Out of the Silence:
A Celebration of Music
Composer BiosJessie Montgomery (b. 1981) grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when it was a hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development. The rallies, performances, and parties her musician father and theater-artist mother brought her to, and the music that surrounded her as a child—the classical works she learned as a violinist and the jazz she heard from her saxophonist and clarinetist father—informed the life that Montgomery created, which merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy. She has been composing since high school but began to pursue it seriously in 2008 while living in Rhode Island and working as a member of the Providence Quartet. A year later, she enrolled at New York University to pursue a graduate degree in composition for film and multimedia. Since 1999, Montgomery has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African American and Latinx string players. She serves as a composer in residence for the organization’s professional touring ensemble, Sphinx Virtuosi. Montgomery has received grants and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Composers Orchestra, the Joyce Foundation, and the Sorel Organization.
Alvin Singleton (b. 1940) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and played trumpet in high school as an alternative to woodshop. He studied accounting at New York Community College and also took music classes in theory, composition, and piano at New York College of Music, later part of New York University. A part-time job as an usher at Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center allowed Singleton to attend concert rehearsals, and after experiencing the New York Philharmonic, under Leonard Bernstein, performing Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection”), he decided that composing was what he wanted to do. After earning his master’s from Yale, and studying with Goffredo Petrassi at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy, as a Fulbright Scholar, Singleton lived and worked in Europe for 14 years, returning to the United States to become a composer in residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1985. Singleton has earned numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship; the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis from the City of Darmstadt, Germany; and the Musikprotokoll Kompositionpreis from Austrian Radio (twice). He has composed music for theater, orchestra, solo instruments, and a variety of chamber ensembles.
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941), professor of music and eminent scholar at Old Dominion University, was an altar boy in a traditional Anglican-style Episcopal cathedral, where he was the one Black child in the choir. He learned organ, piano, and to read music there, and he was influenced by the cadences and melodic inflections of the church. Hailstork studied at the Manhattan School of Music; American Institute at Fontainebleau, with Nadia Boulanger; at Howard University; and he earned his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University. Among his many commissions are an opera about the Underground Railroad (Cincinnati Opera Company); the first classical piece written to commemorate the Hurricane Katrina disaster (Houston Choral Society); a piece in honor of and featuring the words of President John F. Kennedy (Bismarck Symphony); a work for soprano, chorus, and orchestra based on Rita Dove’s poem Testimonial (Oratorio Society of Virginia); and an orchestra work that references motives found in William Grant Still’s pioneering Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American.” Hailstork is working on his Fourth Symphony, SURVIVE, and A Knee On A Neck (tribute to George Floyd) for chorus and orchestra.
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) is regarded as one of the great composers of the 19th century for his symphonies, chamber music, oratorios, songs, and operas. His musical education began in 1847 in his Bohemian village school and culminated with his graduation in 1859 from the Prague Organ School as the second-best student of his year. He lived the life of a working musician, playing viola in a dance band and as principal violist in the Provisional Theatre orchestra starting in 1862. He was also composing, and soon established himself among the leading composers of Prague. International success followed, particularly in England, and honors and awards began to accumulate. In 1891, he was offered the post of artistic director and professor of composition at the new National Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the following year he came to America. His time in the US, and his travels, led him to conclude that it was from the African American and Native American traditions that authentic American music would emerge, transformed by two distinctive features from American history: the legacy of slavery and the memory of the indigenous peoples of the continent. In 1895, Dvořák returned to Bohemia, where he spent his final years writing operas and serving as the director of the Prague Conservatory.
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than 50 years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of 65 orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony, where she was composer-in-residence from 1985 to 1988. Other residencies with orchestras include the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (1997–2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010–11). She was in residence as the Albany Symphony’s Mentor Composer partner in the 2013–14 season. The Albany and Nashville Symphonies will release two recordings on the NAXOS label of her orchestral music. She is currently Asher B. Edelman Professor in the Arts at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972. Recent honors include Musical America's Composer of the Year award and Chamber Music of America's Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award.