Biography of Aaron Jay Kernis
Winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, AARON JAY KERNIS is among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation. With "fearless originality [and] powerful voice" (The New York Times), each new Kernis work is eagerly awaited by audiences and musicians alike, and he is one of today's most frequently performed composers. His music, full of variety and dynamic energy, is rich in lyric beauty, poetic imagery, and brilliant instrumental color.
His works figure prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs world-wide and have been commissioned by many of America‘s foremost performers, including sopranos Renee Fleming and Dawn Upshaw, violinists Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and James Ehnes (for the BBC Proms), pianist Christopher O'Riley and guitarist Sharon Isbin, and such musical institutions as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra (for the inauguration of its new home at the Kimmel Center), Walt Disney Company, Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, Ravinia Festival (for James Conlon’s inaugural season), San Francisco and Singapore Symphonies, Minnesota Orchestra, Lincoln Center Great Performers Series, American Public Radio; Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, and Aspen Music Festival and programs from Philadelphia to Amsterdam (Concertgebouw, Amsterdam Sinfonietta), Santa Barbara to France (Orchestra National De France) throughout Europe and beyond. Recent and upcoming commissions include works for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (for David Shifrin and the Orion Quartet), a cello concerto for rising star Joshua Roman, a viola concerto (for Paul Neubauer), and his 3rd string quartet for the Jasper Quartet. Kernis also enjoys conducting and has appeared in past seasons in that role with the Pascal Rioult Dance Company, at major chamber music festivals in Chicago and Portland, and with members of the San Francisco and Minnesota Orchestras and New York Philharmonic.
One of America's most honored composers, Mr. Kernis was recently inducted in to the Classical Music Hall of Fame. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he received the coveted Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition (2002) for the cello and orchestra version of "Colored Field"; the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 ("musica instrumentalis"); and Grammy Award nominations for both "Air" and his Second Symphony. He has also been awarded the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and three BMI Student Composer Awards. He is the newly named Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab and, for 11 years, served as New Music Adviser to the Minnesota Orchestra, with which he co-founded and directed its Composer Institute for 15 years. He currently teaches composition at Yale School of Music, a position he's occupied since 2003.
His works have been recorded on Nonesuch, New Albion, Koch, Naxos, and Argo, Britain's esteemed label, with which Mr. Kernis had an exclusive recording contract. Previously issued CDs include a widely acclaimed CD with Hugh Wolff conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Mr. Kernis's Symphony No. 2, "Invisible Mosaic III," and "musica celestis" was nominated for a Grammy, and won France's Diapason d'or Palmares for Best Contemporary Music Disc of the Year. Other recordings include a disc of his Pulitzer-Prize winning String Quartet No. 2 ("musica instrumentalis") and Musica Celestis, both on Arabesque with the Lark Quartet. Other releases on Argo featured works for violinists Pamela Frank and Joshua Bell with David Zinman and the Minnesota Orchestra, and his Double Concerto with guitarist Sharon Isbin, violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Hugh Wolff leading the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Originally released on Virgin/EMI was his cello version of "Colored Field" and "Air," created for the Norwegian virtuoso Truls Mork and the Minnesota Orchestra with Eiji Oue. Several of his important works recorded on Argo have been re-released by Phoenix, including his Second Symphony, "Musica Celestis" for String Orchestra, "Invisible Moasic III," and "Symphony in Waves," with Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Symphony. Recent critically acclaimed recordings include the release of orchestral works by the Grant Park Festival Orchestra on Cedille Records and his "Goblin Market," and "Invisible Mosaic II," on the Signum label with The New Professionals, Rebecca Miller conductor, and Mary King narrator. His newest release, on Naxos, features pianist Andrew Russo, violinist James Ehnes and the Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller's direction, and Phoenix Records has released a disc of his solo and chamber music, "On Distant Shores."
Aaron Jay Kernis was born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960. He began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano and, the following year, composition. He continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Manhattan and Yale Schools of Music, working with composers as diverse as John Adams, Charles Wuorinen and Jacob Druckman. Kernis first came to national attention in 1982 with the acclaimed premiere of his first orchestral work, "dream of the morning sky," by the New York Philharmonic at its Horizons Festival. Leta Miller's book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press as part of its American Composer series. He has taught composition at Yale School of Music since 2003.
Mr. Kernis's music is published by AJK Music, administered by Associated Music Publishers/G.Schirmer. More information can be found at http://ow.ly/t7GN4 and http://ow.ly/t7GEK