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Composer Steve Reich Receives William Schuman Award

Honor Will Be Presented Sept. 21 At Miller Theatre

By Ulrika Brand

Steve Reich

Composer Steve Reich has been named winner of the William Schuman Award by Columbia University's School of the Arts. Bruce Ferguson, dean of the School of the Arts, who announced the award, will present it at a ceremony and concert to be held at Miller Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 8:00 p.m. This event also launches the 2000-2001 season at Miller Theatre, under Executive Director George Steel. The musical program will consist of Steve Reich and Musicians performing Drumming, Part I, Sextet, and Music for 18 Musicians. (The program will be repeated with a slight variation Saturday, Sept. 23, at 8:00 p.m.)

In announcing the award, Ferguson said, "Steve Reich has pursued a distinctly individual path, and in so doing has reshaped the American musical landscape. It is fitting that a composer whose work has inspired and influenced artists across many other disciplines as well, be honored by the School of the Arts at Columbia University. His work embodies those qualities that define great artists: vision, craft, and artistic resonance through intensely personal means."

Named for its first recipient, William Schuman, the award, in the form of a direct, unrestricted grant of $50,000, is one of the largest given to an American composer and is awarded in recognition of lifetime achievement. It was established in 1981 by a bequest from the Schuman family and has been awarded irregularly: five times over 19 years. After Schuman, the winners were David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt, and Hugo Weisgall.

Steve Reich is a leading pioneer of minimalism whose music combines rigorous structures with propulsive rhythms and seductive instrumental color. Virtually all of his works have been commercially recorded, and Different Trains, on Nonesuch, earned him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition. From his early taped speech works It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) to The Cave (1993), his collaboration with the video artist Beryl Korot, Mr. Reich's path has embraced not only aspects of Western classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. His "documentary video opera" works have expanded the boundaries of the operatic medium.

Born in 1936 in New York City, Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University, and received his M.A. in music from Mills College. He also studied composition with Hall Overton and, at the Juilliard School of Music, with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Reich was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994.

Reich's music has been performed by major orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Among conductors, his champions include Zubin Mehta, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Kent Nagano, and Peter Eötvös.

Reich has received commissions from the Holland Festival; San Francisco Symphony; the Rothko Chapel; flutist Ransom Wilson; the Brooklyn Academy of Music for guitarist Pat Metheny; West German Radio, Cologne; Fromm Music Foundation for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman; the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Betty Freeman for the Kronos Quartet; and Festival d'Automne, Paris for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Several noted choreographers have created dances to Steve Reich's music, including Anne Theresa de Keersmacker, JJirÌ KylÌan, Jerome Robbins, and Laura Dean, who commissioned Sextet. That ballet, entitled Impact, was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, and earned Steve Reich and Laura Dean a Bessie Award in 1986. Other major choreographers using Mr. Reich's music include Eliot Feld, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Bejart, Lucinda Childs, Siobhan Davies, and Richard Alston.

Published: Jul 06, 2000
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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