Joan Tower

Joan Tower is a Grammy-winning contemporary American composer, concert pianist and conductor. Lauded by The New Yorker as "one of the most successful woman composers of all time", her bold and energetic compositions have been performed in concert halls around the world. After gaining recognition for her first orchestral composition, Sequoia (1981), a tone poem which structurally depicts a giant tree from trunk to needles, she has gone on to compose a variety of instrumental works including Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, which is something of a response to Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, the Island Prelude, two string quartets, and an assortment of other tone poems. Tower was pianist and founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, which commissioned and premiered many of her early works, including her widely-performed Petroushskates.

Tower's early music seems to reflect the influences of her mentors at Columbia University and is rooted in the serialist tradition, whose sparse texture complimented her interest in chamber music. As she developed as a composer Tower began to gravitate towards the work of Olivier Messiaen andGeorge Crumb and broke away from the strict serialist model. Her work became more colorful and has often been described as impressionistic. She often composes with specific ensembles or soloists in mind, and aims to exploit the strengths of these performers in her composition.

Among her most notable work is Tower's five part Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, each dedicated to 'women who are adventurous and take risks'. Inspired by Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, the fanfares are scored for 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba and percussion. The first fanfare was debuted in 1987 and conducted by Hans Vonk. For the second fanfare, which premiered in 1989, Tower added one percussion while the third, debuted in 1991 was scored for a double brass quintet, and the fourth was scored for a full orchestra. The fifth, and final, portion of Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was commissioned for the Aspen Music Festival in 1993 and was written specifically for Joan Harris.

Joan Tower is currently the Asher B. Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on the Artistic Advisory panel of the BMI Foundation.