"This is the way we learn as composers, by hearing our work in public."
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Francis Eppes Professor
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize (the first female in music), four Grammy nominations, an Academy Award (from the American Academy of Arts and Letters), named to the first Composer's Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and five honorary doctorates…
For some artists, a long list of awards hardens into a barrier between them and their audience. Not so for Ellen Taafee Zwilich, an Eppes Professor in the FSU School of Music, who still composes to connect with people.
Audience reaction, she says, is vital to refining one's work: "This is the way we learn as composers, by hearing our work in public."
Apparently she's an expert "learner." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians offers this retrospective on her work: "There are not many composers in the modern world who possess the lucky combination of writing music of substance and at the same time exercising an immediate appeal to mixed audiences. Zwilich offers this happy combination of purely technical excellence and a distinct power of communication."
Her music, which is performed and recorded by leading orchestras and ensembles, and listened to by audiences the world over, is known as distinct—music that is immediately recognized as her product and that reflects her optimistic and humanistic spirit.
After receiving BA and MA degrees in music composition from FSU, and a doctorate from the Julliard School, Zwilich was invited to play violin in the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski (from 1965 to 1972). She then devoted herself to composing full-time.
The rest of the story is beautiful music, which has been commissioned by such notables as the New York Philharmonic, the Abe Fortas Memorial Fund of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall.
Tap into the Zwilich sound: Many of her works are available on CD and are performed here on campus by local and visiting musicians.