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Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

American Born c. 1939

Ellen Taafe Zwilich was born in 1939 Miami, Florida.  She studied at the Florida State University and the Juillard School, with teachers including Roger Sessionsand Elliott Carter.  She learnt violin with Richard Burgin and Ivan Galamian, and played in the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski.  Her music first gained attention when her Symposium for Orchestra was played at Juillard.

Symphony No 1 brought Zwilich considerable recognition in the early 80s, and her subsequent symphonies, orchestral essays and concertos have continued to hold that attention.  In 1997 her piece Peanuts Gallery played to Carnegie Hall's family concert audience, music based on Charles Schultz's characters.

By combining technical skill with her ability to communicate an immediate appeal, Zwilich's works, imprinted with a humanistic, optimistic feel, have gained popularity with all kinds of audiences, all over the world.  As a result she has been showered with prizes and distinctions, and her work has been commissioned and performed by just about all the leading American orchestras and ensembles.  In 1983 she was the first ever woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, for Symphony No 1.

Related composers: Sessions, Carter

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