Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Harbison 60 (AM 68) will receive the 2000 Harvard Arts Medal on May 6 as part of ARTS FIRST 2000, the eighth annual celebration of the arts at Harvard.
The Harvard Arts Medal was created to honor a distinguished Harvard alumnus/a or faculty member who has achieved excellence in the arts and who has made a special contribution through the arts to the public good or education. President Neil L. Rudenstine will present the award to Harbison, who is the sixth honoree. Previous recipients were David Hays 52 (1999), John Updike 54 (1998), Bonnie Raitt 72 (1997), Pete Seeger 40 (1996), and Jack Lemmon 47 (1995).
Considered one of Americas most prominent and prolific composers, Harbison recently premiered his newest opera, The Great Gatsby, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Harbisons musical career began in his hometown of Orange, N.J., where he played the piano as a child and began his own jazz band at age 12. Upon graduating cum laude from Harvard, where he was an Eliot House resident, he received a Paine traveling fellowship.
Throughout his career, Harbison has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim fellowship in 1978 and a MacArthur fellowship in 1989. In 1980, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Freidheim Prize for his Piano Concerto and, in 1987, won the Pulitzer Prize for his cantata Flight into Egypt. In 1992, he became a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Recent projects have included participation in an international Requiem commemorating the victims of World War II and a commission, Four Psalms, for the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. Harbisons works include three string quartets, three symphonies, and two operas. Harbison is also a conductor and has directed many distinguished orchestras and chamber groups.
Harbison is Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the board of directors of the Koussevitzky Foundation and is president of the Copland Fund. He and his wife, Rosemary, live in Cambridge.