Columbia University School of the Arts honored composer Pauline Oliveros with the William Schuman Award, a major recognition given periodically over the past twenty-eight years, with a concert and awards ceremony at Miller Theatre on Saturday, March 27, 2010.
Named for its first recipient William Schuman, the award, in the form of a direct, unrestricted grant of $50,000, is one of the largest to an American composer. In the language of the gift establishing the prize, the purpose of the William Schuman Award is “to recognize the lifetime achievement of an American composer whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance.” It is awarded by the Dean of the School of the Arts at Columbia University. The award was established in 1981 by the Bydale Foundation. Previous winners have included Schuman, David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt, Hugo Weisgall, Steve Reich, and, most recently in 2006, John Zorn.
“The School of the Arts is thrilled to present the William Schuman Award to Pauline Oliveros, a truly adventurous artist, who has contributed so much to redefining the boundaries and potentialities of contemporary music,” said Carol Becker, dean of the school.
“I am delighted that Pauline Oliveros has been chosen to receive the Schuman Award for 2009,” says Professor Aaron A. Fox, Chair of the Department of Music at Columbia University. “Ms. Oliveros is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished and innovative American composers of her generation, and her music is both beautifully compelling and of lasting importance. On behalf of the Columbia University Department of Music, I extend warm congratulations to Ms. Oliveros for this well deserved recognition of her extraordinary career, and welcome her to Columbia, where she has many fans, for the celebratory performance at Miller Theatre."
Pauline Oliveros—composer, performer, and humanitarian—is an important pioneer in American music. For four decades she has explored sound, forging new ground for herself and others, to international acclaim. Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching, and meditation, she has created a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly affects those who experience it. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in an underground cavern, or in the studios of West German Radio, Oliveros's commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged. Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations, Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship, and strong improvisational skills, which are the hallmarks of Oliveros's form. She now serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Darius Milhaud Composer in Residence at Mills College.