U of M Alumna Libby Larsen Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Composer Libby Larsen holding her hands up in an artistic way.
U of M School of Music alumna Libby Larsen is one of America’s most-performed living composers. The Grammy award-winning composer has created a catalog of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre of music, from intimate vocal and chamber music, to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Photo: Ann Marsden.

University of Minnesota School of Music alumna Libby Larsen (BA, 1971; MA, 1975; PhD; 1978) has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 300 members are elected for life. Larsen joins fellow School of Music alumna Maria Schneider (BM, 1983; D. Lit, 2012), Garrison Keillor, and honorary member Bob Dylan as notable members of the Academy with connections to Minnesota. Larsen’s teacher, University of Minnesota Professor Emeritus Dominick Argento, was a member until his death.

Libby Larsen works on a piece of music over a piano.
Photo: Ann Marsden.

Libby Larsen, born December 24, 1950 in Wilmington, Delaware, is one of America’s most-performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.

As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony.

"The mentors and life-long friends I made during my years as a student in the University of Minnesota School of Music are at the heart of why I compose music." Larsen reflected. "Studying composition at a top public research university offers not only a rigorous musical education but also a broader intellectual and cultural perspective that can profoundly enrich one's artistic practice and contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of music in the world.”

“Libby Larsen has been a pillar of the Twin Cities arts community since her days as a student at the University of Minnesota,” says Patrick Warfield, Director of the School of Music. “But we would be remiss if we didn’t note three aspects of her incredible legacy. Libby, of course, is a composer. She is also a problem solver. When she and her fellow student at the U, Stephen Paulus, discovered that there were too few opportunities for young composers, they founded the Minnesota Composers Forum (now the American Composers Forum) and proved that artists could build support structures beyond the academy. But most importantly, Libby Larsen is a remarkable human being. Since arriving in the Twin Cities last summer, my wife and I have encountered countless musicians and organizations that have been mentored by Dr. Larsen. In every interaction, she gives of her whole self, whether through her music, her activism, or her kindness. I could not be prouder of this recognition of one of the School of Music’s most distinguished graduates. I know the Twin Cities are proud as well.”

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