The Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation has announced composer and recording artist Libby Larsen as its 2016 McKnight Distinguished Artist.
Now in its nineteenth year, the foundation's Distinguished Artists program honors an individual Minnesota artist who has made significant contributions to the state's cultural life and includes a $50,000 cash award.
Born in Minneapolis in 1950, Elizabeth Brown "Libby" Larsen is considered a trailblazer in the male-dominated world of repertory composition and counts Hector Berlioz, James Brown, Big Mama Thornton, and J.S. Bach among her many influences. Winner of a 1993 Grammy Award, and with more than fifty CDs of her recorded work, she has been praised in Gramophone as "a composer who has made the art of symphonic writing very much her own."
In addition to the Grammy, Larsen has received numerous national arts awards and honorary degrees, including a George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America (2010), the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has served as the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education at the Library of Congress (2003-2004), was awarded Chorus America’s Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art (2005), and was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame (2007).
In 1973, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum with the late Stephen Paulus. Since then, the organization, now known as the American Composers Forum, has grown from an innovative regional initiative into one of the nation's premier composer service organizations, with programming that supports and connects composers and communities in all fifty states. Currently the artistic director of the Virginia Arts Festival’s John Duffy Institute for New Opera, Larsen lives in Minneapolis with her husband, James Reece.
"Over the course of a ground-breaking career, Libby Larsen has been a virtuosic creator of new music and an articulate advocate for the next generation of composers," said McKnight Foundation president Kate Wolford. "Larsen is recognized around the world for infusing fresh life into concert repertory, and audiences closer to home know that her artistic vision is also matched by a generous spirit. As a co-founder of the American Composers Forum, she helped make Minnesota a national center for innovative and culturally relevant new music."