The Bienen School of Music welcomed Jennifer Higdon, winner of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, Oct. 15 to 20 for the first of two Nemmers Prize residencies.

One of America’s most frequently performed composers, Higdon is the recipient of a 2010 Pulitzer Prize and two Grammy Awards — one in 2010 for her Percussion Concerto and another in 2018 for her Viola Concerto. Her extensive list of commissioners includes the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as such ensembles as the Tokyo String Quartet, Lark Quartet, Eighth Blackbird and the President’s Own Marine Band.

The 2017-2018 concert season included the successful premiere of her Low Brass Concerto with the Chicago Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, her Tuba Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Harp Concerto for Yolanda Kondonassis with the Rochester Philharmonic and Harrisburg Symphony. Upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia, a string quartet for the Houston-based Apollo Chamber Players, a double percussion concerto for the Houston Symphony, an orchestral suite for the “Made in America” project and a flute concerto for the National Flute Association’s 50th anniversary.

During her October residency, Higdon coached Bienen School ensembles and chamber groups, conducted lessons and seminars with composition students, participated in an interdisciplinary panel discussion on the arts and attended performances by Bienen ensembles.

Panel Discussion: LGBTQ+ in the Arts
Tuesday, Oct. 16

Higdon participated in a panel discussion moderated by E. Patrick Johnson, chair of African American Studies and Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University. Joining Higdon as panelists were stage director Amy Hutchison and art historian and author David Getsy. Discussion topics included the relationship of identity to creative output, inclusivity and discrimination within the arts, the role of the LGBTQ+ community in making progress toward equality and the role of arts presenters in representing LGBTQ+ artists and art. The discussion was followed by a 15-minute Q&A.

Contemporary Music Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble
Thursday, Oct. 18

Conducted by Ben Bolter, the Contemporary Music Ensemble performed “Anthem” by George Lewis and “Dérive 2” by Pierre Boulez. The Percussion Ensemble also gave a performance of Higdon’s “Like Clockwork,” composed for 12 percussionists.

Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Friday, Oct. 19

Led by Mallory Thompson, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed Steven Bryant’s “Radiant Joy,” Higdon’s “Mysterium” and Percussion Concerto and Adam Schoenberg’s “Migration” (Symphony No. 2). Joining them as soloist in Higdon’s Percussion Concerto was faculty percussionist She-e Wu.

Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, Oct. 20

Robert G. Hasty conducted the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra in a performance featuring Higdon’s “Peachtree Street,” Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”) with mezzo-soprano soloist Gabrielle Barkidjija and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (“Eroica”).


  • Nemmers Prize