The most money an orchestral composer will see in his lifetime

The most money an orchestral composer will see in his lifetime


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2011

It used to be the Grawemeyer Award, which started at $150,000 and are now pegged at $200,000. It is doled out over several years. The latest winner is Esa-Pekka Salonen.

But, coming up on the outside is the Charles Ives Living Award, which gives a composer $200,000 over two years to finish a commissioned work, during which time he or she must eschew ‘all salaried employment’. (As if there were salaried jobs for composers…)

The winner, announced last night, is James Mattheson of Brooklyn.  He is writing a violin concerto for the Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Chicago premiere will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The pyramid gets quite small at the top.


  • Nurhan Arman says:

    Perhaps it is my English but doesn’t this headline assume composers are always male?

  • EMil Archambault says:

    There are salaried jobs (not many, but there are):
    The New York Philharmonic, among others, has a position of Composer-in-Residence.
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez, and the other conductors-composers, aren’t they salaried (assuming they have a MD position)?

  • Colin Eatock says:

    I suspect that the the reference to salaried employment is aimed at the teaching positions many composers hold in American universities. In other words, if you win the prize, you’ll have to ask for a two-year sabbatical. (It would not be a hard choice for most composers to make.)