Chicago (Illinois, USA), 1932 – Toronto (Ontario, Canada), 2019

Michael Colgrass is distinct among prominent classical composers in North America, as one of the few whose music is well known on both sides of the Canadian-American border. His career has divided neatly into two nearly equal stages, the first in the United States, and the second in Canada, where he has lived since 1974.

After graduating in 1956 from the Univeristy of Illinois, Colgrass went to New York City where he free-lanced as a percussion player in a wide range of “gigs” ranging from the New York Philharmonic to Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz band, and by way of the original West Side Story orchestra on Broadway. Over the years, Colgrass turned more to composing, and currently enjoys a career based solely on commissions. His list of prizes includes a Pulitzer (for Déja vu, 1978), two Guggenheims, a Rockefeller Grant, and the 1988 Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music.