Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Higdon, composer
Pulitzer Prize and three-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon (b. Brooklyn, NY, December 31, 1962) taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and began formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite these obstacles, Jennifer has become a major figure in contemporary classical music. Her works represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral to chamber, to wind ensemble, as well as 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,” with the Times of London citing 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.
The Mobile Symphony has performed works by Higdon before, but the Mandolin Concerto is the orchestra’s first commission with the composer.
Higdon’s list of commissioners is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Pittsburgh Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, the Lark Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and the President’s Own Marine Band. She has also written works for such artists as baritone Thomas Hampson, pianists Yuja Wang and Gary Graffman, violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn. 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. Performances of Cold Mountain sold out its premiere run in Santa Fe, North Carolina and Philadelphia (becoming the third highest selling opera in Opera Philadelphia’s history).
Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing the work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” She has also received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, The Independence Foundation, the NEA and ASCAP. As winner of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition’s American Composers Invitational, Higdon’s Secret & Glass Gardens was performed by the semi-finalists during the competition.
Higdon has been a featured composer at many festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Vail, Norfolk, Grand Teton, and Cabrillo. She has served as Composer-in-Residence with several orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony. She was honored to serve as the Creative Director of the Boundless Series for the Cincinnati Symphony’s 2012-13 season. During the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years Higdon served as the prestigious Barr Laureate Scholar at the University of Missouri Kansas City.
In 2018, Higdon received the Eddie Medora King Award from the Univeristy of Texas, Austin. That same year, she received the prestigious Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University which is awarded to contemporary classical composers of exceptional achievement who have significantly influenced the field of composition.
Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances a year of her works. Her orchestral work, blue cathedral, last performed by the MSO in 2019, is the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire, more than 600 performances since its premiere in 2000.
Her works have been recorded on more than 70 CDs. Higdon has won three Grammys in her career for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: first for her Percussion Concerto in 2010, in 2018 for her Viola Concerto and in 2020 for her Harp Concerto.
Dr. Higdon received a bachelor’s degree in music from Bowling Green State University, an artist diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Higdon’s music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press.