At this writing our new University Professor of Composition, Augusta Read Thomas, has just had the world premiere of her University of Chicago-commissioned violin duo double helix played to immense acclaim at the dedication ceremony of the new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. What an honor for us!
Gusty first became an intimate of Chicago’s new music circles as the Mead Composer-in-Residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position she held with great élan for nine years (1996-2005). We could not be happier to welcome her now as University Professor of Composition. University Professors are selected for international eminence and potential for high impact across the University. We are extremely proud not just that Gusty is the 16th person ever to hold a University Professorship, but that she is the first creative artist ever to do so. When the position was awarded last November, Dean of the Humanities Martha Roth characterized it as part of the University’s “renewed commitment to expanding and integrating the arts into the academic enterprise and out into the city of Chicago and beyond.”
Gusty is widely known for her dramatic, spontaneous music, her mastery of orchestral color, her prolific output, and her command over a wide range of genres. Since her first successes at around age 24, Gusty has written numerous works for the CSO, the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Phil, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the National Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra, and many others. She has been recognized by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Siemens Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
When she was appointed University Professor of Composition, Deputy Provost for the Arts Larry Norman announced, “As we look forward to the spring 2012 inauguration of the Reva and David Logan Arts Center, her arrival will have a catalyzing effect not only on our programs in music composition, but also across the campus.” Gusty herself wrote: “To join the University of Chicago community is an incredible gift. My colleagues are scholars and musicians of the highest order who inspire me and from whom I can learn vastly,” Thomas said. “I am an active artist, and I hope to share my passion for the practice with our students. I look forward to working diligently, with wholehearted enthusiasm, to help ensure that the creative arts continue to thrive at the University of Chicago.”
Gusty studied composition at Tanglewood, Northwestern, Yale, and the Royal Academy of Music. She was a 1990-91 Bunting Fellow at Radcliffe College and a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University from 1991 to 1994. In 2004, Thomas was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, the school’s highest honor, and in 2009 was elected a member of the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In previous times, Gusty taught at the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, where she now sits on the Dean’s Advisory Music Board. Last year she mentored six high school-aged composers as they prepared premieres of their works by the New Haven Symphony. We could not be happier to have her come mentor us!