Composer Joel Thompson Awarded The Hermitage Prize

Music

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY AUG 23, 2017

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and its partner, the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS), have announced the awarding of the annual Hermitage Prize to Atlanta composer Joel Thompson. Chosen by an AMFS jury comprising composers-in-residence Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis, AMFS Music Director Robert Spano and AMFS President and CEO Stephen Hartke, Thompson receives a six-week residency at The Hermitage, which he can take in weekly increments over the next two years, and a $1000 stipend for food and travel.

A pianist, conductor and educator in addition to a composer, Thompson previously served as a composition fellow at AMFS, and is currently a post-graduate fellow in the Ensemble Lab/Projecting All Voices Initiative at Arizona State University. “I feel so honored to be awarded this rare opportunity to focus solely on my craft in an environment of solace,” says Thompson. “I know that my time at the Hermitage will be one of the most crucial and beneficial stages of my development as a composer, as it allows me to recharge and continue to make music that hopefully inspires social change—one listener at a time.” His recent multi-movement composition, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed premiered this past February with a performance by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and the Sphinx Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Eugene Rogers. The movements and structure evoke Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.

And the Hermitage provides more than solace for visiting artists, says Fletcher, who has also completed a residency at the retreat. “The staff is superb and makes everything possible,” he says. Providing everything both material and mental for visiting artists, each is made to feel like the most important person on campus. “And they are,” says Bruce Rodgers, executive director at the Hermitage. “We’re very good at sensing what kind of residency the artist needs, and finding a way to provide that. Some artists need more attention from us, and some need no attention from us.”

Beyond the individual artist, residencies like these help build the profile of the entire community, says Rodgers. “For several years, before the Hermitage, this community was known for producing and exhibiting and performing works of art that were created somewhere else,” he says. “Now this community is also known as a community where people go to create that work.”

Pictured, from left: Hermitage Prize winner Joel Thompson with Robert Spano and Bruce Rodgers. Photo courtesy of The Hermitage.

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