Caroline Shaw

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Caroline Shaw
Caroline Adelaide Shaw

(1982-08-01) August 1, 1982 (age 37)
  • Violinist
  • singer
  • composer
Years active1984–present
Musical career
  • Violin
  • vocals
Associated acts

Caroline Adelaide Shaw (born August 1, 1982) is an American violinist, singer and composer. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for her a cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices.

Early life and education[edit]

Shaw was born in Greenville, North Carolina, and began playing the violin when she was two years old. Her mother was her first teacher. She began writing music when she was ten years old, mostly in imitation of the chamber music of Mozart and Brahms. At the time, her main focus was on violin performance. Shaw received her Bachelor of Music (violin performance) from Rice University in 2004, and her master's degree (violin) from Yale University in 2007. She entered the PhD program in composition in Princeton University in 2010.


At 30, Shaw became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her composition Partita for 8 Voices.[1][2][3][4] The jury citation praised the composition as "a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects."[5] The work comprises four movements inspired by baroque dance forms: Allemande, Sarabande, Courante and Passacaglia. A recording of the work was released by New Amsterdam Records on 30 October 2012, performed by the ensemble Roomful of Teeth. According to Steven Mackey, chair of the Department of Music at Princeton, this is the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a member of the department. (Milton Babbitt was awarded a Pulitzer citation in 1982 for his life's work as a composer.)[6]

Besides composition, Shaw is known as a musician appearing in many guises. She performs primarily as violinist with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) and as vocalist with Roomful of Teeth. She also works with the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Alarm Will Sound, Wordless Music Orchestra, Ensemble Signal, AXIOM, The Yehudim, Victoire, Opera Cabal, the Mark Morris Dance Group Ensemble, Hotel Elefant, the Oracle Hysterical, Red Light New Music, Robert Mealy's Yale Baroque Ensemble.[7]

Her works have been performed by Roomful of Teeth, So Percussion, ACME, the Brentano String Quartet, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Shaw has been a Yale Baroque Ensemble fellow and a Rice University Goliard fellow.[8] She received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 2004/5.[9]

Shaw was the musician in residence at Dumbarton Oaks during the fall of 2014, and was composer in residence with Music on Main in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada through 2016.[10]

In October 2015, rapper Kanye West released a remix of "Say You Will", the opening track from his 2008 album, 808's & Heartbreak. The remix, co-produced by Caroline Shaw, features vocals from Shaw similar to her classical compositions.[11] She also features on "Wolves" and contributed vocals to "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2", both from West's 7th studio album, The Life of Pablo.[12] Shaw also contributed vocals to a leaked version of "Only One" that appeared on the internet in February 2016.[13]


In 2016, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra commissioned and premiered Shaw's The Baltimore Bomb as part of the orchestra's bicentennial celebration.[14][15]

She composed the music for Josephine Decker's 2018 feature film, Madeline’s Madeline.[16]

In 2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation with Coretet, the Philips Collection, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the University of Delaware commissioned Shaw to write two works, Second Essay, Echo and Third Essay: Ruby. These received their world premiere, performed by the Calidore String Quartet, at the Cadogan Hall, London on 16 July 2018 in the BBC Proms, where they followed her 2016 work First Essay, Nimrod. According to Shaw, Nimrod was composed while listening to a recording of Marilynne Robinson's book The Givenness of Things and then in the 2016 US presidential election, which she stated accounted for the "disintegration of elements" in the piece. Shaw stated that Echo alluded to the 'echo' function in the PHP programming language, as well as to physical echoes, while Ruby is named for the Ruby programming language as well as for the gemstone.[17]


  • Cantico delle creature (2007), for soprano, violin, and piano (with an arrangement for an additional cello), premiered by Abigail Haynes Lennox, Trevor Gureckis, and Shaw in April 2007.
  • By and By, for string quartet and voice, premiered by Abigail Lennox and the Hudson Quartet on 11 March 2010.
  • Sounds of the Ocean Cassette Vol. 1, for narrator, cassette player, and two instruments, premiered in September 2011.
  • Fly Away I, for SATB chorus, premiered by the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco in June 2012.
  • Partita for 8 Voices, four pieces for eight singers, written 2009–2011 for Roomful of Teeth, premiered as a whole on 4 November 2013, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music.[18]

Solo instrument[edit]

  • in manus tuas, for cello or viola, premiered by Hannah Collins in 2009.
  • Gustave Le Gray, for piano, premiered by Amy Yang on 24 April 2012.
  • The Walking Man, for shakuhachi, written with and for Riley Lee, premiered on 3 April 2012.

Chamber ensemble[edit]

  • Punctum (2009, revised 2013), for string quartet, workshopped in 2009–2010 with the Hudson Quartet and the Franklin Quartet, premiered in April 2010. Revised in 2013 for the Brentano Quartet.
  • Entr'acte, for string quartet, premiered by the Brentano Quartet on 21 March 2011.
  • Jacques Duran, for string trio, premiered by Lorna Tsai, Sage Cole, and Jonina Allan Mazzeo on 26 August 2011.
  • Limestone & Felt, for cello and viola, premiered by Hannah Collins and Hannah Shaw in January 2012.
  • Taxidermy, for percussion quartet (flower pots, vibraphones, and marimba), premiered by Sō Percussion on 2 May 2012.
  • Valencia, for string quartet, premiered by Lorna Tsai, Shaw, Sage Cole, and Shay Rudolph in August 2012.
  • Boris Kerner, for cello and flower pots, premiered by New Morse Code (Hannah Collins and Mike Compitello) on 20 Novembre 2012.
  • Plan & Elevation: The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks, for string quartet, commissioned by Dumbarton Oaks, premiered by the Dover Quartet on 1 November 2015.
  • Blueprint (2016), for string quartet, commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts for the Aizuri Quartet.
  • First Essay: Nimrod (2016), commissioned by Coretet for the Calidore String Quartet, premiered 6 November 2016.
  • Second Essay: Echo and Third Essay: Ruby, commissioned by the BBC and Chamber Music Northwest, premiered at The Proms by the Calidore String Quartet on 16 July 2018.
  • Really Craft When You (2017), commissioned by Bang on a Can All Stars.



  • Ritornello, premiered on 27 January 2012.

Film score[edit]


Shaw's great-great-grandfather and great-great-granduncle are Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins from then-Siam (now Thailand) who received great fame during their lifetime.[33]

Other media[edit]

Shaw appeared as herself in season 4 of the Amazon Prime series Mozart in the Jungle, for a story line that involved a main character seeking to premiere her piece "Hi" in a competition for conductors. The piece was also played live at the series' release party, with Shaw conducting.[34]



As featured artist[edit]

List of singles as a featured artist, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
Hot 100
"Pt. 2"
(Kanye West featuring Desiigner and Caroline Shaw)
2016 54 The Life of Pablo

Guest appearances[edit]

List of non-single guest appearances, with other performing artists, showing year released and album name
Title Year Other artist(s) Album
"Say You Will" (Remix) 2015 Kanye West Non-album song
"FML" 2016 Kanye West, The Weeknd The Life of Pablo
"Wolves" Kanye West, Vic Mensa, Sia
"No Mistakes" 2018 Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Charlie Wilson Ye
"Everything" Nas, The-Dream, Kanye West, Tony Williams, 070 Shake Nasir
"Take Me to the Light" 2019 Francis and the Lights, Bon Iver, Kanye West Take Me to the Light


  1. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (April 15, 2013). "Caroline Shaw, 30, Wins Pulitzer For Music". Deceptive Cadence. NPR. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Fetters, Ashley (April 16, 2013). "Hear the Weird, Lovely A Cappella Suite That Won the Pulitzer Prize for Music". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Lowder, J. Bryan (April 17, 2013). "The Strange, Beautiful Music That Won the Pulitzer This Year". Slate. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (November 5, 2013). "The Pulitzer Prize Was Nice and All, but a Work Is Finally Fully Heard: Caroline Shaw's 'Partita' Has Premiere by Roomful of Teeth". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes – Citation". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Princeton University – UPDATE: Princeton's Caroline Shaw wins Pulitzer Prize for music". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Caroline Shaw". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Shepherd School of Music – Rice University". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  9. ^ 2004–2005 Fellows Archived 2014-02-02 at the Wayback Machine, Thomas J. Watson Fellowship
  10. ^ "composer in residence". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  11. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (19 October 2015). "Kanye West Shares New Versions of "Say You Will" and the Weeknd's "Tell Your Friends"". Pitchfork Media. Condé Nast. Retrieved 22 October 2015. Kanye West has shared two new tracks on his Soundcloud: a new version of "Say You Will"... that features Pulitzer-winning musician Caroline Shaw
  12. ^ Young, Alex (17 February 2016). "Over 100 people contributed to the making of Kanye West's The Life of Pablo". Consequence of Sounds. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  13. ^ Ortiz, Edwin (15 February 2016). "A Look at Who's Who on Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo'". Complex. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  14. ^ a b Smith, Tim (September 19, 2016). "Baltimore Symphony gala with Itzhak Perlman, OrchKids raises $1 million". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Tim, J. T. Hassell (September 18, 2016). "Baltimore Symphony opens centennial season in rousing style with pie and Perlman". Washington Classical Review. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  16. ^ a b Young, Deborah (February 19, 2018). "'Madeline's Madeline': Film Review, Berlin 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 20, 2018.
  17. ^ BBC Proms (16 July 2018). Proms at Cadogan Hall 1 Programme. British Broadcasting Corporation. pp. 5–7.
  18. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (5 November 2013). "The Pulitzer Prize Was Nice and All, but a Work Is Finally Fully Heard". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  19. ^ Forsling, Göran (April 2017). "Anne Sofie von Otter - So Many Things - NAÏVE V5436 [GF] Classical Music Reviews". MusicWeb-International. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  20. ^ Huizenga, Tom (24 February 2017). "Caroline Shaw's Helping 'Hands'". Deceptive Cadence. NPR. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Brooklyn Youth Chorus & San Francisco Girls Chorus". New York Philharmonic. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  22. ^ Anderson, Stacey (9 June 2016). "Interview: Is Caroline Shaw really the future of music?". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  23. ^ "Updates to the 2016 Festival Schedule Announced". Ojai Music Festival. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  24. ^ "2016 Ojai Music Festival Schedule". Avant Music News. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  25. ^ Lamott, Bruce. "Program Notes: Anne Sofie von Otter". Philhamonia Baroque Orchestra. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  26. ^ MacBean, James Roy (13 March 2019). "Philharmonia Baroque & Anne Sofie von Otter Offer Contemporary Works". The Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  27. ^ Williams Tobias, Marianne (2016). "Lo for Violin and Orchestra". Indianapolis Symphony. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  28. ^ Hutton, Mary Ellyn (16 March 2016). "MusicNOW, Cincinnati Symphony Partner for 2nd Year". Music in Cincinnati. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  29. ^ Schiavo, Paul (8 January 2019). "Caroline Shaw: A Pulitzer Prize Is Just the Beginning". Seattle Symphony. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  30. ^ Burbank, Megan (1 February 2019). "Caroline Shaw piano concerto premiere turns classical tradition on its head". Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  31. ^ Zwiebach, Michael (22 October 2019). "Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale Unveils Caroline Shaw's New Cantata". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  32. ^ Rowe, Georgia (16 October 2019). "Carl Sagan inspired a new oratorio for Philharmonia Baroque". The Mercury News. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  33. ^ Caroline Shaw, Vogue Italia.
  34. ^ Cooper, Michael (Feb 18, 2018). "Hear How 'Mozart in the Jungle' Became a New-Music Showcase". Retrieved Feb 21, 2020 – via

External links[edit]