Aaron Jay Kernis
Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Aaron Jay Kernis, largely self taught on violin, piano and composition, attended the San Francisco Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music and Yale University, working along the way with a diverse array of teachers including John Adams, Charles Wuorinen, Morton Subotnick, Bernard Rands and Jacob Druckman. His west to east coast trajectory is betrayed in the wild range of his influences, from Gertrude Stein to hard-edged rap to the diaphanous musical canvas of Claude Debussy. Coming up in the 1980s and 1990s, he drew from what was around, forging a rich, distinctive, emotionally immediate music. The brilliance of his work rests on the exuberant splay of his instrumental palette (even when writing solo or chamber music) crossed with the sharp relief of a brooding, poetic depth: wild, visceral, violent passages against calm, prayer-like quietude. “Kernis,” Michael Fleming wrote in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “is a composer of fastidious technique and wide-ranging imagination.”
Kernis is one of the youngest composers ever to receive a Pulitzer Prize (1998) for his String Quartet No. 2 (“musica instrumentalis”), and the youngest awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition (2002) for his work Colored Field. He has also won honors from ASCAP, BMI, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Stoeger Prize, and the American Academy in Rome. Kernis currently serves as director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. He has taught composition at the Yale School of Music since 2003 and has served as composer-in-residence for Astral Artists, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Albany Symphony, Minnesota Public Radio and the American Composers Forum.