Discipline: Music Composition

Julia Wolfe

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: New York, NY
MacDowell fellowships: 1989

Julia Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. She draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them.

Wolfe’s Her Story, a 45-minute semi-staged work for orchestra and women’s chamber choir, receives its world premiere on September 15, 2022 with the Nashville Symphony and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. Co-commissioned by a consortium of five American orchestras, all performances feature the vocal ensemble Lorelei, with stage direction by Anne Kauffman, lighting design by Jeff Sugg, costumes by Márion Talán de la Rosa, and sound design by Andrew Cotton. The world premiere is followed by performances in the 2022-23 season from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (January 6–7), Boston Symphony Orchestra (March 16–18), and San Francisco Symphony (May 25–27); dates with additional commissioner National Symphony Orchestra will be announced at a later date. Her Story invokes the words of historical figures and the spirit of pivotal moments to pay tribute to the centuries of ongoing struggle for equal rights and representation for women in America.

Other recent works include Fire in my mouth (2019), a large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus, commissioned/premiered by the New York Philharmonic with The Crossing and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City; Forbidden Love (2019), a string quartet performed by percussionists, written for Sō Percussion and co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the LA Philharmonic, and the Kennedy Center; and Flower Power (2020), a concerto for the Bang on a Can All-Stars co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Danish National Symphony.

In addition to receiving the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Wolfe was a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. She received the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in Music, and was named Musical America’s 2019 Composer of the Year. Julia Wolfe is co-founder/co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can, and she is Artistic Director of NYU Steinhardt Music Composition.

Portrait by Peter Serling



Julia Wolfe worked in the Veltin studio.

Veltin Studio was donated by alumni of the Veltin School, a school for girls in New York with a highly respected visual arts department. As the plaque just outside the entrance attests, this studio was used by poet Edwin Arlington Robinson during most of the 24 summers he spent at MacDowell. Perhaps most famously, Thornton Wilder put the finishing…

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