The Pulitzer Prize in Music: Pondering the Possibilities

Classic Arts Features   The Pulitzer Prize in Music: Pondering the Possibilities
On July 22 and 31, Caramoor International Music Festival presents Prizing the Pulitzer, a two-concert celebration of the music geniuses nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.


An impressive compilation of American masterworks – including music by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Paul Moravec and John Cage – will be performed by the Music from Copland House ensemble. In addition, this cultural touchstone of a series provides concertgoers an opportunity to attend pre- and post-concert discussions about the brilliant composers honored – and in some cases, controversially overlooked – by the prize.

Michael Barrett, Chief Executive and General Director of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, and Michael Boriskin, Artistic and Executive Director of Copland House joined creative forces this year and programmed a special two part concert series, Prizing the Pulitzer. The series, which begins on July 22 and continues on July 31, explores the “possibilities, not probabilities” surrounding the Pulitzer Prize with works by composers who won the prize or by overlooked finalists.

How did this program come to be?

Michael Barrett: We brainstormed a lot about the programming. Our first draft amounted to two four-hour concerts and we marveled at how much amazing music had been nominated over the years. Caramoor’s Artistic Administrator Christopher Zimmerman helped winnow the choices down to a more manageable size.

How does winning the Pulitzer Prize affect a composer’s career?

According to Paul Moravec, the 2004 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Tempest Fantasy, it “changes everything, and nothing. It doesn’t make me a better composer, but it creates opportunities.”

Who are some of the overlooked composers that were surprising?

Both: The names are quite amazing. For example, neither Leonard Bernstein nor John Cage, both revered American masters and profoundly influential figures, has won the prize. Thelonious Monk, Meredith Monk and Duke Ellington also failed to make the cut.

What impact has the Pulitzer Prize had on American Music/American composers?

Michael Boriskin: The Pulitzer Prizes have been a barometer of American music for nearly 75 years. This collaboration will offer our broad, personal take on how the Pulitzers may have helped mold our musical landscape, and, in turn, were shaped by it.

Do you think the musical landscape of American composers is changing?

Michael Barrett: As Caramoor’s series demonstrates, while the probabilities are debatable, the possibilities are tantalizing; Who knows? Maybe next year one of Caramoor’s commissioned works, a new piece by Andrew Norman, a former Copland House resident, being performed on August 4 by Caramoor’s 2011 Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence, the Jasper Stirng Quartet, will be nominated.


On Friday, July 22 at 8:00pm, the first of two wonderfully crafted programs will take place in the intimate setting of the Spanish Courtyard. This concert features works by Leonard Bernstein, David del Tredici, Paul Moravec, John Cage, John Musto, William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon and Bright Sheng, performed by the Music from Copland House ensemble. There will be a post-concert discussion about the prize-winning composers, as well as other nominated composers, who were featured in the program.

On Sunday, July 31 at 4:30pm, Music from Copland House will continue the musical exploration in the Venetian Theater with Aaron Copland‟s Appalachian Spring, as well as the works of Lukas Foss, Samuel Barber, Charles Ives, Gian Carlo Menotti, Ernst Toch and Walter Piston. There will be a pre-concert discussion beginning at 3:30pm.

By car from the West Side of Manhattan and New Jersey, take the Saw Mill River Parkway north to Katonah. Exit at Route 35/Cross River. Turn right, and, at the first traffic light, make a right turn onto Route 22 south. Travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road. Follow the signs to Caramoor. (For detailed directions call 914.232.5035 and press 2, or online at Parking at Caramoor is free on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once on-site parking is full, alternate parking will be available with free shuttle bus service.

By train, take the Harlem Division of the Metro-North Railroad to Katonah, New York. Taxi service from the station to Caramoor (5 minutes away) is available.

Prizing the Pulitzer I (Friday, July 22 in the Spanish Courtyard at 8:00PM): $30.00, $40.00
Prizing the Pulitzer II (Sunday, July 31 in the Venetian Theater at 4:30PM): $16.00, $21.00, $31.00, $46.00 (Al Fresco tickets to this concert, which allow audiences to enjoy the sounds of the concert from the Picnic Lawns, are $10.00 each)

To order tickets, call the Box Office at 914.232.1252 or visit Groups of 16 or more may purchase discounted tickets by contacting Matthew Scarella at 914.232.5035 ext. 252 or

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