A classical musician dedicated to life's meaning, composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939-) was born in Miami, Florida. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in music (1983, for her Symphony No. 1).
“When I was a toddler I climbed up on a piano bench and found out what happened when I banged on it, and I’m still fascinated,” Zwilich said.
A student of Florida State University and the Juilliard School, her music is a passionate celebration. "Composition can't really be taught, it is a lifelong learning," she once said.
Her Millennium Fantasy was inspired by a folk song her grandmother sang to her as a child. "I can still hear her voice when I remember this, so I thought it would be a special pleasure to create a musical fantasy based on it," explained Zwilich.
Considered to be one of America's leading composers, her optimistic arrangements have been commissioned by many leading orchestras.
"I need to feel that everything is an event and each new piece an exploration," she said. "It seems to me that there is something very deep about music, in the same category as falling in love or a religious experience. People do things they feel to be deeply enriching, because they are totally pulled along, because they want to."
"If it doesn't give you goose bumps there is something wrong,” she said of writing. "One of the joys of my life is writing music for people who really want to play it. And that's priceless."
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