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Bienen School Doctoral Candidate Wins Edes Prize

$30,000 award will enable winner to complete his opera project

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Composer Shawn Jaeger, a doctoral candidate in the music composition program at Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, is a 2013 recipient of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists.

The highly competitive award, given to one artist from Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University and the School of the Art Institute, is designed to help support the careers of rising creative talent. This is the first year that music composers were eligible for the competition, which also included entrants specializing in cinema, the visual arts, creative writing, theater and music performance.

The project Jaeger proposed for the prize is a one-act opera based on a short play by Kentucky author Wendell Berry. Based on the lives of artist Harlan Hubbard and his wife Anna, who spent 34 years living off the land along Kentucky’s Ohio River, the opera was commissioned by the Bard College Conservatory of Music. It will premiere there in spring 2014.

The New York Times described Jaeger’s music as “introspective, mournful (…..) evocative,” drawing inspiration from Appalachian ballad singing and Old Regular Baptist hymns.

Jaeger, who teaches composition and musicianship at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, is enrolled in the Bienen School’s Doctor of Music degree program and has studied music composition at Northwestern for two years with Lee Hyla, Harry and Ruth Wyatt Professor of Theory and Composition. Jaeger expects to receive his doctoral degree from the Bienen School within a year. 

“For several years Shawn has been effectively, and with great originality, mining the riches of Appalachian folk music and combining that music with a truly contemporary vision,” said Northwestern Professor Hyla. “His opera project is the culmination of this work and shows great promise both musically and theatrically. The Edes Prize will enable him to complete this project under what is a tight deadline.”

Jaeger is also working on a commission from Minnesota’s Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for a new song cycle for renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw and the orchestra. The premiere performances are expected to take place in late May and early June 2013.

Jaeger expects the Edes Prize will be life-changing. “In addition to giving me time and space to write, the prize money will let me hire a topnotch librettist, purchase audio equipment to record nature sounds that will become part of the score, and travel to meet with the director and set designers.”

Jaeger, who was born in Louisville, Ky., in 1985, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. In 2010, he received a commission from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute as part of a Professional Training Workshop led by soprano Dawn Upshaw and composer Donnacha Denneby. For more on Jaeger, visit his website

Jaeger is one of three Bienen School students or alumni to win the Edes Prize. In 2012, pianist Nolan Pearson was named the Edes Prize recipient while saxophonist Ryan Muncy claimed the honor in 2010. The Edes Prize was created by Edes Foundation President Nik Edes, son of longtime Chicago residents and passionate arts supporters Claire and Samuel Edes. For more on the Edes Prize visit The Graduate School's website

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