American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards $185,00 to Composers

American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards $185,00 to Composers

The AAAL was founded in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain and interest in literature, music, and the fine arts.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters (AAAL) announced the 16 recipients of their 2003 round of scholarships, fellowships, and awards last week. Considered some of the field’s most prestigious honors, the awards recognize the diverse achievements of a diverse pool of composers at varying stages in their career. This years winners were selected by a committee of Academy member composers chaired by Jack Beeson and including Mario Davidovsky, Olly Wilson, Ned Rorem, and Christopher Rouse. A complete list of winners follows.

Award amounts range from $7500 for the Charles Ives Scholarships and the Academy Awards in Music to $225,000 for the tri-annual Charles Ives Living Award (not given this year). The Academy introduced a new award this year: the Benjamin H. Danks Award for Music, which bequeaths $20,000 to “an exceptional young composer of orchestral works.” The first ever recipient of the award is composer Kevin Puts.

Puts, who is currently serving out his Rome Prize residency, was overjoyed to have his passion for orchestral composition to be endorsed by the AAAL. “I am obviously thrilled to have received this award, especially since I love writing for the orchestra more than anything and it’s great to be encouraged to continue,” he wrote from Rome. “I am drawn to the orchestra for its great power and richness, but also because the variety of colors, combinations, and textures is virtually endless—it gives me the space to imagine without limits.” Future projects have Puts collaborating with the Atlanta Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and three San Francisco Bay Area orchestras as part of Meet The Composer‘s Magnum Opus program.

Boston composer Steven Weigt, one of two winners of the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship given to “mid-career composers of exceptional gifts,” shares Puts’s enthusiasm. “This is an extraordinary honor, the highest level of recognition I’ve received,” he said of the award. “It represents a substantial leap in my stature as a composer.” The other recipient of the Lieberson Fellowship, Charleston-based composer Trevor Weston adds, “Receiving such a prestigious award tells me that I am on the right path.” Both composers plan to use some of the $15,000 from the fellowship to update their home studios. Weston hopes to invest in a new computer and digital keyboard to aid the creation of a large orchestral work he is conceptualizing, and Weigt wants build up his arsenal of electronic music equipment and start working in a medium he claims to have barely touched since his undergraduate days.

With additional awards intended to help composers publish or record their works and others offering aid for educational pursuits, the AAAL Awards serve the various needs of composers at different stages in their careers. Overall, the Academy hopes to recognize excellence in music composition and lead the recipients to greater visibility within the field. The winners will receive their awards at the annual AAAL Ceremonial to take place at the Academy buildings in May.


Academy Awards in Music – $7500 (+$7500 toward the recording of one piece)
Honors outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice.

Danks Award for Music – $20,000
Given to an exceptional young composer of orchestral works.

  • Kevin Puts

Goddard Lieberson Fellowships – $15,000
Endowed in 1978 by the CBS Foundation, given to mid-career composers of exceptional gifts.

  • Steven Weigt
  • Trevor Weston

Walter Hinrichsen Award
Established by the C.F. Peters Corporation in 1984, given for the publication of a work by a gifted composer.

Charles Ives Fellowships – $15,000
Harmony Ives, the widow of Charles Ives, bequeathed to the Academy the royalties of Charles Ives’ music, which has enabled the Academy to give the Ives awards in music since 1970.

Charles Ives Scholarships – $7500
Given to composition students of great promise.

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