The first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize, Laura Elise Schwendinger, Professor of Composition at The University of Wisconsin Madison and Director of the Contemporary Ensemble there was born in Mexico City. Her music has been performed by many leading artists or our day, including Dawn Upshaw (Tour 1997-2013; Voices of Our Time, a TDK/Naxos DVD), the Arditti String Quartet, Jennifer Koh, Janine Jansen, Miranda Cuckson, Matt Haimovitz, Christopher Taylor, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, University of Chicago’s Contempo, the New Juilliard Ensemble, Collage New Music, the StonyBrook Premiere Series, Boston Musica Viva, the Aspen Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Lincoln Trio, the Trinity Choir and NOVUS, American Composers Orchestra (at Carnegie Hall) and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Hungary; Conducted by such conductors as Nicole Paiement, George Manahan, Steven Smith and Julian Wachner and at venues including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall- Lincoln Center, Times Center, Symphony Space, BargeMusic, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Tanglewood, Aspen and Ojai Music Festivals; And internationally at the National Arts Centre Canada, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, Talis Festival in Saas Fe Switzerland and the Berlin Philharmonic in Germany.
A 2016 recipient of a National Opera Center’s Discovery grant for her opera Artemisia, her many other honors include those from the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky (2) and Fromm Foundations, Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, Copland House, Harvard Musical Association, Chamber Music America Commission, A League of American Orchestra/ New Music Alive orchestral residency with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra (sp 2016), the MacDowell (10) and Yaddo (8) colonies, Tyrone Guthrie Center Ireland (5), the Bogliasco Foundation, and Rockefeller’s Bellagio Center, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (a Goddard Leiberson Fellowship given to “mid-career composer of exceptional gifts” and an Ives scholarship) and first-prize of the 1995 ALEA III Competition. Notable premieres include a Miller Theater “Pocket Concerto” commission, an American Composers Orchestra UnSafe Commission SHADINGS, the New Juilliard Ensemble, Sounding Beckett (Off Broadway at the Classic Stage Company) and her High Wire Act, which has been performed by dozens of groups across the country. Her work recorded by the Lincoln Trio, on Cedille’s Notable Women (a "hidden gem" in UK Guardian), received great critical praise. William Zagorski (in Fanfare) wrote of it “it evokes a sense of serene mystery and infinite beauty.” John Van Rhein wrote of Eighth Blackbird’s performance of High Wire Act (Chicago Tribune) “it evinced an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft.” Of her Song for Andrew Anthony Tommasini wrote (NYT) “The piece is darkly attractive, artful and moving…” and of her Fable, Richard Buell (Boston Globe) wrote in his review “This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the ''season's best'' list it goes.” Corinna Fonseca-Wollheim wrote of her CD High Wire Acts in the NY Times “The chamber works grouped together on this captivating disc show off Laura Elise Schwendinger’s acute ear for unusual textures. In these works… she sketches musical short stories of somnambulant fragility and purpose.”
Three CDs of her music on Centaur and Albany were released recently to great acclaim. From her seven Fanfare reviews for these discs "You know you have talent to burn, when you intend just to major in the flute, but instead (out of the blue) John Adams recommends you also go into composition, just on the strength of a few submitted works.", "This is ballsy, confident music-making in both writing and execution and proves that serious contemporary music does not have to dumb down to be immediately accessible and emotional. Highly recommended.' (Barnarby Rayfield), “...her music has at its core her own impressive point of view...its material is tightly wound and full of surprising shifts and contrasts—Schwendinger isn’t afraid to stretch her muscles—that allow the violin to bristle and wax rhapsodic (and, occasionally, wistful), responding to the fanciful, emphatic orchestral provocation. In these works, Schwendinger displays an acute ear for engaging melodic contours and evocative settings”(Art Lange), "... an exquisite slow section in the middle of the movement before it ends, emphatically, with gu illotine-like chopped chords in the orchestra, that force the work towards its conclusion.”…“not a single moment in her works sounds contrived, formulaic, or artificial. It is all very intensely and strongly "alive" (Lynn Rene Bailey). Her most recent CD Quartets features the JACK Quartet in four works for strings, including Creature Quartet, her work about the extinction of species. Colin Clarke wrote “The sheer intensity of both music and performance thereof is spellbinding, as if the passion of the composer for her subject shines through like a light”