40th Annual American Music Center Awards

40th Annual American Music Center Awards

(Top to Bottom) Founders Award-winner Ornette Coleman and Letter of Distinction recipients George Perle and Dawn Upshaw

The American Music Center will honor the accomplishments of American leaders in contemporary music during a formal ceremony in New York on Monday, May 3, 2004. Special guest Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, will present this year’s Founders and Trailblazer Awards. The ceremony will take place as part of the American Music Center’s annual meeting.

This year’s award winners are:

Founders Award:
Ornette Coleman
Letter of Distinction:
John Adams
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Dave Brubeck
Ben Johnston
Oral History, American Music—Yale University/Vivian Perlis, Director
George Perle
Stephen Sondheim
Dawn Upshaw
Trailblazer Award:
Matt Haimovitz

Oral History, American Music website

Vivian Perlis, who directs the award-winning Oral History, American Music project at Yale University, says that the recognition is not only an honor but also feels like a seal of approval from the AMC, with whom the OHAM has always felt a close mission. Included in the project’s collection are recorded interviews with AMC founders and many of its members. Perlis says the Letter of Distinction “validates our aim to collect and preserve memoirs directly in the voices of composers. It will be of prime importance in securing support for the survival of this unique project and for its continuation into the future.”

Matt Haimovitz

Haimovitz, who chose to step off the traditional virtuoso career track when he first began performing the work of living artists in college, says the award is “particularly significant” to him. “It took perhaps more courage than I knew I had to embark on this path and I am deeply grateful to receive this award,” he explains.

The cellist gained particular attention last year for his non-traditional tour through bars and alternative clubs across America in support of his album Anthem, which featured work by Osvaldo Golijov, Luna Pearl Woolf, Lou Harrison, Tod Machover, Steven Mackey, David Sanford, Robert Stern, Augusta Read Thomas, Toby Twining, and the “Star Spangled Banner” à la Jimi Hendrix.

The recognition from the AMC is both an unexpected and important vote of confidence that he made the right choice and his work is having an impact. “There is the misconception in the popular culture that ‘classical’ is not offering new work, merely resuscitating the old,” Haimovitz says. “A part of that has to do with the simple fact that audiences outside of contemporary music centers and festivals have little or no access to this music. In my own small way, that’s what I set out to change and I am touched that celebrating music that I believe is urgent, relevant, and communicative to today’s society, has led to this recognition.”

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