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Tania León Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Stride, a Project 19 Commission

Posted June 11, 2021

Tania León was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Stride, the work she composed for Project 19, the Philharmonic’s celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment by commissioning works by 19 women composers.

When Jaap van Zweden and the Orchestra premiered the work, in February 2020, León recalled the origins of the title:

“When the New York Philharmonic reached out to me about writing for this project celebrating the 19th Amendment, I confess I only knew about it generally. I started doing research, reading Susan B. Anthony’s biography, her statements. It was tremendous to see the inner force that she had. … She kept pushing and pushing and moving forward, walking with firm steps until she got the whole thing done. That is precisely what I mean by Stride.”

In the piece León also depicted her adopted home country:

“For example, there is a section where you can hear the horns with the wa-wa plunger, because it reminds me of Louis Armstrong, getting that growl. It doesn’t have to be indicative of any particular skin tone. It has to do with the American spirit.”

This was the first work the Philharmonic commissioned from the Cuban-born composer-conductor, although their connection goes back decades. Tania León served as the Philharmonic’s New Music Advisor from 1993 to 1996, and she made her Philharmonic conducting debut in 1997, marking the first time the Orchestra was conducted by a Black woman. In February 2020, the month Stride was premiered, she was elected to the Philharmonic’s Board of Directors.

Read more about León’s story and Stride itself, catch the World Premiere performance on NYPhil+, and join us in congratulating her on this remarkable achievement.