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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Shares Expertise with Music Students

Joseph Schwantner speaking to music students during his recent masterclass
Joseph Schwantner speaking to music students during his recent masterclass

Keene State’s music program has earned the admiration of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner, whose Percussion Concerto won a Grammy Award in 2012. The composer gradually became involved – and enamored – with the College’s Music Department after he left his position as Professor of Composition at the Yale University School of Music in 2002 and moved to Keene to work as an independent composer. 

He’s attended many of the Music Department’s concerts and become friends with members of the Music faculty and presented several masterclasses to students. “I’ve been pleased to speak at the school and share my experience and insights as a professional composer who has had the opportunity to work with many of world’s leading musical ensembles, organizations, and musicians,” Schwantner said.

He’s collected an extensive library of musical scores (including music by leading 20th century composers) and books on music during his long academic career, and recently donated much of his collection to Keene State’s Music Department. “I felt those materials and pedagogical resources could be put to good use by the Music Department’s faculty and students,” he explained. “KSC has a strong music program with a dedicated faculty committed to nurturing each student’s potential. It gives me pleasure to see the energy and enthusiasm that these young musicians possess. I hope my small contribution helps to further enrich and broaden their musical horizons.”

Schwantner gave a masterclass to composition, percussion, and music technology students in February, offering students important insights from a music professional. “It’s always great to have workshops with composers like Joe because it gives another perspective on how to approach composition,” noted senior Alex Poor. “Being a music composition major, I’m always searching for new approaches to composition, and seeing how a professional creates their work is incredibly helpful to my training.”