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NEC Composers Win Guggenheims

Agócs and Rosenblum Among 11 American and Canadian Composers Honored

NEC Faculty Composer Kati Agócs and Alumnus Mathew Rosenblum ’78, ’79 M.M. Awarded 2013 Guggenheim Fellowships

Stipends Support Fellows’ Work on Creative Projects

NEC Composers Among Only 11 to Be Honored

NEC Faculty Kati Agócs and alumnus Mathew Rosenblum ’78, ’79 M.M. are among 11 American and Canadian composers awarded 2013 Guggenheim Fellowships. Their selection, along with that of 175 scholars, artists, and scientists was announced Thursday by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.  Chosen from a pool of 3000 applicants, the award winners were selected on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

In making the announcement Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, called the recipients “the best of the best.  Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group.  It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”  Since its establishment, the Foundation has granted over $306 million in Fellowships to more than 17,500 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, poets laureate, winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Fields Medals, and other internationally recognized honors. Find a list of NEC's past Guggenheim Fellows.

Kati Agócs, who joined the NEC faculty in 2008, is a native of Windsor, Canada and a much honored composer whose work has been described as combining “lapidary rigor and sensuous lyricism.”  A citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters calls it “blessedly unsophisticated in any conventional way…instead it has heart. It reaches the hearer through its melody, drama, and clear design…" and cites her music’s "soulful directness” and "naturalness of dissonance." She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts and Masters degrees in Composition from The Juilliard School, where her principal teacher was Milton Babbitt.

Agócs’s current commissions include a work for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players in honor of its Fiftieth Anniversary season; a work for two sopranos and percussion, commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts; Crystallography, commissioned by Standing Wave Ensemble in Vancouver; and Saint Elizabeth Bells, a cello-cimbalom duet commissioned by cellist Andre Emelianoff in New York.

Agócs had her music featured by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this season, with two performances of her concert opener Shenanigan, commissioned in 2011 by James Sommerville for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Hamilton, Ontario. Her music will be also performed by the Minnesota Orchestra on an upcoming Future Classics concert. The Grammy-winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird toured across the U.S. with her quintet Immutable Dreams. More than eight different ensembles have performed the work since its 2007 premiere, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, Xanthos Ensemble in Boston, Lontano in London,U.K., and Vancouver’s Standing Wave.

Agócs’s awards include an inaugural 2009 Brother Thomas Fellowship from the Boston Foundation, a 2008 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center in 2007, multiple commissioning grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, a Fulbright Fellowship to the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, a New York Foundation for the Arts Composition fellowship, a Jerome Foundation commission, Presser Foundation Award, and honors from ASCAP in their Morton Gould Young Composer Awards

Agócs plans to use her Guggenheim Fellowship as she composes the fifth and final work for an upcoming orchestral CD with Boston Modern Orchestra Project on the BMOP/Sound label. With four of the five works already recorded, the new work is scheduled to be premiered and recorded in the 2014-2015 season, and the CD released soon after. The new work was commissioned by the Jebediah Foundation New Music Commission.

Mathew Rosenblum, who received both his B.M. and M.M. in Composition from NEC before earning an MFA and Ph.D from Princeton University, is currently the chair of the music department at the University of Pittsburgh and co-director of the concert series Music on the Edge.

Best known for his work in microtonal music, Rosenblum’s music is filled with diverse musical elements derived from classical, jazz, rock, and world music traditions. The Boston Globe called his music “an ear-buzzing flood of sound, rich in unusual overtones,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described his work Mobius Loop as “richly layered… and stated that it “shimmered with vibrancy.” A wide array of groups have commissioned, performed, and recorded his music such as the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Harry Partch Institute, the American Composers Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, the Calmus Ensemble of Leipzig, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and Sequitur.

Among Rosenblum’s honors and awards have been residencies at numerous colleges, festivals, and artist colonies; grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1981), the Institute of Contemporary American Music (1981), the Rockefeller Foundation (1980), and BMI (1978).

Like Agócs, Rosenblum plans to use his Guggenheim Fellowship in support of a composition he is writing for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. His proposed project is a concerto for the renowned Classical/Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer. Titled Lament/Witches’ Sabbath, the new piece will be loosely based on the last movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, "Songe d'une nuit du sabbat," and will be a re-working of elements of that music with Klezmer-inspired excursions based on the folk elements already embedded in the Berlioz.  According to Rosenblum, “It’s meant as a new piece that appropriates, transforms, and interprets elements from the original. The idea is to mesh my microtonal musical language with David’s improvisational sensibility using aspects of Berlioz’s musical material and the evocative theme of “witches sabbath” as a reference point. The piece will begin with a Lament, and will be 18-25 minutes in length.”

For more information about composition study at NEC, check the Website.

Photos of Kati Agócs and Mathew Rosenblum by Samantha West and Tina Psoinos


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115