Augusta Read Thomas
“No one composer, style, school of thought and practice or historical period is given a monopoly of music's truths. Music's eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation and renewal.”
The music of Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964 in New York) 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)
In February 2015, music critic Edward Reichel wrote, "Augusta Read Thomas has secured for herself a permanent place in the pantheon of American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. She is without question one of the best and most important composers that this country has today. Her music has substance and depth and a sense of purpose. She has a lot to say and she knows how to say it — and say it in a way that is intelligent yet appealing and sophisticated.”
The New York Times article of March 6, 2015 states that Thomas had the distinction of having her work performed more frequently in 2013-2014 than any other living ASCAP composer, according to statistics from performing rights organization. Former Chairperson of the American Music Center, she serves on many boards, is a generous citizen in the profession at large, organizes concerts, promotes the music of her colleagues, and, according to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music.”
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.
As an influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, Aspen Music Festival, now she is the 16th ever University Professor (one of only 7 current University Professors) at the University of Chicago. Augusta said, “Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others.”
Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony from 1997 through 2006, a residency that 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 also she established, led, curated and programmed the thriving MusicNOW series on which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers.
Recent and upcoming commissions include those from the Boston Symphony, the Utah Symphony, Wigmore Hall in London, JACK quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Tanglewood, the Danish Chamber Players, Notre Dame University, and the Fromm Foundation. She won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize among many other coveted awards. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Ms. Thomas studied composition with Oliver Knussen at Tanglewood (1986, 1987, 1989), Jacob Druckman at Yale University (1988), with Alan Stout and Bill Karlins at Northwestern University (1983-1987), and at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1989). She was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University (1991-94) and a Bunting Fellow at Radcliffe College (1990-91).
Donald Rosenberg of Gramophone wrote, “Heart and soul in the breathtaking music of a thoughtful contemporary composer. Thomas's brainy brand of modernism reveals a lively, probing mind allied to a beating heart.”
Biography by G. Schirmer, Inc.