Augusta Read Thomas

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Augusta Read Thomas (born April 24, 1964) is an American composer.[1]


Thomas was born in Glen Cove, New York. She attended The Green Vale School before continuing at St. Paul's School, a boarding school, in Concord, New Hampshire. After graduating from high school, she studied composition with Alan Stout and M. William Karlins at Northwestern University.[2] This was before a composition major existed for undergraduates at Northwestern; an exception was made for her as she showed extreme promise as a composer. After graduating from Northwestern, Thomas studied with Jacob Druckman at Yale University and at the Royal Academy of Music with Paul Patterson.

Shortly after she received her master's degree from the Royal Academy of Music, Augusta Read Thomas was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was the youngest woman recipient of the fellowship at the age of 23.

She taught at the Eastman School of Music and received tenure there at the age of 33, but left to teach at the Northwestern University School of Music. While still at Eastman, she was appointed as a Mead Composer in Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,[3] a post she retained until 2006, when she was succeeded by Osvaldo Golijov and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Thomas is the longest-serving Mead Composer in Residence in the history of the CSO.

In 2006, she resigned from teaching at Northwestern in order to compose exclusively. She is Chair of the Board of the American Music Center, and divides her time between Chicago and Becket, Massachusetts.[4][5]

In 2007, Astral Canticle, a double concerto for violin, flute, and orchestra, was named one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

On November 8, 2010, the University of Chicago announced that Augusta Read Thomas would be appointed University Professor of Composition in the Department of Music and the College.[citation needed] She is only the 16th designated professor to be appointed by the University.

An album by Chanticleer including her choral pieces "The Rub of Love" and "Love Songs" won a Grammy.[6] Some of her other works are "Aurora", "Galaxy Dances", "Prayer Bells", "Words of the Sea", "Bells Ring Summer", "Silhouettes", "Purple Syllables", and "Ring Flourish Blaze".[citation needed]

In 2014 Nimbus Records released an Augusta Read Thomas CD series highlighting her most important work. A Portrait of Augusta Read Thomas (NI6262) included her saxophone concerto Hemke Concerto "Prisms of Light", which was written for and performed by Frederick Hemke and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra under William Boughton. Selected Works for Orchestra (NI6258) contained performances of "Words of the Sea", conducted by Pierre Boulez, and "Carillon Sky", conducted by [Oliver Knussen].[citation needed]

In 2016, the Chicago Tribune named Thomas "Chicagoan of the Year" for her work on the Ear Taxi Festival, "a Chicago-centic marathon of new-music performances that, for six heady days in October, brought together some 500 local musicians to present roughly 100 recent classical works, 54 of them world premieres; 87 living composers were represented".

Thomas is married to Anglo-American composer Bernard Rands. In 1997, Russian-American cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the Boston Symphony Orchestra presented an unconventional concert in which new works by both Rands and Thomas were premiered.[7] [8]

Selected works[edit]


  • Cello Concerto No. 1 – Vigil (1990), for cello solo & chamber orchestra
  • Meditation (1990), concerto for trombone & orchestra
  • Words of the Sea (1995)
  • Violin Concerto – Spirit Musings (1997), for violin solo & chamber orchestra
  • Concerto for Orchestra – Orbital Beacons (1998)
  • Ceremonial (1999)
  • Piano Concerto – Aurora (1999), for piano solo & orchestra
  • Cello Concerto No. 2 – Ritual Incantations (1999), for cello solo, concertino group of flute, oboe & violin soli, & chamber orchestra
  • Ring Out Wild Bells, to the Wild Sky (2000), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Daylight Divine (2001), for soprano solo, children's choir & orchestra
  • magnecticfireflies (2001), for concert band
  • Prayer Bells (2001)
  • Canticle Weaving (2002), concerto for trombone
  • Chanting to Paradise (2002), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Song in Sorrow (2002), for soprano solo, female-voice sextet, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Sunlight Echoes (2002), for S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Trainwork (2002)
  • Dancing Galaxy (2004), for concert band
  • Galaxy Dances (2004)
  • Gathering Paradise (2004), song-cycle for soprano & orchestra
  • Silver Chants the Litanies (2004), concerto for horn & chamber orchestra
  • Tangle (2004)
  • Astral Canticle (2005), for double concerto violin, flute soli & orchestra
  • Credences of Summer (2005)
  • Shakin' (Homage to Elvis Presley and Igor Stravinsky) (2005)
  • Prayer and Celebration (2006), for chamber orchestra
  • Helios Choros I (2007)
  • Helios Choros III (2007)
  • Terpsichore's Dream (2007), for chamber orchestra
  • Absolute Ocean (2008), for soprano, harp soli & chamber orchestra
  • Dream Threads (2008)
  • Helios Choros II (2008)
  • Violin Concerto No. 3 – Juggler in Paradise (2008), for violin solo & orchestra
  • Jubilee (2009)
  • Of Paradise and Light (2010), for string orchestra
  • Radiant Circles (2010)
  • Cello Concerto No. 3 – Legend of the Phoenix (2013)
  • Hemke Concerto "Prisms of Light" (2014), for alto saxophone and orchestra


  • Alleluia (Midsummer Blaze) (1993), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • The Rub of Love (1995), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Psalm 91: verse 11 (1996), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Love Songs (1997), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Ring Out Wild Bells, to the Wild Sky (2000), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Daylight Divine (2001), for soprano solo, children's choir & orchestra
  • Chanting to Paradise (2002), for soprano solo, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Song in Sorrow (2002), for soprano solo, female-voice sextet, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Sunlight Echoes (2002), for S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
  • Four Basho Settings (2003), for a cappella children's choir
  • To the Rain (2003), for a cappella children's choir
  • Fruit of my Spirit (2004), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Purple Syllables (2004), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Prairie Sketches " on orchid velvet..." (2004), for soprano solo, small choir & septet
  • Berkshire Songs (2005), for a cappella children's choir or S.A.T.B. choir
  • The Rewaking (2005), for a cappella T.T.B.B. choir
  • Juggler of the Day (2007), for a cappella S.S.A.A. choir
  • Roses (2008), for S.S.A.A. choir & piano
  • Two E. E. Cummings Songs (2008), for S.S.A.A. choir
  • Flash (2011), for S.A.T.B & orchestra
  • Spells (2013), for S.A.T.B


  • Chant (1991), for alto saxophone/cello/viola & piano
  • Passion Prayers (1999), for cello solo & flute, clarinet, violin, piano, harp & percussion
  • ...a circle around the sun... (2000), for piano trio
  • Fugitive Star (2000), for string quartet
  • Invocations (2000), for string quartet
  • Ring Flourish Blaze (2000), for sixteen brass
  • Eagle at Sunrise (2001), for string quartet
  • Murmers in the Mist of Memory (2001), for eleven strings
  • Rumi Settings (2001), for violin & cello
  • In My Sky at Twilight (2002), song-cycle for soprano & large ensemble
  • Light the First Light of Evening (2002), for large ensemble
  • Rise Chanting (2002), for string quartet
  • Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour (2004), for mezzo-soprano, tenor soli & large ensemble
  • Whispers of Summer (2004), for three celli
  • Carillon Sky (2005), for violin solo & large ensemble
  • Memory: Swells (2005), for two guitars
  • Moon Jig (2005), for piano trio
  • Angel Tears and Earth Prayers (2006), for trumpet & organ
  • Dancing Helix Rituals (2006), for clarinet, violin & piano
  • Silent Moon (2006), for violin & viola
  • The Soul is Light (2006), for oboe, violin & harpsichord
  • Toft Serenade (2006), for violin & piano
  • Cantos for Slava (2007), for cello/viola & piano
  • Scat (2007), for oboe, harpsichord, violin, viola & cello
  • Scherzi Musicali (2007), for horn, two trumpets & trombone
  • Squeeze (2007), for saxophone quartet
  • Capricious Angels (2009), for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, three violins & viola
  • Fête (2010), for brass ensemble
  • Pilgrim Soul (2011), for cor Anglais & two violins
  • Resounding Earth (2012), for percussion ensemble
  • Klee Musings (2016), for piano trio


  • among dawn flowers (2001), for soprano & piano
  • Bubble: Rainbow – (spirit level) (2003), for soprano solo & small ensemble
  • Sun Songs (2004), for mezzo-soprano & three percussion

Solo instrumental[edit]

  • Incantation (1995), for violin
  • Spring Song (1995), for cello
  • Bells Ring Summer (2000), for cello
  • Aspen Starry Night Prayer Chords (2001), for piano
  • Incantation (2002), for viola
  • Pulsar (2002), for violin
  • Rush (2004), for violin
  • Silhouettes (2004), for marimba
  • Caprice (2005), for violin
  • D(i)agon(als) (2005), for clarinet
  • Pulsar (2006), for viola
  • Six Etudes (2006), for piano
  • Traces (2006), for piano
  • Eurythmy Etudes (2007), for piano
  • Love Twitters (2007), for piano
  • Bells (2008), for piano duet
  • Euterpe's Caprice (2008), for flute
  • Lake Reflecting Stars with Moonrise (2008), for saxophone or cello
  • Aureole (2009), for violin
  • Cirque (2009), for piano
  • Dream Catcher (2009), for violin or viola
  • Starlight Ribbons (2013), for piano
  • Ripple Effects (2018), for carillon


  1. ^ John Pitcher, "A Composer's Game Of Musical Chairs; Augusta Read Thomas Rethinks the Orchestra", The Washington Post, March 28, 2001  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  2. ^ Keller, James M. "Thomas/Druckman/Harte". Liner note essay. New World Records.
  3. ^ Bill Gowen, "Chicago Symphony names new composer-in-residence", Daily Herald, April 18, 1997. – via Questia Online Library (subscription required).
  4. ^ [1] G. Schirmer Associated Music Publishers Inc., accessed 16 October 2009
  5. ^ [2],; accessed October 16, 2009.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-04. Retrieved 2011-05-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link),; accessed May 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Richard Dyer, "Two premieres, two composers, a husband and wife", The Boston Globe, March 30, 1997.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  8. ^ Daniel Webster, "Husband-and-wife premieres of works honoring Rostropovich." Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, April 1, 1997.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
    "In concerts beginning Thursday in Boston, then April 9 and 10 at Carnegie Hall in New York, the husband and wife composers will eclipse the Schumanns, the Mahlers and the d'Alberts when the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays the premieres in the same program of Thomas' "Chanson" and Rands' "Concerto No. 1"—both works written for cellist Mstislav Rostropovich".

External links[edit]