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Press Release

SBU Music Professor Named 2013 Guggenheim Fellow

May 2, 2013 - 11:00:00 AM

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Sheila Silver, PhD
Sheila Silver, PhD, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Professor, Department of Music at Stony Brook University, has been named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Often called midcareer awards, the Guggenheim Fellowship is based on distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for the future. She was chosen among a group of 175 scholars, artists, and scientists from a pool of nearly 3,000 candidates.

Professor Silver’s Guggenheim Fellowship – in the field of Creative Arts/Music Competition – was awarded for work on her next opera, A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the international best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. In June, Silver will begin, with her family, a six-month stay in Pune, India, studying Hindustani music in preparation for beginning her new opera. She will study Hindustani music with master singer, Professor Narayan Bodas, and also will study the tabla, a percussion instrument used in Hindustani classical music.

“I want my Western voice to have some of the color – the feel of Hindustani music because this is at the heart of Afghan music,” she said. While in India, Silver also will be working with her librettist, Stephen Kitsakos, Professor of Theater at SUNY New Paltz, to complete the first draft of the opera’s libretto.  

Professor Silver has written in a wide range of mediums, from solo instrumental works to large orchestral works; from opera to feature film scores. For the past few years, she has been composing primarily for the voice and for opera. In 2007 she received the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Music Composition for Opera to compose her opera, The Wooden Sword, which premiered in 2010.  Also premiering in 2010 was The White Rooster, A Tale of Compassion, commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries for the exhibit In the Realm of the Buddha, a dramatic cantata composed for the vocal ensemble Tapestry, plus six Tibetan singing bowls and frame drums. She is now completing Beauty Intolerable, a Songbook based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Composed in collaboration with American Opera Projects and the Millay Society, it features three singers including renowned soprano, Lauren Flanigan and will premiere on June 13, 2013 at Symphony Space in New York City.

Professor Silver earned her BA from the University of California and upon her graduation was awarded the coveted George Ladd Prix de Paris for two years of study in Europe where she worked with Erhard Karkoschka in Stuttgart and Gyorgy Ligeti in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany. She earned her PhD from Brandeis University where she studied with Arthur Berger, Harold Shapero and Seymour Shifrin. Throughout her career she has received numerous honors including the a Bunting Institute Fellowship; the Rome Prize; the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composer Award; two-time winner of the ISCM National Composers Competition; and awards and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation (Bellagio Residency); the Camargo Foundation; the MacDowell Colony; New York State Council of the Arts; the Barlow Foundation; the Paul Fromm Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Cary Trust.

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted over $306 million in Fellowships to more than 17,500 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, poets laureate, winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Fields Medals, and of other important, internationally recognized honors.  

“These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, said of the 175 new Guggenheim fellows. “Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”


© Stony Brook University 2013

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