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Aaron Jay Kernis

Aaron Jay Kernis

Winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Aaron Jay Kernis is among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation. With his “fearless originality and powerful voice” (The New York Times), he is one of today’s most frequently performed composers. His music, full of variety and dynamic energy, is rich in lyric beauty, poetic imagery, and brilliant instrumental color.

One of America’s most honored young composers, Mr. Kernis received the coveted Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition (2002) for the cello and orchestra version of “Colored Field,” the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (“musica instrumentalis”), and Grammy Award nominations for both “Air” and his Second Symphony. He has also been awarded the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and three BMI Student Composer Awards. He has become an especially familiar and much-admired presence in Minnesota’s Twin Cities; in September 1993, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, and American Composers Forum, and he returned in the fall of 1998 as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he held till 2009. As an educator he is Director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute, an extraordinary national program for emerging composers, and teaches composition at Yale School of Music.

Upcoming and recent commissions include a new work for trumpet soloist Philip Smith with the New York Philharmonic and a consortium of American’s “Big 10” college wind ensembles, the Seattle Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, 8th Blackbird, Astral Artists, and the Santa Fe and La Jolla Chamber Music Festivals.

His works have been recorded on Naxos, Nonesuch, New Albion, Argo, Phoenix, Koch, Cedille, Virgin and others. Previously issued CDs include a widely acclaimed CD with Hugh Wolff conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Mr. Kernis’s Symphony No. 2, “Invisible Mosaic III,” and “musica celestis” which was nominated for a Grammy, and won France’s Diapason d’or Palmares for Best Contemporary Music Disc of the Year. Other recordings include a disc of his Pulitzer-Prize winning String Quartet No. 2 (“musica instrumentalis”) and Musica Celestis, both on Arabesque with the Lark Quartet.

Aaron Jay Kernis was born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960. He began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano and, the following year, composition. He continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Manhattan and Yale Schools of Music, working with composers as diverse as John Adams, Charles Wuorinen and Jacob Druckman. Kernis first came to national attention in 1982 with the acclaimed premiere of his first orchestral work, “dream of the morning sky,” by the New York Philharmonic at its Horizons Festival. Mr. Kernis’s music is published by AJK Music, and administered by Associated Music Publishers.

Photograph of Aaron Jay Kernis by Richard Bowditch.


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