Joan Tower’s music is noted by a number of defining qualities: driving rhythms and colorful orchestrations influenced by the sounds and sensations of a childhood spent in South America; approachability for listeners and players alike, resulting from her engagement with the performers of her music (often written with specific musicians in mind); and her own performances as a pianist. Her early works were serial in conception. In the 1970s she moved toward more tonal, Messiaen-like sonorities. She has written a number of works paying homage to composers such as Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Copland. She was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission, Made in America. Its top-selling recording won three 2008 Grammy awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She co-founded the Da Capo Chamber Players in 1969 as pianist — its accolades included the 1973 Naumburg Chamber Music Award — but also wrote several well-received pieces for the ensemble. Tower studied piano and composition at Bennington College and Columbia University. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972.