CalArts Alum Ellen Reid Wins 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Music

Composer, sound artist and CalArts alum Ellen Reid won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Music. | Image: James Matthew Daniel

On Monday (April 15), composer, sound artist and CalArts alum Ellen Reid (Music MFA 11) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music for p r i s m, “a bold new operatic work that uses sophisticated vocal writing and striking instrumental timbres to confront difficult subject matter: the effects of sexual and emotional abuse.”

With the libretto by Roxie Perkins, p r i s m had its world premiere performances in November 2018 at REDCAT in Downtown L.A. as part of the LA Opera’s Off Grand series.

The Pulitzer Prize for Music is one of seven Pulitzer Prizes awarded yearly in the Letters, Drama, and Music category (with journalism being the other category). Musician, performer, activist Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was also awarded a Pulitzer citation, posthumously, this year for her five decades of contributions in American music and culture.

“I am blown away and incredibly honored to receive this year’s Pulitzer Prize in music,” wrote Reid in a social media statement. “Composing p r i s m was a challenging, rewarding and deeply personal experience, and I hope this opera will help shed light on the experience of surviving sexual assault. While Roxie and I did not plan for the timeliness of the subject matter, I am so grateful that it has resonated with audiences.” After thanking contributors and her parents in the post, she stated, “Now I’m going to listen to some Aretha to celebrate!”

Reid joins a Pulitzer roster of renowned musicians and composers, including CalArtians John Luther Adams (Music BFA 73) who won the 2014 prize for his orchestral composition, “Become Ocean”; Mel Powell, founding dean of the music school (now The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts), who won in 1990 for  Duplicates: A Concerto; and composer Julia Wolfe, the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winner for Music, who won the Pulizer the same year for her oratorio Anthracite Fields. 

Listen to excerpts from p r i s m.

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