Joan Tower '61

Image of Joan Tower

Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than 50 years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. 

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Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of 65 orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville’s latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. 

In 1990, she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony (where she was composer-in-residence from 1985 to 1988) the Orchestra of St Luke's and the Albany Symphony. She was the pianist for the Naumburg Award winning Da Capo Chamber Players for 15 years.

She is currently the Asher Edelman professor of music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972.