Joan Tower '61, one of America’s preeminent composers won three Grammy Awards for her orchestral composition "Made in America." Recorded on the Naxos label by the Nashville Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting, the CD, Joan Tower: Made in America received awards for best Classical Album, best Orchestral Performance, and her composition “Made in America” received the Grammy for best Classical Contemporary Composition.
Speaking with the Hillsdale Independent, Tower called the 14-minute long piece her "first statement about what's happening in this country.” Based on “America the Beautiful,” Tower explained that the recognizable song gave her a “way in” with “Made in America” audiences. “I knew its success was going to depend on how it related to people." Opening with a variation on the familiar melody, “Made in America” eventually "caves in and leaves one screaming note, by itself." Tower says the solitary note is a statement on the overreaching government powers that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.
“Made in America was an amazing project, with 65 community orchestras in 50 states, performing the work from 2005 through 2007,” Tower explained to the Daily Mail. “I was the first lucky composer to be chosen for this project. I attended 20 of these performances and conducted eight of them. It was an extraordinary experience; all of these orchestras really got involved with the project and the music, performing with a great deal of passion and commitment.”
Tower has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Koussevitsky Foundation, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest. She won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 1990 and has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic; St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and National Symphonies; Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir Quartets; Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio; and Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Aspen, and LaJolla Summerfest, among many other festivals. Her CDs have been released on Naxos, Koch International, Delos, and d’Note Records. Tower was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998 and the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. She was composer in residence with the St. Louis Symphony, with conductor Leonard Slatkin, from 1985 to 1988, and has been composer in residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s since 1997. She was named the first composer for a major orchestral consortium project, sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer; the resultant work, Made in America, has been released on CD by Naxos. Last summer Scarecrow Press published Joan Tower: The Comprehensive Bio-Bibliography by Ellen K. Grolman. Tower, who is also on the faculty of The Bard College Conservatory of Music, has taught at Bard College since 1972.
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