Investing in the musical life and legacy of Philadelphia

Augusta Read Thomas

The music of Grammy-winning composer Augusta Read Thomas is majestic, elegant, lyrical; it is “boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music.”(Philadelphia Inquirer) The New Yorker Magazine called Augusta “a true virtuoso composer.” Donald Rosenberg of Gramophone wrote, “Heart and soul in the breathtaking music of a thoughtful contemporary composer. Thomas’s brainy brand of modernism reveals a lively, probing mind allied to a beating heart.” 

The citation read at her 2009 American Academy of Arts and Letters induction: “Her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry.  Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession. Later, as an influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern and Tanglewood, chairperson of the American Music Center, and the Chicago Symphony’s longest-serving resident composer, she has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music.”

Thomas has composed over 40 works for orchestra. She was the Mead Composer-in-Residence for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez with the CSO from 1997 through 2006, a residency that culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle – one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

She founded and directs the Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago.

Barenboim, Boulez, Salonen, Knussen, Ozawa, Rostrapovich, Slatkin, Roberton, Maazel, Davis, Graf, Zhang and Eschenbach have championed her music, which has been commissioned by leading orchestras and ensembles around the world.  Winner of the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize and many other international awards, currently she is composing an opera commissioned by a consortium led by Santa Fe Opera association with San Francisco Opera that includes: Lyric Opera Kansas City, Minnesota Opera, Opera Theatre Saint Louis, Sarasota Opera, and Seattle Opera.