Tower of power: Bard fêtes master composer’s 75th birthday

Composer Joan Tower

Composer Joan Tower

Quick! Who are the greatest American classical composers who are still amongst the living? You’ll probably think first of the top Minimalists like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley, or perhaps some local favorites like Pauline Oliveros and Peter Schickele. Who else comes to mind?

Perhaps you remembered Joan Tower, even if you didn’t know that she has been on the music faculty of Bard College since 1972. Few of her contemporaries have attained the level of acclaim that Tower has earned in her 50+ year composing career. She founded the Da Capo Chamber Players; was the first woman ever to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award, for her 1986 orchestral composition Silver Ladders; and won a Best Classical Contemporary Composition Grammy Award for her 2004 work for chamber orchestra, Made in America. She has been composer-in-residence for a long list of orchestras and been commissioned to write works for many more.

September 6 is Tower’s 75th birthday, and Bard is marking the special occasion a day later with a gala at the new László Z. Bitó Conservatory Building Performance Space on campus, with proceeds to benefit the Joan Tower Composition Scholarship fund. “Joan Tower and Friends Celebrate Her 75th Birthday” will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 7, with a reception to follow the concert in the Blithewood mansion, also on the Bard College grounds.

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The program will feature six of Tower’s compositions, performed by the composer herself, Blair McMillen and Kayo Iwama on piano; soprano Dawn Upshaw; cellist Peter Wiley; violist Steven Tenenbom; the Daedalus Quartet; and the Horszowski Trio. Works to be presented will include the Dumbarton Quintet (2008), Simply Purple (2008), For Daniel (2004), Tres Lent (1994), Following Up High (2010) and White Water (2011).

In keeping with the composer’s milestone age, tickets will be sold for $7,500 for sponsorship, $75 for individuals and 75 cents for students. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (845) 758-7196 or e-mail concertoffice@bard.edu.

Joan Tower 75th Birthday Gala with the Daedalus Quartet, Saturday, September 7, 7:30 p.m., $7,500/$75/75¢, László Z. Bitó Conservatory Building, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; (845) 758-7196, concertoffice@bard.edu.