Elizabeth R. Austin’s music is meticulous and complex, filled with movement, growth, and turning points. Not a bad description for her own life.” This quote, from an article in SCOPE (Winter, 2011) written by Michael K. Slayton, continues to be relevant to this octogenarian, whose focus on writing music has become even more intense!
Elizabeth spent the first decades of her life studying at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory. When Nadia Boulanger visited Goucher College (Towson, MD) in 1958, she listened to the composer’s Drei Rilke Lieder, awarding her a scholarship to the Conservatoire Americaine (Fontainebleau).
Her association with the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford), where she earned a Master’s in Music while teaching at the Community Division, included the establishment of a faculty/student exchange with the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Heidelberg-Mannheim. Earning her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, Elizabeth Austin won First Prize in the Lipscomb Electronic Music Competition (Klavier Double for piano and tape). From then on, Dr. Jerome A. Reed, who sponsored this competition, has performed and recorded Elizabeth’s piano music throughout his long and illustrious career.
Her awards have included a Connecticut Commission on the Arts grant, selection by GEDOK (Society of Women Artists in Germany/Austria) to represent the Mannheim region in its 70th anniversary exhibition, and First Prize in IAWM’s 1998 Miriam Gideon Competition (for Homage for Hildegard [von Bingen], and a Rockefeller Foundation residency at Bellagio, Italy (2001).
Performed in Europe and Scandinavia, as well as in The United States and the Caribbean, Austin’s music has been received with distinction and critical acclaim. Featured on Germany’s Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, the Leipzig pianist Ulrich Urban has championed her piano music, performing at the Gewandhaus and The National Gallery of Art.
Dr. Michael K. Slayton, Professor of Theory/Composition, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, wrote his DMA dissertation (University of Houston, 2000) on Austin’s music. Dr. Slayton edited the book, Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers, Scarecrow Press, 2011, also writing the chapter on Austin’s music. Teresa Crane, U. Illinois, wrote her DMA dissertation on Austin’s song cycles (2007). Christian Johnson, U. Nebraska, is writing a DMA on her Rose Sonata.
Dr. Austin was the BMI/Vanderbilt University (Blair School of Music) Composer in Residence in 2015. During this time, an excerpt from the Austins’ opera I am one and double too was performed in a portrait concert. An excerpt from the opera was later performed in concert at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum in 2018, sponsored by the Women Composers Festival of Hartford.
Her music has been blessed with outstanding and enthusiastic artists, recently performing Litauische Lieder in Berlin, the English setting of Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman’s Love and Life) at the Opera America Center in NYC, and the Hartford Musical Club’s commission of Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
Elizabeth is at home in Connecticut; to contact her, please visit elizabethaustinmusic.com or the American Composers Alliance. Her music is published by American Composers Alliance composers.com, Tonger Musikverlag, Peer Musik, and Certosa.
Ending with another quote from Dr. Slayton’s article: “Even after almost fifteen years of studying Austin’s music, I am still surprised by its wealth and depth.” One hopes you feel the same!