Composer Talk: Kristin Kuster, Professor and Chair of Composition, University of Michigan
Composer Kristin Kuster "writes commandingly for the orchestra," and her music "has an invitingly tart edge" (The New York Times). Kuster's colorfully enthralling compositions take inspiration from architectural space, the weather, and mythology. Her orchestral music "unquestionably demonstrates her expertise in crafting unique timbres" (Steve Smith, Night after Night).
Most recently, Kuster received an OPERA America Grant for female composers, made possible through The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The grant will support the recording of Kuster's work Old Presque Isle, a 75-minute opera drawn from the haunting of northern Michigan's Old Presque Isle Lighthouse. The opera is written for singer, six trumpets, two percussionists, a men's chorus, and features a libretto by poet Megan Levad, assistant director of the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan.
Upcoming and recent premieres of Kuster's music have included works for the Philadelphia-based Network for New Music, The Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the Lisbon Summerfest Chamber Choir, multi-percussionist Joseph Gramley, and the Donald Sinta Quartet.
Kuster was recently awarded one of the highest honors the University bestows upon junior faculty - a 2015 Henry Russel Award. The award recognizes faculty early in their academic careers who already have demonstrated excellence as a teacher. Given yearly, university-wide junior faculty are eligible for the Henry Russel award, and Kuster is among only four music faculty to receive the award since its inception in 1926.
Recent CD releases include "Breath Beneath" on the PRISM Saxophone Quartet's New Dynamic Records CD Breath Beneath, "Two Jades" on the U-M Symphony Band's Artifacts Equilibrium CD, "Little Trees" on U-M Percussion Ensemble's Locally Grown Equilibrium CD, and "Lost Gulch Lookout" on the NAXOS CD Millennium Canons: Looking Forward, Looking Back by the University of Georgia Wind Ensemble.
Kuster's music has received support from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2004 Charles Ives Fellowship), the Sons of Norway, American Composers Orchestra, League of American Orchestras, Meet The Composer, the Jerome Foundation through the American Composers Forum, the Argosy Foundation, the Jack L. Adams Foundation, the Composers Conference at Wellesley College, and the Larson Family Foundation. She has received commissions from ensembles such as the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the 6ixWire Project, the Lisbon Summer Fest Chamber Choir, the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, the Michigan Philharmonic, Sequitur, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Cantori New York, the New York Central City Chorus, the Heartland Opera Troupe, and the Summerfest Chamber Series.
Born in 1973, Kuster grew up in Boulder, Colorado. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from U-M, where she now serves as associate professor of Composition.