Colgrass, Michael

Michael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass, Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning composer studied composition with Eugene Weigel, Darius Milhaud, Lukas Foss and Ben Weber, but says he learned most about composing by playing as a percussionist in New York with such composers as Igor Stravinsky (Columbia Records) Henry Brant, Harry Partch (U.S. Highball recording), Aaron Copland, Gunther Schuller (Atlantic Records recordings with Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and the Modern Jazz Quartet), as well as organizing the percussion sections for premieres of new works by John Cage, Elliott Carter, Edgard Varese, and many others.

As a composer, he has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic and The Boston Symphony (twice), and the orchestras of Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto (twice), the National Arts Centre Orchestra (twice), The Canadian Broadcast Corporation and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, among others.

He was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, First Prize in the Barlow and Sudler International Wind Ensemble Competitions, and the 1988 Jules Leger Prize for Chamber Music.

Recent commissioned premieres: Crossworlds for flutist Marina Piccinini and pianist Andreas Haefliger (Boston Symphony 2002), Side by Side for Joanne Kong on harpsichord and prepared piano (Esprit Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Richmond Symphony 2006), and Pan Trio for steel drum virtuoso Liam Teague (Soundstreams 2008).

As an author, Colgrass wrote, My Lessons with Kumi, a narrative/exercise book, outlining his techniques for performance and creativity. He also gives workshops throughout the world on the psychology and technique of performance.

He lives in Toronto and makes his living internationally as a composer. His wife, Ulla, is a journalist and editor who writes about music and the arts.

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