Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

Dana Gioia


Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia is an internationally-acclaimed and award-winning poet. A native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, Gioia received a BA and an MBA from Stanford University, and an MA in comparative literature from Harvard University.

Gioia has published three full-length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks. His poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award. An influential critic as well, Gioia’s 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture.

Gioia’s many literary anthologies include Twentieth-Century American Poetry, 100 Great Poets of the English Language, The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction and Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. His poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in many magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate and The Hudson Review. Gioia has written two opera libretti and is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian and German.

Before deciding to be a writer, Gioia had intended to be a composer. Trained in music, he has maintained a lifelong passion for the art in all its forms. For the past six years he has been the classical music critic for San Francisco magazine.

Gioia’s work has been set to music by many composers in genres ranging from classical to rock, including a full-length dance theater piece, Counting the Children. He has also written two children’s pieces for narrator and orchestra with the composer Paul Salerni.

He has written the libretto for Nosferatu, an opera, with composer Alva Henderson, which was published by Graywolf in 2001. Showcased as a work-in-progress in ten concert presentations across the U.S., Nosferatu has received international acclaim as an intensely neo-romantic musical drama.

His poems have been set to music by numerous composers, including Ned Rorem, Stefania de Kenessey, David Conte, Lori Laitman, Sarah Michael and Jack Hues.

Since becoming Chairman of the NEA, Gioia has succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the United States Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as in strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. (_Business Week_ referred to him as “The Man Who Saved the NEA.”)

Gioia’s creation of a series of NEA National Initiatives combined with a wider distribution of direct grants to reach previously underserved communities making the agency truly national in scope. Through programs such as Shakespeare in American Communities, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, NEA Jazz Masters, American Masterpieces and Poetry Out Loud, the Arts Endowment has successfully reached millions of Americans in all corners of the country.

The NEA’s two critical studies: Reading at Risk and To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence have brought enormous public attention to the importance of reading and arts participation. In addition, the NEA has assumed a major role in shaping the national discussion on issues of arts and arts education.

Renominated by President George W. Bush in November 2006 for a second term and once again unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dana Gioia is the ninth Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2009, Gioia joins the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to introduce the inaugural season of its new chamber music series called Westside Connections.

Gioia has been the recipient of eight honorary degrees. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons.

Dana Gioia

photo Vance Jacobs

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