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Augusta Read Thomas


Augusta Read Thomas


Thomas was born in Glen Cove, New York. She attended The Green Vale School before continuing at St. Paul's School, a boarding school, in Concord, New Hampshire. After graduating from high school, she studied composition with Alan Stout and M. William Karlins at Northwestern University. This was before a composition major existed for undergraduates at Northwestern; an exception was made for her as she showed extreme promise as a composer. After graduating from Northwestern, Thomas studied with Jacob Druckman at Yale University and at the Royal Academy of Music with Paul Patterson.

Shortly after she received her master's degree from the Royal Academy of Music, Augusta Read Thomas was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was the youngest woman recipient of the fellowship at the age of 23.

She taught at the Eastman School of Music and received tenure there at the age of 33, but left to teach at the Northwestern University School of Music. While still at Eastman, she was appointed as a Mead Composer in Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a post she retained until 2006, when she was succeeded by Osvaldo Golijov and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Thomas is the longest-serving Mead Composer in Residence in the history of the CSO.

In 2006, she resigned from teaching at Northwestern in order to compose exclusively. She is Chair of the Board of the American Music Center, and divides her time between Chicago and Becket, Massachusetts.

In 2007, Astral Canticle, a double concerto for violin, flute, and orchestra, was named one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

On November 8, 2010, the University of Chicago announced that Augusta Read Thomas would be appointed University Professor of Composition in the Department of Music and the College.[citation needed] She is only the 16th designated professor to be appointed by the University.

An album by Chanticleer including her choral pieces "The Rub of Love" and "Love Songs" won a Grammy. Some of her other works are "Aurora", "Galaxy Dances", "Prayer Bells", "Words of the Sea", "Bells Ring Summer", "Silhouettes", "Purple Syllables", and "Ring Flourish Blaze".

In 2014 Nimbus Records released an Augusta Read Thomas CD series highlighting her most important work. A Portrait of Augusta Read Thomas (NI6262) included her saxophone concerto Hemke Concerto "Prisms of Light", which was written for and performed by Frederick Hemke and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra under William Boughton. Selected Works for Orchestra (NI6258) contained performances of "Words of the Sea", conducted by Pierre Boulez, and "Carillon Sky", conducted by Oliver Knussen.

In 2016, the Chicago Tribune named Thomas "Chicagoan of the Year" for her work on the Ear Taxi Festival, "a Chicago-centic marathon of new-music performances that, for six heady days in October, brought together some 500 local musicians to present roughly 100 recent classical works, 54 of them world premieres; 87 living composers were represented".

Thomas is married to Anglo-American composer Bernard Rands. In 1997, Russian-American cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the Boston Symphony Orchestra presented an unconventional concert in which new works by both Rands and Thomas were premiered.

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