For the past 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded grants to artists and arts organizations in a variety of capacities, celebrating, supporting, and encouraging all forms of American culture. It’s fair to say that while the impact of the NEA has been felt both broadly and deeply throughout American culture, we can see this most dramatically in its support to emerging artists. One of the many young artists who received a pivotal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts was composer and conductor John Adams.
John Adams’s musical output is prolific: it ranges from compositions for orchestra (Short Ride in a Fast Machine), chamber ensembles (Shaker Loops), chorus (On the Transmigration of Souls—for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003), solo instruments (American Berserk) and operas (Nixon in China, Doctor Atomic). In fact, his operas have had such an impact on the genre, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded John Adams a lifetime achievement award in 2009 by conferring upon him an NEA Opera Honor.
A highly sought after conductor, Adams is also a force in bringing new audiences to music. He instituted the New and Unusual Music series at the San Francisco Symphony and established the annual In Your Ear festival at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and he now serves as creative chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Adams talked with the NEA about the importance of early NEA support on his career.
All music composed by John Adams and used courtesy of Nonesuch Records
“Common Tones in Simple Time, ““Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” “Tromba Lotana”, all from the cd The Chairman Dances, 2005
“Beginning” from Nixon in China, Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Photo Credits (#1 Christine Alicino; #2 & #6 Lambert Orkis; #3 and #7 Deborah O’Grady; #4 Terrence McCarthy; #8 Margaretta Mitchell)