The Kennedy Center

Joseph Schwantner


Born in Chicago in 1943, Joseph Schwantner is a prominent American composer, Professor of Composition at Yale University, and recipient the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for his orchestral piece, Aftertones of Infinity.

Schwantner studied classical guitar and wrote jazz compositions during his childhood. He received his first composition award in 1959, while still in high school, going on to earn degrees at the Chicago Conservatory College and Northwestern University.

Since then, Schwantner has balanced an impressive academic career with an increasingly busy schedule of commissions. He has served on the faculties of the Julliard School, the Eastman School of Music, and the Yale School of Music. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Among his commissions are those from the National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, other awards he has received include First Prize in the 1981 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards for Music of Amber and Third Prize in 1986 for A Sudden Rainbow; a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1978; the first Charles Ives Scholarship presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970; the Bearns Prize in 1967; and BMI Student Composer Awards in 1965, 1966 and 1968.

His compositions draw on a variety of sources, incorporating tonal materials in harmonically complex works. He often uses unusual instruments to create these effects.

Joseph Schwantner