The most performed contemporary composer grew up with Bob Marley music
Jennifer Higdon is a contemporary composer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Awards. According to a recent survey of orchestras, she is one of the most performed living American composers.
Higdon came to music relatively late. Her father was a visual artist of the hippie generation, and her musical diet consisted of The Beatles, Bob Marley, as well as various folk and bluegrass groups.
At the age of 15, she happened upon her mother’s old flute and, with the help of a method book, decided to learn the instrument by herself.
By the age of 21, Higdon began composing and soon realized she had a knack for writing a variety of genres:
"I believe wholeheartedly in melody (...) I believe in a clear pulse and a clear rhythm. I like to be able to hear the harmonic movement. And I have a tendency to make musical events happen or turn over fast."
Her orchestral work Blue Cathedral is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the U.S. It is a tone poem written as a memorial to her younger brother, Andrew Blue Higdon, who died of cancer in his early thirties. Andrew himself was a musician who played oboe, so naturally the piece reserves a special part for the instrument as a heartfelt tribute to him.
Listen to Blue Cathedral in performance of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stephane Deneve: