Kelley Sheehan (b. 1989) has been named the winner of the Gaudeamus International Composers Award, which has been given annually since 1957 at the closing concert of the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, a Dutch festival devoted to the music of emerging composers from around the world. The young composer from Chicago, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in music composition at Harvard University, received the 2019 prize for young music pioneers at Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg on Sunday, September 8 from Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Netherlands’ Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The international jury for the 2019 award—which consisted of composers Clara Iannotta, Gerhard Stäbler, and Yannis Kyriakides—offered the following statement about Sheehan:
Kelley is a genuine sonic explorer working with adapted and extended objects. Her machine-like repetitions allow the listener to inhabit an uncanny noise world that almost begins to breathe. The compositions are embedded in transparent structures that draws you into an intimate and captivating environment. She is also a composer that is actively involved in the community and that is reflected in the integrity of the approach to her music practice.
Sheehan was one of 95 composers who submitted their work for the Award. From the 95, five composers were nominated and invited to be part of the Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2019. Besides Sheehan, the nominated composers were Remy Siu, Nicholas Morrish, Scott Rubin, and Stefan Maier. Three pieces by Sheehan were performed during the festival: Four Sharp Corners by Insomnio, Talk Circus by Slagwerk Den Haag and eyes on, which she wrote on commission from Gaudeamus for the Nadar Ensemble. Additionally, an installation version of her piece Circle Speak was part of the sound art expo Senses Working Overtime.
Previous international recipients of the Gaudeamus International Composers Award include Louis Andriessen (1959), Per Nørgård (1961), Vinko Globokar (1968), Fabio Vacchi (1976), Unsuk Chin (1985), Richard Barrett (1989), Richard Ayres (1994), Zou Hang (1997), Oscar Bianchi (2005), and Anna Korsun (2014). Sheehan is the 10th American composer who has received the award following Pauline Oliveros (1962), John McGuire (1971), Daniel Lentz (1972), Maurice Weddington (1973), Karen Tanaka (1987), Christopher Trapani (2007), Huck Hodge (2008), Ted Hearne (2009), and Anthony Vine (2018).