Last Sunday, composer Maria Schneider took home three Grammys (Best Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Vocal Solo, Best Engineered Classical Album) for her new release Winter Morning Walks. Schneider comes from the small town of Windom, Minnesota, and has enjoyed a successful career as a composer, with her style oscillating between jazz and
classical influences. She is best-known for her writing for contemporary big band.
Winter Morning Walks actually contains two song cycles. The title piece takes its text from the poetry of Ted Kooser. It the piece, soprano Dawn Upshaw performs with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, as well as with some musicians who have been associated with the music of Maria Schneider for years, particularly her jazz compositions. She enjoys what these musicians bring to the piece, saying, “Not everything they played is improvised, but if you hear something that makes you smile or gives you a little shiver, chances are it’s coming from their individual creative voices.” The other cycle on the album, Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories uses English translations of the Brazilian poet’s work, for which Schneider says she has a great affinity. Dawn Upshaw performs again, this time with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Schneider is not new to the Grammys; in fact, her 2004 album Concert in the Garden made history as the first Grammy-winning album to have only Internet sales. Both releases were funded solely by fans through the artistShare website. ArtistShare allows for a truly collaborative relationship between musicians and their audience. Fans can go to the website, find their favorite artists, and fund the artists’ next project. Fans and potential producers can view a “welcome” video from the artist describing the project in process before pledging money. Funders are given periodic video updates from the artists as well, so not only do fans get to enjoy the finished product, but they can also experience the entire creative process.
You can see an interview from 2012 with Maria Schneider conducted by our own Daniel Gilliam during his stint at Minnesota Public Radio: