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Beth Cowart and Aaron Jay Kernis: Bios

Posted in News on May 21, 2008

Beth Cowart is the Artistic Planning Associate at the Minnesota Orchestra. She has managed the orchestra’s Composer Institute since it began as the Perfect Pitch program in 1996, expanding it from an annual series of reading sessions for budding orchestral composers in Minnesota to a signature event on a national scale. By 2002, as Composer Institute Co-Director with the orchestra’s New Music Advisor, composer Aaron Jay Kernis, Ms. Cowart helped to guide these reading sessions into a far more extensive enterprise, open to talented emerging composers across the country and encompassing an intensive week of musical seminars and professional development workshops. Further growth took place in 2006 with the annual addition of a public evening concert featuring all selected works. Efforts to enhance the composers’ experience continues in close collaboration with the American Composers Forum, American Music Center and other partner organizations.

Prior to her service at the Minnesota Orchestra, Ms. Cowart served as Artist Liaison with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where her father played English horn and oboe and where she developed an appreciation for contemporary works. The Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella new music series, in which Robert Cowart often performed, always left her wanting more.

Aaron Jay Kernis, winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has taught composition at the Yale School of Music since 2003. Among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation, his music figures prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs worldwide and he has been commissioned by many of America‘s foremost performing artists, including soprano Renee Fleming, violinists Joshua Bell and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and guitarist Sharon Isbin, and by institutions including the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Birmingham Bach Choir, Minnesota Orchestra, and Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, the Walt Disney Company, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Museum of Natural History in New York, among many others. He looks forward to new works for trumpet soloist Philip Smith with the New York Philharmonic and a consortium of “Top 10” college wind ensembles, the Seattle Symphony, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Recent and upcoming recordings include a disc of his song cycles by soprano Susan Narucki (Koch) and orchestral works by the Grant Park Festival Orchestra (Cedille). His music is available on Nonesuch, Phoenix, New Albion and Argo and CRI. One of America’s most honored composers, Mr. Kernis received the Grawemeyer Award for the cello concerto “Colored Field” and the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (“musica instrumentalis”). He has also been awarded the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, and received Grammy nominations for “Air” and the Second Symphony.

He has become an especially familiar and much-admired presence in Minnesota’s Twin Cities; he has served as Composer-in-Residence for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, and the American Composers Forum, and, since 1998, as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he retains to this day. He is chairman and co-director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, a program that gives young composers the opportunity to hear their works played by one of the world’s great orchestras.

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