Home‎ > ‎List of Musicians‎ > ‎

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

By: Paige Noelle Jeffrey, Lauren Bourret, Bryonna Teverbaugh
Music Listening Review: "Lament"
The meaning of this song is just was the title says - “Lament”; Zwilich wrote this song in response to a friend that had passed away, and she was lamenting over her death. The beginning of the song reminds me of church bells ringing, as they would at someone’s funeral. The mood of the piece is one of melancholy, haunting, and mourning. The colors I imagined in my head while listening to this song was black, deep purple and dark blue. The overall tone of the piece is very deep and dark. This piece contains no words, just beautiful, meaningful music. Around the two minute mark, the piece starts to get a little lighter sounding, almost as if Zwilich is remembering the good times she and her friend had together. Around 3:40, I am reminded of someone crying. The piece gets very deep and dark around the five minute mark, and the song ends on a long, deep, dark, mournful note. The tempo is pretty slow and steady throughout, and I felt the piece had good balance and overall musical blend. In conclusion, I believe this song perfectly fits it’s given title name, and can make any listener think of someone that they have lost.
Link to song:
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is a highly esteemed female composer and an inspiration to all women. According to the Music Associates of America, “Like the great masters of bygone times, Zwilich produces music ‘with fingerprints,’ music that is immediately recognized as the product of a particular American composer who combines craft and inspiration in reflecting her optimistic and humanistic spirit in her compositions.” Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was born on April 30, 1939, in Miami, Florida. She studied music composition at Florida State University in 1962, and after she moved to New York, she attended the Juilliard School of Music, where she became the first woman to graduate from Juilliard with a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in music composition in 1975. Ellen has composed several Concertos and Symphonies, including Symphony No. 1, which earned her the honor of being the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1983. She also composed a piano and orchestra piece called Peanuts Gallery, which is based on the classic Peanuts characters and was performed at a 1997 family concert held at Carnegie Hall. Ellen has received many other honors, including 4 Grammy nominations, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Chamber Music Prize, being named Musical America’s Composer of the Year in 1999, and becoming the first Composer’s Chair in Carnegie Hall’s history. Although we are not performing any pieces by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich for this concert, she is still a significant female composer in music, and is definitely someone that everyone should know of and admire.

Available at: http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/zwilichcredit-fsu_2.jpg



Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was born April 30, 1939 in Miami Florida. Ellen was an American composer and a great musician. By the time she had finished high school, Ellen had accomplished learning the piano, violin, and the trumpet. She attended Florida State University and studied with Carlisle Floyd. Zwilich then moved to New York. Ellen Zwilich played with the American Symphony Orchestra from 1965 till 1972. She then enrolled into the Julliard School of Music in New York. In 1975 Zwilich because the first woman in Julliard’s history to graduate with a D.M.A. in composition. Zwilich played a lot of different kinds of instruments like piano, various woodwind, brass, or percussion instruments, and strings. In 1999 Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was named the first Composer of the Year by Musical America. In 1983 Zwilich became the first woman to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize in music for her Symphony no. 1. In 2004 she was elected as the American Academy of Arts and Science.

Aside from the awards, Zwilich has been the subject of at least two cartoons, one of them is the Peanuts series! In the cartoon, the characters attend the premier of her concerto for Flute, and have been broadcasted over PBS many times. Mrs. Zwilich has celebrated her 70th birthday in October of 2008, where she premiered her symphony no.5. Ellen Taafe Zwilich is a great composer and musician in many ways. Her music is one that can appeal to many different audiences and people, and can touch anyone who hears it.

Young Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Available at: http://www.musicassociatesofamerica.com/madamina/encounters/images/zwilich.jpg

 Ellen Taaffe Zwilich


Ellen Taaffe Zwilich presents a BMI Student Composer Award to Trevor Gureckis


Ellen Taaffe Zwilich with music


Learning the background of a composer definitely helps us feel a deeper connection to the music that we are performing, because by learning about the composer's life, you are able to gain a deeper insight into why the composer wrote what they did, and possibly gain some knowledge of a deeper meaning of the music as a whole. As young women, we feel that there is a great significance to learning more about successful female artists. All women, but especially young women, need successful, confident, and strong role models to look up to, and learning more about successful female artists can provide young women with the role models they are searching for. Successful female artists also give young women the confidence to achieve their dreams and goals. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is an admirable woman, and is a great, successful role model for any young, apsiring female composer.