April 5, 2016—Robert Kyr, head of the composition area of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, has been awarded one of the top prizes in the country in the field of music composition: the prestigious Arts and Letters Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The award honors outstanding artistic achievement by a composer who has arrived at his or her own artistic voice. In addition to an honorarium, the award offers funds toward music recording. Candidates for music awards may only be nominated by members of the academy, who are judged by a panel of academy members. The panel selects each winner by evaluating a portfolio of compositions as well as a resume detailing artistic and professional achievements.
Kyr will receive the award at the academy’s annual ceremonial in May.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a prestigious national honor society comprised of 250 architects, composers, artists, and writers. The academy's purpose is to foster and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts by identifying and encouraging individual artists. The academy administers awards and prizes, exhibits art and manuscripts, funds stage readings and performances of new works, and purchases works of art to be donated to museums.
Robert Kyr is an internationally recognized composer, writer, and filmmaker. He is a Philip H. Knight Professor of Music at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, where he heads the composition program and has developed new models for teaching composition. The program is one of the largest and most successful in the United States.
In addition to teaching, Kyr directs the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, the Music Today Festival, the Vanguard Concert and Workshop Series, and the Pacific Rim Gamelan.
Kyr has composed twelve symphonies, three chamber symphonies, three violin concerti, a piano concerto, chamber music, and numerous works for vocal ensembles of all types. His music frequently focuses on themes of contemporary significance, such as peace-making, living in harmony with nature, and spiritual themes related to love, compassion, and forgiveness.
Recently, Kyr’s Songs of the Soul was recorded on the Harmonia Mundi label by the ensemble Conspirare under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson. The hour-long work has received widespread critical acclaim and was hailed in The Wall Street Journal as “a powerful new achievement in American music that vividly traces a journey from despair to transcendence.” NPR named the work one of the “Best of 2014.”
Kyr's music has been performed widely around the world. He has been commissioned by numerous ensembles, including Conspirare (Austin), Chanticleer (San Francisco), Cappella Romana (Portland), the Washington (D.C.) Master Chorale, Chorus Austin, Cantus (Minneapolis), the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Yale Camerata, the Oregon Repertory Singers, the Pacific Youth Choir (Portland), the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the New England Philharmonic, the Oregon Symphony, the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the New West Symphony (Los Angeles), Cappella Nova (Scotland), Revalia (Estonia), Putni (Latvia), the Moscow State Chamber Choir (Russia), Ensemble Project Ars Nova, the Back Bay Chorale (Boston), and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, among many others.
Kyr’s projects have been supported by major foundations and institutes, including the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Paul G. Allen Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the Robert D. Baker Memorial Fund for Sacred Music at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, the Oregon Regional Arts and Cultural Council, the Hult Endowment for the Arts, the Collins Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation.
Beyond his artistic and scholarly output, Kyr has taken a leadership role in faculty governance, both in Oregon and nationwide. He served three terms as president of the University of Oregon Senate, a legislative body that includes faculty, students, Officers of Administration, Officers of Research, and Classified Staff.
Currently, he is president-elect of the Interinstitutional Faculty Senate of Oregon, a body representing the senate leadership of all eight Oregon public institutions of higher education, as well as the founding president of the PAC12 Academic Leadership Coalition, which is comprised of academic leaders from all of the PAC-12 universities.