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Composer Anna Weesner wins Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music

Contact: Ardith Holmgrain

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(212) 368-5900

“The Virgil Thomson Award Committee was struck by the strong personality and profile of the moving vocal work by Anna Weesner in My Mother in Love and Mother Tongues. Her originality set her apart.”


Anna Weesner

NEW YORK, February 6, 2018—Anna Weesner has won the Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music of $40,000. The award, endowed by the Virgil Thomson Foundation and administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, recognizes an American composer of vocal works. Candidates were nominated by the Academy’s members, and the winner was chosen by a special jury comprised of composers William Bolcom, Robert Beaser, John Harbison, and Tania León. The award will be given at the annual Ceremonial in mid-May.


Anna Weesner is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2008 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2003 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Recent performances of note include the Daedalus Quartet’s performance of The Space Between at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 2017 and the Riverside Symphony’s performance of Still Things Move in Alice Tully Hall in 2016. Cygnus Ensemble will be playing My Mother in Love for voice and six instruments at Symphony Space on April 30, 2018, with soprano Tony Arnold.

Weesner’s music has been described as “animated and full of surprising turns” (The New York Times), as “a haunting conspiracy” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and cited as demonstrating “an ability to make complex textures out of simple devices” (San Francisco Classical Voice). She has been awarded a Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe and has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Seal Bay Festival, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and at Fondation Royaumont in France. She has been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome (2003), a Director’s Guest at Civitella Ranieri in Italy (2015), and Composer-in-Residence at Weekend of Chamber Music in Jefferson, NY, where five of her chamber music pieces were performed (2016). Her music has been recorded on CRI and Albany Records. Other performances of her work include those by the American Composers Orchestra, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Metamorphosen, Dawn Upshaw, Richard Goode, Gilbert Kalish, Judith Kellock, Mary Nessinger, Jeanne Golan, Scott Kluksdahl, Adrienne Kim, the Cassatt Quartet, the Cypress Quartet, Network for New Music, Ensemble X, counter)induction, Orchestra 2001, the Daedalus Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and the New York Virtuoso Singers. She has been commissioned by Open End, violist Melia Watras, Network for New Music, the MATA festival, the Cypress Quartet, Dawn Upshaw, Sequitur, and Orchestra 2001, among others.

Weesner currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is the Dr. Robert Weiss Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. Upcoming commissions include new pieces for the Lark Quartet with Todd Palmer, and for Mimi Stillman and Dolce Suono.


The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.

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