the President of Poland for exemplary public service, Kaminsky has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, Chamber Music America, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund, American Music Center, USArtists International, CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, Likhachev-Russkiy Mir Foundation, and more. She has been a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Camargo Foundation.
Currently composer-in-residence at American Opera Projects and head of composition at the Conservatory of Music/Purchase College/SUNY. Scores are available through Bill Holab Music; recordings are on the Albany, Bridge, Capstone, CRI, Mode, MSR, and Navona labels. (photo credit: Rebecca Allan)
Kimberly Reed co-wrote, with Pulitzer-winning librettist Mark Campbell, the libretto for the chamber opera As One. With music by celebrated composer Laura Kaminsky, As One has become one of the most produced new American operas since its 2014 premiere. She also created a film for As One; “backed by scene-setting projections from Ms. Reed, the drama powerfully coheres,” said the New York Times. The San Francisco Chronicle noted the “delicately atmospheric film” and libretto that “conjures up a blend of excitement, shame, self-fulfillment and fear with crisp efficiency.”
The Kaminsky-Campbell-Reed team reconvened to create Some Light Emerges, about the Rothko Chapel, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. Ms. Reed also wrote the text for the song cycle Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, commissioned by Opera America and premiered at the U.S. Library of Congress.
Alongside writers Malcolm Gladwell and Joyce Maynard, Reed’s nonfiction is collected in “The Moth,” an acclaimed and NY Times best-selling compendium of true stories. She has been a fellow at Yaddo Artists Colony, Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center.
As a filmmaker, Prodigal Sons, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent” (SF Weekly), premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, screened at 100+ festivals, garnered 14 awards including the FIPRESCI Prize, and was broadcast worldwide. One of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” she has been featured on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, The Moth Radio Hour, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. (photo credit: Mathew Zucker)