ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich                                                         
Born: 30 April 1939 Miami, Florida                                                 
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (born April 30, 1939, in Miami, Florida) is an American       
composer, the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Her       
early works are marked by atonal exploration, but by the late 1980s she had         
matured to a post-modernist, neo-romantic style. She has been called "one of       
America’s most frequently played and genuinely popular living composers."         
Zwilich began her studies as a violinist, earning a B.M. from Florida State         
University in 1960. She moved to New York to play with the American Symphony       
Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski. She later enrolled at Juilliard, eventually (in 
1975) becoming the first woman to earn the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in     
composition. Her teachers included John Boda, Elliott Carter, and Roger             
Sessions. She first came to prominence when Pierre Boulez programmed her           
Symposium for Orchestra with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra in 1975.             
Some of her work during this period was written for her husband, violinist         
Joseph Zwilich. He died in 1979, after which point Taaffe Zwilich refocused her     
compositional efforts on "communicating more directly with performers and           
listeners," softening her somewhat harsh, jagged style.                             
Her Three Movements for Orchestra (Symphony No. 1) was premiered by the American   
Symphony Orchestra in 1982, and it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, after which         
point her popularity and income from commissions ensured that she could devote     
herself to composing full-time. From 1995-99 she was the first occupant of         
the Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall; while there, she created the "Making         
Music" concert series, which focuses on performances and lectures by living         
composers, a series which is still in existence.                                   
She has received a number of other honors, including the Elizabeth Sprague         
Coolidge Chamber Music Prize, the Arturo Toscanini Music Critics Award, the         
Ernst von Dohnányi Citation, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts   
and Letters, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and four Grammy nominations.       
She has been named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American     
Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1999 she was designated Musical America’s   
Composer of the Year. She is currently a professor at Florida State University,     
and has served for many years on the Advisory Panel of the BMI Foundation, Inc.     
To date she has received five honorary doctorates.