Caroline Shaw

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Caroline Shaw
Born (1982-08-01) August 1, 1982 (age 36)
  • Violinist
  • singer
  • composer
Musical career
  • Violin
  • vocals
Years active1984–present
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]


Shaw's great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-uncle are Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins from then-Siam (now Thailand) who received great notoriety during their lifetime.[18]

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.[19]



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


  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. ^ Smith, Tim (September 19, 2016). "Baltimore Symphony gala with Itzhak Perlman, OrchKids raises $1 million". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  15. ^ 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. ^ 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. ^ Caroline Shaw, Vogue Italia.
  19. ^

External links[edit]