Jennifer Higdon was born December 31, 1962 in Brooklyn, New York. As one of the most frequently performed living classical music composers, Higdon enjoys commissions from the America’s top orchestras and has received a Pulitzer Prize and several Grammy Awards for her works. Besides composing as many as ten major works for orchestras, small chamber ensembles, choirs, and wind ensembles per year, Higdon also teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
By classical music standards, Higdon entered her field at a late age. At age fifteen, Higdon taught herself to play the flute, and it wasn’t until age twenty one that Higdon composed her first piece. After growing up in Georgia and Tennessee, Higdon majored in flute performance at Bowling Green State University in Ohio where she developed an interest in contemporary classical music. While attending Bowling Green State University, she met Robert Spano, who has now conducted many of Higdon’s works. Higdon later earned an Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
Higdon’s music is approachable, defying contemporary classical music’s reputation for being difficult for listeners to understand and enjoy. Considered by some to be neo-romantic, many of Higdon’s compositions combine traditional tonality with more contemporary expressive devices (dramatic changes in dynamics, textures, and instrumentations, and freedom from formal structural devices).
Higdon’s reputation for being a savvy and talented contemporary classical music composer has earned her commissions from major American orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has composed works for the President’s Own Marine Band, the Tokyo String Quartet, and the new music sextet eighth blackbird. Higdon received the Pulitzer Prize this year for her Violin Concerto and has received several Grammy Awards for works including her Percussion Concerto, Concerto for Orchestra/City Scape, Strange Imaginary Animals, and Transmigration.