The music of Augusta Read Thomas is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful: “it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music” (Philadelphia Inquirer).
According to the New York Times, Thomas had the distinction of having her work performed more frequently in 2013–2014 than any other living ASCAP composer. Former Chairperson of the American Music Center, she serves on many boards, is a generous citizen in the profession at large, and, according to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American music.”
A Grammy® winner, her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker called her “a true virtuoso composer.” Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession.
As an influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, Aspen Music Festival, now she is the 16th ever University Professor (one of only 7 current University Professors) at the University of Chicago. She has said, “Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others.” She proposed and established the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago in 2016.
Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony from 1997–2006, a residency that culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle—one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned orchestral works, but also was central toward establishing the thriving MusicNOW series on which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers.
Thomas envisioned, spearheaded, and led the Ear Taxi Chicago Festival of New Music, a 6-day-long new music festival in October 2016 celebrating the vibrant and booming classical contemporary music scene in Chicago. The festival featured 350 musicians, 53 world premieres, performances of 35 already existing works, 25 ensembles, 88 composers, and 5 installations.