News & Stories

History-Making Women - Part I

March 1, 2024 | Noel Morris

Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad will present a world-premiere composition, commissioned by the Grant Park Music Festival

March is Women's History Month. This year, there's no shortage of impressive women who've helped to shape the coming Festival.

Anna Clyne Masquerade (June 12)

Anna ClyneNew York-based British composer Anna Clyne is among the ten most-performed contemporary composers in the world, according to Bachtrack. Her collaborations range from LA Opera to London's Royal Ballet to Yo-Yo Ma to Björk. Chicago audiences know her as the one-time composer-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recently, Anna Clyne's cello concerto DANCE hit ten million plays on Spotify.

Last summer, the Festival featured her mysterious and scintillating This Midnight Hour. Her Masquerade looks back to 18th-century England for summertime outdoor entertainment and borrows a tune from an old English drinking song. 


Caroline Shaw: and the swallow (June 17 & 20)

Caroline ShawCaroline Shaw has been writing music since she was ten years old. She began working on her PhD at Princeton in 2010 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 (the youngest person ever to win the coveted prize in music). She's since collected several GRAMMY awards. As a singer and violinist, she's made many recordings with Kanye West and wrote the score for the hit Hulu original Fleishman is in Trouble

A native of Greenville, North Carolina, Shaw describes herself as "a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed."


Margaret Bonds The Montgomery Variations (June 19)

Margaret BondsChicago native Margaret Bonds first studied music with her mother and later with Florence Price. At the ripe age of sixteen, she entered Northwestern University. As one of a few Black students there in 1929, she experienced terrible racial animus but stuck it out and completed her master's degree at age twenty-one. She moved to New York City to study at the Juilliard School and fell into the orbit of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Bonds and Hughes became great friends and produced many works together.

Many works by Margaret Bonds are missing (or lost), but she's known for her spiritual arrangements for the legendary soprano Leontyne Price and others. As a pianist, Bonds became the first Black artist to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Gabriela Lena Frank: Apu (June 21 & 22)

Gabriela Lena FrankBorn in Berkley, California, Gabriela Lena Frank is a classic example of the American melting pot. Her mother is of Chinese and Peruvian ancestry; her father is Jewish/Lithuanian. And their multicultural household has much to do with the composer's musical personality.

This summer, the Festival presents Apu. According to the composer, the piece "begins with a short folkloric song inspired by the agile "pinkillo" flute, a small slender instrument that packs well into the small bags of travelers who must travel light. It is followed by the extended "haillí" of the second movement, a prayer to the apu, which flows attacca to the third movement in which the apu makes its brief but brilliant and dazzling appearance before disappearing once again into the mountain peaks."

Gabriela Lena Frank currently serves as composer-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Jessie Montgomery: Five Freedom Songs (June 19), Starburst (June 25 & 27)

Jessie MontgomeryViolinist and composer Jessie Montgomery is among the most sought-after American composers today. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice. Although her father ran a music studio, classical music was only part of her parents' world once she found her way to the violin. And that changed everything. 

"I feel very connected to European classical music because of the way I have learned how to play the violin. The actual physical resonance of the instrument speaks to that language beautifully, and I think that tradition is so rich." Today, she plays in the Sphinx Virtuosi, Catalyst Quartet, The Knights, and Silk Road Ensemble, sits on the board of Chamber Music America, and is working on commissions for the Metropolitan Opera. Other projects include works for the National Symphony, the New World Symphony, the Sphinx Organization, and Carnegie Hall.

Augusta Read Thomas: Of Paradise and Light (June 25 & 27)

Augusta Read Thomas"A true virtuoso composer" [The New Yorker]

Augusta Read Thomas grew up in Glen Cove, New York, on the shores of the Long Island Sound. She first came to the Chicago area as a trumpet student at Northwestern. After graduation, she studied at Yale and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At twenty-three, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She began teaching at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra lured her back to the Windy City as a composer-in-residence. She taught for a couple of years at Northwestern before moving to the South Side to teach at the University of Chicago. There, she established the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition. After founding the Ear Taxi Festival, Chicago magazine named her Chicagoan of the Year. Currently, she's working on a co-commission for Santa Fe and San Francisco Opera.


Clarice Assad: World Premiere (June 26)

Clarice AssadBrazilian-American Clarice Assad is a composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. She has shared the stage with artists from Bobby McFerrin to Paquito D'Rivera. Various artists have performed her works, from Yo-Yo Ma to the Philadelphia Orchestra. Fluent in Portuguese, French, and English, she has lived in Brazil, France, and the Midwest, having earned degrees from Chicago's Roosevelt University and the University of Michigan.

According to her website, she aspires to write and perform "music that inspires and encourages audiences' imaginations to break free of often self-imposed constraints is just the beginning. She endeavors to harness the incredible and intangible power of music to connect people and transform lives through original works, commissions, and education programs that give voice to everything from the impact of climate change on the natural world to issues of social justice, gender equity, and the empowerment of young voices."

Her world-premiere composition is a Grant Park Music Festival commission.