Tania León has been awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her orchestra work Stride which received its world premiere in a performance by The New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden in David Geffen Hall in New York City on February 13, 2020. According to the Pulitzer Prize guidelines, the annually awarded $15,000 prize is for “a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year.” The Pulitzer citation describes Stride as “a musical journey full of surprise, with powerful brass and rhythmic motifs that incorporate Black music traditions from the US and the Caribbean into a Western orchestral fabric.” Published by Peermusic Classical, Stride was one of 19 commissions of the New York Philharmonic as part of its Project 19 initiative commemorating the centenary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States constitution which established that women have the right to vote.
“I don’t know what to say!” said Tania León during a telephone conversation minutes after the announcement. “All the women that motivated me to do this: I am the product of my grandmother. My mother and my grandmother were both maids when they were eight years old. And Susan B. Anthony and all the suffragettes inspired me. I think of all these women and I want to honor them.”
The announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes, which traditionally take place in the Columbia University Journalism Building and are scheduled on the third Monday of April, were delayed again this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, this year’s announcement was made online by Pulitzer Prize co-chairs Mindy Marqués and Stephen Engelberg via a stream posted this Friday afternoon on the Pulitzer website and on YouTube.
Also nominated as finalists for the 2021 music prize were: Place by Ted Hearne (released on New Amsterdam Records on April 3, 2020) which is described in the Pulitzer citation as “a brave and powerful work, marked by effective vocal writing and multiple musical genres, that confronts issues of gentrification and displacement in Fort Greene,” and Maria Schneider’s Data Lords (a recording released by the Maria Schneider Orchestra on July 24, 2020 via ArtistShare), which is described in the citation as “an enveloping musical landscape of light and shadow, rendered by the many personalities of a large jazz ensemble, reflecting the promise of a digital paradise contrasted by a concentration of power and the loss of privacy.”
Tania León was the very first individual composer featured in conversation in NewMusicBox back in August 1999. You can read a complete transcript of that conversation here. Tania León is one of the eight composers involved in New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program and Stride is one of the six works submitted by New Music USA in consideration for performance during the 2021 International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) World New Music Days in Shanghai scheduled for September 2021.
The jury for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music was: John V. Brown, Jr. (Chair), Vice Provost, Arts, Duke University; Regina Carter, Jazz Violinist, Maywood, N.J.; Ellen Reid, Composer/Sound Artist, New York City (and prior winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, in 2019); John Schaefer, Host, “New Sounds,” WNYC Radio; and Christopher J. Washburne, Composer/Trombonist; Professor of Music, Columbia University.