Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 15 January 1960, Bensalem Township, Penns.) is an American composer and educator.
Aaron Jay Kernis began his musical career by playing the violin and piano. His composition career began at age 13, and he was awarded three BMI Foundation Student Composers Awards throughout his time as a student. He studied composition with John Adams at the San Francisco Conservatory; Charles Wuorinen at the Manhattan School of Music; and Morton Subotnick, Bernard Rands, and Jacob Druckman at Yale University. His wide range of teachers and time spent on both the East and West Coasts helps to define his eclectic musical style that blends minimalism with post-Romanticism.
Aaron Kernis found immediate success as a composer when his work Dream of the Morning Sky was premiered in 1983 by the New York Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta conducting. He was only 23 at the time but won unanimous praise for an incident that took place. Zubin Mehta stopped the orchestra to complain about the vagueness of the score, but Aaron Jay Kernis replied, "Just read what's there." The audience applauded young Kernis for sticking up for his work, and within weeks the story received national attention.
Kernis has written over 25 works for orchestra including concertos for cello, english horn, violin, and toy piano. His key orchestral works include Musica Celestis, New Era Dance, Lament and Prayer, Newly Drawn Sky, and Colored Field.
Although Kernis is known best for orchestral works, he has also written over 30 works for chamber ensemble, 22 works for [chorus], and 14 solo [keyboard] compositions. Air and Musica Instrumentalis stand out among his finest non-orchestral works.
Kernis's style has been described as having neo-romantic intensity with exuberant imagination. His thematic material tends to keep audiences engaged while his sound palette offers them an innovative approach to orchestration. There have been many comparisons drawn to Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Mahler, and Igor Stravinsky due to their rhythmic drive and timbral exploration. His eclectic influences range from Claude Debussy to modern hip-hop music. Kernis claims that his works have been influenced by 19th century music, minimalism, and impressionism. He has said numerous times that he feels more comfortable writing beautiful music as opposed to atonal works. 100 Greatest Dance Hits features a wide range of musical styles from rock to salsa
In addition to his post as a faculty member of the Yale School of Music, Kernis spent 10 years serving as the music advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra and as Director of the Minnesota Orchestra's Composers' Institute. He is widely regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation, receiving numerous awards and honors throughout his thirty-year career.
Works for Winds
- For Love of the Mountains (2016)
- New Era Dance (1992/2016)
- Overture in Feet and Meters (2000/2015)
- a Voice, a Messager (2010)