December 31, 1962 -
born in Brooklyn, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
Jennifer Higdon is one of the leading American composers from the turn of the twenty first century era. Her earliest compositions date to the early '80s, but she emerged as an important figure in the period of the new millenium with such orchestra works as blue cathedral (1999), City Scape (2002), and Concerto for Orchestra (2002). She has been prolific and versatile, producing music in most instrumental and vocal genres.
Higdon was born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 31, 1962. Raised in Atlanta, GA, and Seymour, TN, she taught herself to play the flute at 15. Her advanced studies in music were at Bowling Green State University (B.M. in flute performance), the University of Pennsylvania (M.A. and Ph.D. in composition), and the Curtis Institute of Music (Artist Diploma). Her composition teachers included George Crumb and Ned Rorem. Higdon eventually settled in Philadelphia, the home of the latter two schools.
Higdon did not begin composing until she was 21, her first works, When Souls Meet (1982) and The Jeffrey Mode (1984), scored for flute and piano. At Bowling Green State University, Higdon met Robert Spano in 1985, the conductor who would champion her cause with his highly praised 2004 Telarc recording of her Concerto for Orchestra and City Scape with his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The CD captured four Grammy nominations, including for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
In 1994 Higdon joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music to teach composition. She was promoted to professor in 2001. By the mid-'90s, she was producing works in larger forms. Shine (1995), her second orchestral work, was premiered at the 1996 Indiana State University's Festival of Contemporary Music and later given USA Today's award for Best Contemporary Piece. She attracted numerous commissions soon afterward, several from the most important American orchestras, including the Philadelphia, Chicago Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, and many others.
The Philadelphia Orchestra commission was met by her highly successful Concerto for Orchestra, in 2002. Higdon received a string of awards and citations in the early years of the new century, including an Artist's Fellowship -- Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2000), Composer-in-Residence -- Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music (2002), and Composer of the Year -- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (2005). Among later compositions have been her 2006 chamber pieces String Poetic for violin and piano and Splendid Wood for marimba ensemble. In 2010, Higdon was awarded the Grammy Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Percussion Concerto (2008) and the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Violin Concerto (2009). ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi