Biography

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Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night, Kevin Puts has had works commissioned and performed by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. Known for his distinctive and richly colored musical voice, Mr. Puts has received many of today’s most prestigious honors and awards for composition.

An early boost to his career came in 1996 when Mr. Puts was named Composer-in-Residence of both Young Concert Artists, Inc., and the California Symphony at the invitation of Barry Jekowsky, the orchestra's Founder and Music Director. Other important early commissions came from the New York Youth Symphony which premiered his Concerto for Everyone at Carnegie Hall in 1999, the Vermont Symphony and Ensemble Kobe (Japan) which co-commissioned Marimba Concerto featuring Makoto Nakura, and the National Symphony Orchestra which commissioned the fanfare Continuo for brass and organ.

Since then, Mr. Puts has created a sizable body of works for orchestra which includes four symphonies and several concertos. In April 2008 Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra gave the premiere of Night, a piano concerto commissioned through the LACO’s Sound Investment program. Mr. Puts has since begun performing the work himself, first appearing as soloist during the summer of 2010 with Marin Alsop conducting the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra.  His Clarinet Concerto, commissioned by Kathryn Gould, was written for Bil Jackson, who premiered the work with the Colorado Symphony under Jeffrey Kahane in 2009. As the Composer-in-Residence for the Fort Worth Symphony, Mr. Puts wrote a violin concerto for concertmaster Michael Shih, which was given its premiere in April 2007 with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting. Mr. Puts was selected as the 2007 American Composer-in-Residence for the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, where his Two Mountain Scenes was premiered by the New York Philharmonic. The summer of 2007 also saw the premiere of Mr. Puts’ Symphony No. 4: From Mission San Juan, commissioned by Howard Hansen and performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop.

Mr. Puts’ 2005-2006 season was especially productive and included the premieres of three major orchestral works: Percussion Concerto for Orange County’s Pacific Symphony and the Utah Symphony, premiered by Evelyn Glennie; Sinfonia Concertante for five solo instruments and orchestra for the Minnesota Orchestra; and a cello concerto, Vision, commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival and performed by Yo-Yo Ma in honor of David Zinman’s 70th birthday. Other orchestral commissions have included River’s Rush for the Saint Louis Symphony and Leonard Slatkin for the opening celebration of the orchestra’s 125th anniversary season in 2004. Commissioned by Kathryn Gould and Meet the Composer through the "Magnum Opus" project, Symphony No. 3, “Vespertine” was premiered by the Marin Symphony Orchestra in May 2004. The Atlanta Symphony commissioned and premiered …this noble company in 2003. Falling Dream was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra/BMI Foundation for a premiere at the 25th Anniversary Concert of the American Composers Orchestra in 2002 with conductor Dennis Russell Davies at Carnegie Hall. Symphony No. 2, for which Mr. Puts was commissioned as winner of the Barlow International Orchestra Competition, was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony under Paavo Järvi in 2002 and later performed by the Utah Symphony under Keith Lockhart. And Millennium Canons, commissioned by the Institute for American Music, was premiered by The Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart in 2001 and has received multiple performances across the U.S.

The premiere of Silent Night by Minnesota Opera in November 2012 marked Mr. Puts' debut in the world of opera. Commissioned by Minnesota Opera with a libretto by Mark Campbell, the two-act work is based on the 2005 film Joyeux Noel by Nord-Ouest Productions. March 2015 will see the premiere of Mr. Puts’ second opera, an adaptation of Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate, commissioned by Minnesota Opera with libretto by Mark Campbell.

Recent chamber music projects have included Credo, commissioned by Chamber Music Monterey Bay for the Miro Quartet which continues to perform the work widely across the U.S. and abroad. In 2008, the string sextet Concertante commissioned and premiered Arcana; The Eroica Trio premiered Trio-Sinfonia, a work commissioned by Music Accord, in 2007 and continues to perform the work widely; Four Airs, was commissioned by the Music from Angel Fire Festival in 2004. Three Nocturnes was commissioned and premiered by the Verdehr Trio in 2004. The University of Texas Wind Ensemble commissioned Mr. Puts’ first work for winds, Chorus of Light, and premiered the piece with Jerry Junkin conducting in 2003.  Summer 2002 saw the premiere of Einstein on Mercer Street, commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and premiered by bass-baritone Timothy Jones with Kevin Noe conducting.

Mr. Puts’ was the recipient of the 2003 Benjamin H. Danks Award for Excellence in Orchestral Composition of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2001 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a 2001-2002 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and the 1999 Barlow International Prize for Orchestral Music. While an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music, Puts was awarded a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the BMI 2001 Carlos Surinach Fund Commission, BMI’s 1998 William Schuman Prize, and several grants from BMI and ASCAP. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Puts received both his Bachelor’s Degree and his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Eastman School of Music, and his Master’s Degree from Yale University. From 1999 to 2005, he taught composition at The University of Texas at Austin.  Since 2006, he has been a member of the Composition Faculty at the Peabody Institute.