Joan Tower (b. 6 September 1938, New Rochelle, N.Y.) is an American composer.
Tower moved to Bolivia when she was nine years old, an experience which she credits for making rhythm an integral part of her work. For the next decade Tower's talent in music, particularly on the piano, grew rapidly due to her father's insistence that she benefit from consistent musical training. Tower's relationship with her mineralogist father is visible in many aspects of her work, most specifically her "mineral works" including Black Topaz (1976) and Silver Ladders (1986). She returned to the United States as a young woman to study music, first at Bennington College, in Vermont, and then at Columbia University where she studied under Otto Luening, Jack Beeson, and Vladimir Ussachevsky and was awarded her doctorate in composition in 1968.
Since 1972, Tower has taught at Bard College, where she is Asher Edelman Professor of Music. She has served as composer-in-residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's since 1997 and at the Deer Valley Festival in Utah since 1998, a title she also held for eight years at the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Other accolades include the 1998 Delaware Symphony's Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composer, the 2002 Annual Composer's Award from the Lancaster (PA) Symphony, and an honorary degree from the New England Conservatory (2006). "Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music" (The Detroit News).
Hailed as "one of the most successful woman composers of all time" in The New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower was the first woman to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. She was inducted in 1998 into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004.
Joan Tower's bold and energetic music, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms, has won large, enthusiastic audiences. From 1969 to 1984, she was pianist and founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, which commissioned and premiered many of her most popular works. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, quickly entered the repertory, with performances by orchestras including St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tokyo NHK, Toronto, the National Symphony and London Philharmonia. A choreographed version by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet toured throughout Canada, Europe, and Russia. Tower's tremendously popular five Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 500 different ensembles.
Works for Winds
- Black Topaz
- Celebration Fanfare (from Stepping Stones) (arr. Jack Stamp)
- Celebration Fanfare (from Stepping Stones) - Brass Version (arr. Daniel Forlano)
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 2
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 3
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5 (1993/1997)
- Fascinating Ribbons (2001)
- Made in America (tr. Patterson) (2004)
- The Horizon Leans Forward…, compiled and edited by Erik Kar Jun Leung, GIA Publications, 2021, p. 499.
- Joan Tower, Wikipedia Accessed 26 September 2017
- Maughlin, Ashley Marie. (2009). A graduate recital in wind band conducting. [Master's Thesis].
- Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. 2002. Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Volume 4. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 799.