Schwantner, a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory and Northwestern University, has taught on the faculties of the Juilliard, Eastman and Yale Schools of Music. He won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for music for his orchestral work Aftertones of Infinity; his 1992 Percussion Concerto was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary and was subsequently recorded by conductor Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra with percussionist Evelyn Glennie.
The idea behind the Made in America program — operated by the ASOL and Meet the Composer and made possible by underwriting from the Ford Motor Company Fund — is for a consortium of small U.S. orchestras to band together and co-commission from a major American composer an original score which none of them could afford individually. The ensembles receive a new work for their repertoires, a piece in which they and their audiences have, in a sense, an ownership stake; the composer gets numerous repeat performances of the commissioned score, an all-too-rare occurrence with contemporary music.
The first recipient of a Made in America commission was Joan Tower. The resulting orchestral work, titled Made in America, has received well over 80 performances by 65 orchestras since its 2005 premiere in Glens Falls, New York. A recording of the piece by Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony was released last month on the Naxos label.