Described as "especially glorious… ethereal" by Whole Note, and "a highlight of the concert" by the Boston Musical Intelligencer, the music of Canadian composer Tawnie Olson draws inspiration from politics, spirituality, the natural world, and the musicians for whom she composes. She is the winner of the 2018 Barlow Prize, a consortium commission for the BYU Singers, The Crossing, and Seraphic Fire. Olson also won the 2015 Iron Composer Competition, and her Three Songs on Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn took second prize in the 2018 NATS Art Song Competition. In 2017, she received an OPERA America Discovery Grant to develop a new work about Hildegard of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitaine with re:Naissance Opera (libretto by Roberta Barker), and a Canada Council for the Arts Professional Development Grant to study field recording at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In 2018 she was the Composer-in-Residence of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford and an American Composers Forum BandQuest Composer-in-Residence at E.C. Adams School in Guilford, CT. She received a 2018 Connecticut Artist Fellowship, and has received awards from SOCAN and The Guelph Camber Choir/Musica Viva. Olson has been commissioned by the Canadian Art Song Project, Third Practice/New Music USA, the Canada Council for the Arts, Mount Holyoke College/The Women’s Philharmonic, the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra, Ithaca College, the American Composers Forum, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Robert Baker Commissioning Fund, among others.
Recent projects include the chamber opera Sanctuary and Storm (libretto by Roberta Barker), co-commissioned by the Women Composers Festival of Hartford and the Canada Council for the Arts for re:Naissance Opera, That's one small step…, for SATB, string quartet and percussion, co-commissioned by the Virginia Choral Society and the Alexandria Choral Society, Pop!, for concert band, commissioned by the American Composers Forum for the E.C. Adams 8th grade band, Susan Oakley, director, Reformation, for SATB, mezzo-soprano and tenor soloists, brass quartet, and organ, commissioned by the University Church in Yale for the UCY Chapel Choir, an arrangement/recomposition of "Know the Way" (by electronica artist Grimes), commissioned by Geof Holbrook and the Cluster Festival for the Plumes Ensemble, Two Tea Bowls, for SATB, harp, and violoncello, commissioned by the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and Magnificat, commissioned by Karen Clute for the Elm City Girls Choir and Yale Schola Cantorum.
Olson's music is performed on five continents; it can also be heard on recordings by percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum, Parthenia viol consort (with bass-baritone Dashon Burton), the Canadian Chamber Choir, bassoonist Rachael Elliott, the Chronos Vocal Ensemble, soprano Magali Simard-Galdès, oboist Catherine Lee, and Shawn Mativetsky, McGill University professor of tabla and percussion. Her scores are available from the Canadian Music Centre, Galaxy Music, Hal Leonard's BandQuest and Mark Foster series, and E.C. Schirmer. Olson holds a doctorate in music composition from the University of Toronto, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, an Artist Diploma from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Calgary. She is an adjunct professor of composition at the Hartt School of Music.
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