The Kennedy Center

Joan Tower


Born in, in 1938, Joan Tower is one of the leading composers of the modern period. She spent her childhood in South America where her father worked as a mining engineer.  She learned to play the piano as a child and when she was 18, returned to the United States to study at Bennington College in Vermont.  She then went on to Columbia University, where she received her Masters and Doctorate Degrees in music.

In 1969, she founded the Da Capo Chamber Players, which won the Naumburg Award and has premiered many of her works. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, has been performed by many major orchestras ,including the National Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the St. Louis Symphony.  Her percussion concerto, Strike Zones, was performed by Evelyn Glennie at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin

Tower’s works are known for their energy and colorful sounds.  She has composed a large number of pieces, some for small chamber ensembles and others for full orchestra.  In 1990, Joan Tower was the first woman to receive the Gawemeyer Award in Composition. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998 and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004.
Joan Tower


  • Strike Zones
  • Copperware
  • New Work for unaccompanied violin