There is a celebration Saturday at the Kaufman Center in NYC with her music, A Singular Voice.
Joan Tower is known as one of the leading composers of our time. She was born in New York, but spent her childhood in South America where her father worked as a mining engineer. She learned to play the piano when she was a child and soon realized that she liked to perform. She returned to the US when she was 18 to study at Bennington College in Vermont. Joan went on to Columbia University, where she received her Masters and Doctorate Degrees in music.
Joan was the Composer-In-Residence of the St. Louis Symphony from 1985-1987. She has also received many fellowships and founded and was the pianist in the "Da Capo Players"- an ensemble that won many awards for their performances. The Da Capo Players also commissioned and premiered many of Joan's works.
Joan has composed a large number of pieces, some for small, chamber ensembles and others for full orchestra. Her works are known for their energy and colorful sounds. She has taught music at Bard College since 1972.
Recently the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has recorded a new work by Tower, A Gift.Here is her This I Believe essay: After 60 plus years of composing and performing, I believe more than ever in the extraordinary power of music.
In this day of fast information and communication, music nourishes our inner souls. As tensions between nations continue, music reaches beyond borders. At weddings, funerals, inaugurations and parades, music gives us public permission to feel and share things. In fact, music has always been a shared thing -- between the creator, the performer and the audience. Music connects me to people I don't even know.
Strong music puts you in a space where you forget about yourself. It's like a good movie. It's an escape. You lose yourself. It's a license to feel, sing, shout and to dance.
Do you remember when you first fell in love? Was there a song associated with that love? When you hear that song now, don't you think of that person and actually remember what you felt? Maybe you even cry.
When I was growing up, my life largely centered around boys and sex. I was into music, but music didn't always give me the nourishment that boys did. It takes time and patience to be nourished by music. Now, I can say, without music I would be lost.
A conductor once told me that music had kept him off the streets and even out of jail. Music became a kind of "survival" phenomena for him (and for me, too). It is our drug of choice because it has given us the extraordinary lasting inner experience that has even replaced real drugs, vacations, money, fame and all the things we associate with pleasure and excitement. A friend of mine who happens to be an extraordinary pianist and still practices up to five hours a day once said to me, "The piano is my best friend. I can't think of anyone better to spend my time with."
I feel the same way about composing. I'm in the studio from 1:00 to 5:30 religiously, every day. I used to run from the studio -- I'd tell myself I had to clean or make a telephone call, anything to get out of there. Now I look forward to these hours.
Music is not just my most trusted friend. It makes me come alive, to show strength and passion and to feel useful. Music makes me feel like I'm doing something terribly important. I believe that with music I can help to change the world around me -- if just a little bit.
Read about her performance of Made in America in York, PA at ClassicallyHip. You can also read more about her Notable Women Festival here.