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TAA Musings

“Musings” is a time of thoughtful inspiration and introspection built into the heart of the busy Academy schedule each day. All participants assemble to think about the role of the arts in education and in life. At each Musings session, an individual who is significantly involved in the arts acts as a muse and leads the group in examining the richness and depth that the arts add to the lives of all people.

2023 Tennessee Arts Academy Musers
July 10, 2023
1:20 pm

Jennifer Higdon, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and three Grammys, spent her formative years in East Tennessee. She has become a major figure in contemporary classical music and makes her living from commissions. Her works represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral, to chamber, to wind ensemble, to 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,” and the Times of London described 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 numerous orchestras and groups such as the Tokyo String Quartet, the Lark Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. 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 award’s history. She received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, which the committee described as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” Her Secret & Glass Gardens won the Van Cliburn Piano Competition’s American Composers Invitational and was performed by the semifinalists.

Higdon’s works enjoy more than two hundred performances each year, and her music has been heard on more than ninety recordings. She has been a featured composer at many festivals, including Aspen, Cabrillo, Grand Teton, Norfolk, Tanglewood, and Vail. She has won three Grammys for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: for her Percussion Concerto, for her Viola Concerto, and most recently for her Harp Concerto. Her All Things Majestic was recorded by the Nashville Symphony on the Grammy-winning disc of the same title. Higdon was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Philosophical Society (founded by Benjamin Franklin). She received degrees from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Hartt School and Bowling Green State University. Higdon’s music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press. For more information, visit www.jenniferhigdon.com.

Past Tennessee Arts Academy Musers

Well-known Musers who have spoken at the Tennessee Arts Academy in the past include Broadway composers Charles Strouse (Annie), Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family) and Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls); concert pianist Lorin Hollander; lyricists Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), Dean Pitchford (Fame), and Joe DiPietro (Memphis); costume designer Patricia Zipprodt (My Fair Lady); authors Wilma Dykeman and Will D. Campbell; theatre critic John Simon; conductors Michael Stern, Isaiah Jackson, Giancarlo Guerrero, Anton Armstrong, and Robert Bernhardt; author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot); educator Graham Down; Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Cherry Jones; Shakespearean directors Adrian Hall and Tina Packer; Hollywood composers Richard Sherman (Mary Poppins) and George S. Clinton (Austin Powers); visual artists Audrey Flack, Dorothy Gillespie, Jon Moody, Charles Brindley, Dolph Smith, Alan Lequire, Harold Gregor, and Sylvia Hyman; Broadway directors Scott Ellis (1776), Jeff Calhoun (Newsies), and Richard Maltby, Jr. (Fosse); opera stars Mignon Dunn and Christine Brewer; New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff; poet Nikki Giovanni; Tony award-winning playwright Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike); bandleader and musician Doc Severinsen (The Tonight Show); classical composer Libby Larsen; scenic and costume designer Tony Walton; stage combat director David Leong (Carousel); filmmaker Jay Russell (My Dog Skip); three-time Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County); Broadway musical theatre stars Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), Stephanie J. Block (Wicked) Marin Mazzie (Ragtime), Jason Danieley (The Full Monty), Rebecca Luker, (The Secret Garden), Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King), Laura Osnes (Cinderella), and Aaron Lazar (The Light in the Piazza); television writer and producer Marc Cherry (Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives); author, composer, and lyricist Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and many others.

Please check back regularly for updates and information about the 2023 Tennessee Arts Academy.