Composer Tania León Honored at The 45th Kennedy Center Honors
León's accomplishments as a composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations were celebrated at this week's event
At the 2022 Kennedy Center Honors, Cuban-born American composer, conductor, and educator Tania León was among honorees including actor and filmmaker George Clooney, contemporary Christian and pop singer-songwriter Amy Grant, singer of soul, Gospel, R&B, and pop Gladys Knight, and iconic Irish rock band U2, comprised of band members Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr.
The event took place Sunday, December 4th in the Kennedy Center Opera House, and will be televised Wednesday, December 28th at 8/7c.
"Little did I imagine when studying in La Habana that life was going to grace me with such a distinction," León said. "My first thoughts went to my ancestors: they believed in my dreams, and what we lacked in material wealth, they made up for in spirit, encouragement, and support.
"My heartfelt thanks go to the many people who have blessed my path by helping my talent to blossom and by giving me the chance to be heard. I am incredibly humbled to join such a prestigious family of artists, and deeply grateful to the Kennedy Center for bestowing me with this incredible honor.”
León's collaborations with the Kennedy Center are plentiful. She was commissioned by the Kennedy Center to compose incidental music for Wendy Kesselman’s play Maggie Magalita (1980) — the production of which she conducted with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (KCOHO).
The premiere of her composition, At the Fountain of Mpindelela, was held at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater as part of a celebration in 2000 honoring Nelson Mandela, presented by National Musical Arts.
In the 1990s, León conducted the KCOHO in various performances, and more recently in 2019, as part of the Center’s Ballet Across America series (Kennedy Center Opera House).
Upcoming, the National Symphony Orchestra commissioned an orchestral work with her during its 2023–2024 season.
Born in Havana, Cuba, León’s honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement and fellowship awards from the Koussevitzky Music and Guggenheim Foundations. She has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Recently, León’s orchestral work Stride, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The piece was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
Recent premieres include works for Los Angeles Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Grossman Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Jennifer Koh’s project, Alone Together.
As a conductor, she has appeared with Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, Gewandhausorchester, Orquesta Sinfónica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuba, among others.
A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series and co-founded the American Composers Orchestra’s Sonidos de las Américas Festivals.
In addition to serving as the New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic, she is the founder/Artistic Director of Composers Now — a presenting, commissioning, and advocacy organization for living composers.
León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, SUNY Purchase College, and The Curtis Institute of Music, and served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain.
As an educator, she is a CUNY Professor Emerita. She was awarded a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship and Chamber Music America’s 2022 National Service Award.
Upcoming commissions feature works for the NewMusic USA Amplifying Voices Program, the League of American Orchestras, The Musical Fund Society in Philadelphia to celebrate their 200th anniversary, and Claire Chase, flute, and The Crossing Choir with text by Rita Dove.