The Belmont University School of Music honored 2008 Grammy-winning composer Joan Tower on Mon., March 10. Hailed as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time” in The New Yorker, Tower’s visit included a morning lecture as well as an evening performance of her works by Belmont Camerata Musicale in celebration of her 70th birthday.
At 10 a.m., Tower presented a lecture in Massey Concert Hall, titled “Choreographing Sound,” in which she discussed her life as a composer, her approach and process in creating music, and presented samples of her music. In the evening, Tower joined the resident chamber ensemble in Belmont Heights Baptist Church for a performance of “Tres Lent” for cello and piano. Other works on the program included “Petroushkates for piano, strings and winds; “DNA” for percussion ensemble; “Wings” for solo saxophone; and a new piano trio, “For Daniel.”
Belmont School of Music Faculty members Daniel Lochrie (clarinet), Keith Nicholas (cello) and Robert Marler (piano)were joined by guest Erik Gratton (flute) for the concert. The four musicians played on the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s recording Joan Tower: Made in America, which won two 2008 Grammys, Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance. Tower’s work, Made in America, also won a Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Also performing were Camerata regulars Kris Elsberry (piano), Celeste Myall and Elisabeth Small (violin), guest saxophonist Philip Barham and the Belmont Percussion Ensemble directed by Chris Norton.
Tower was the first woman to ever receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. She was inducted in 1998 into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004. Tower was the first composer chosen for Made in America, an ambitious, groundbreaking commissioning program that is a collaboration of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer. The commissioned work was performed by orchestras, including the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, in every state during the 2005-2006 season.
For more on this story, click here to see coverage of Tower’s visit from The Tennessean.