Music Professor Receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Laurie San Martin, UC Davis music professor
Laurie San Martin

Music professor Laurie San Martin has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. The fellowship will provide funding for San Martin, who has taught at UC Davis since 2001, to do research and compose works for the San Francisco vocal ensemble Volti and New York’s Cygnus Ensemble.

San Martin is one of only 175 Guggenheim Fellows this year. In all, a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists were chosen from 3,000 applicants. The average award is about $36,000. The awards were announced April 6.

“I intend to create vocal works that set texts from Occitania, a language region that encompassed sections of today’s France, Monaco and Italy. I’m interested in the 'Trobairitz,' French female troubadours active in 12th and 13th century,” she said. “My plans at the beginning of a project are often quite different from where I end up so you’ll have to wait until 2018 to see how it turns out.

“I may go abroad to work on the pieces depending on where the materials I need for research are located,” she said. She will defer the fellowship until the 2017 – 2018 academic year to coincide with a year-long teaching sabbatical.

“I’m thrilled and touched to receive a Guggenheim fellowship,” she said. “It is really a remarkable feeling to get this kind of recognition for one’s work. There are so many interesting composers in the U.S. and I try to go hear their music, hot-off-the-press, and I hear it performed live rather than recordings. My thrill from attending live performances also includes hearing so much music, new and old, at UC Davis including that by my colleagues here. The environment at UC Davis continues to breed curiosity about music, context and beauty.”

The foundation award states “Laurie San Martin writes music that creates a compelling narrative by exploring the intersection between texture and line. Critics have described her music as exuberant, colorful, forthright, high octane, tumultuous, intricate, intense and rumbly.”

“The Guggenheim is among the most competitive awards in the field,” said music department chair Henry Spiller, “and Laurie's Guggenheim confirms her status as a member of the U.S.'s top tier of composers.”

San Martin has been commissioned by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Washington Square Contemporary Chamber Players, the Pacific Rim Festival, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, eighth blackbird and others. She has composed for a wide range of instrumentation - from pieces for solo violin and solo piano to two marimbas and chamber orchestra to gayageum (Korean zither) and string quartet.

Recent awards include a Fromm Music Foundation commission, a Jebediah Foundation commission and American Academy of Arts and Letters and League of Composers-ISCM award.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science 

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