||At a time when the musical offerings of the world are more varied than ever before, few composers have emerged with the unique personality of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Her music is widely known because it is performed, recorded, broadcast, and – above all – listened to and liked by all sorts of audiences the world over. Like the great masters of bygone times, Zwilich produces music "with fingerprints," music that is immediately recognized as her own. In her compositions, Ms. Zwilich combines craft and inspiration, reflecting an optimistic and humanistic spirit that gives her a unique musical voice.
Ellen Zwilich is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Music (the first woman ever to receive this coveted award). Among other distinctions, Ms. Zwilich has been elected to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ms. Zwilich, who holds a doctorate from The Juilliard School, has received honorary doctorates from Oberlin College, Manhattanville College, Marymount Manhattan College, Mannes College/The New School, Converse College, and Michigan State University. She currently holds the Francis Eppes Distinguished Professorship at Florida State University.
A prolific composer in virtually all media, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s works have been performed by most of the leading American orchestras and by major ensembles abroad. Her music first came to public attention when Pierre Boulez conducted her Symposium for Orchestra at Juilliard (1975), but it was the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for the Symphony No. 1 that brought her instantly into international focus.
Carnegie Hall’s 1997 family concert series featured Peanuts® Gallery for piano and orchestra, a work based on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts® characters. Millennium Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, a commission by a consortium of 27 orchestras, was premiered in September, 2000, by Jeffrey Biegel and the Cincinnati Symphony under Jesús López-Cobos. At the premiere, the mayor of Cincinnati issued a proclamation naming September 23, 2000 "Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Day", and presented Ms. Zwilich with the Keys to the City.
Zwilich has been the subject of two cartoons in the late Charles Schulz’s celebrated Peanuts® series. The first cartoon, in which the Peanuts® characters attend the premiere of Ms. Zwilich’s Concerto for Flute, set off a chain of events which led eventually to the completion of Zwilich’s Peanuts® Gallery for piano and orchestra, which was also featured in Schulz’s comic strip. Peanuts® Gallery, which Ms. Zwilich wrote for a 1997 Carnegie Hall children’s concert, went on to become the basis of the second PBS documentary to feature her music (the first, "The Gardens: Birth of a Symphony", featured Symphony No. 4 "The Gardens"). The acclaimed "Peanuts® Gallery" special has aired hundreds of times nationwide since its 2006 PBS debut, and will be rebroadcast during the 2007-2008 season.
Many of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s works have been issued on recordings, and Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians [8th edition] states: "There are not many composers in the modern world who possess the lucky combination of writing music of substance and at the same time exercising an immediate appeal to mixed audiences. Zwilich offers this happy combination of purely technical excellence and a distinct power of communication."