The purpose of the Charles Ives Living, which was endowed by the eponymous composer's widow with the royalties from his compositions, is "to free a promising talent from the need to devote his or her time to any employment other than music composition during the period of the award." To that end, the recipient must agree not to accept any full- or part-time salaried post for the three years covered by the award. (He or she may accept commissions.)
Tsontakis, who is currently composer-in-residence at Bard College in New York's Hudson River Valley, begins his term next July. He succeeds Stephen Hartke, who was granted the Ives Living starting in 2004; their predecessors were Martin Bresnick (1998-2001) and Chen Yi (2001-2004).
Upon the announcement of the Ives Living last week, jury chairman William Bolcom said, "There are a slew of awards for young composers. There aren't nearly enough for composers who have gained a solid reputation, who are in mid-career and sorely in need of more time to compose ... For someone like George Tsontakis, the Charles Ives Living affords precious and well-deserved time to create."
Serving with Bolcom on the Charles Ives Living jury were composers T. J. Anderson, Robert Beaser, David Del Tredici, and Joseph Schwantner.
On receiving the award, Tsontakis said in a statement, "I felt a complex mixture of emotions, a bit giddy with exhilaration, yet at almost the same moment a realization that there was a message attached to the gesture, in that a serious rededication to my work was beckoning ... The Ives Living will impact not only the next three years but the rest of my life; I only hope that I might be able to live up to its message."
This is not Tsontakis's first large prize: he has also won the American Academy's 2002 Berlin Prize (Alberto Vilar Fellowship) and the 2005 Grawemeyer Award, worth $200,000, for his Violin Concerto No. 2.