Maria Schneider’s music has been hailed by critics as “evocative, majestic, magical, heart- stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization.” Born in Windom, Minnesota, Schneider arrived in New York City in 1985 after studies at the University of Minnesota, the University of Miami and the Eastman School of Music. She immediately sought out Bob Brookmeyer to study composition, and at the same time became an assistant to Gil Evans, working on various projects with him.
She became widely known through the orchestra she founded in 1992. They appeared at Visiones in Greenwich Village every Monday night for a stretch of five years. Subsequently, the Maria Schneider Orchestra has performed at festivals and concert halls worldwide, and she herself has received numerous commissions and guest-conducting invites, working with over 80 groups from over 20 countries spanning Europe, South America, Australia, and the U.S. Commissions include the Norrbotten Big Band’s and Danish Radio Orchestra’s commission to arrange and conduct concerts with Toots Thielemans. Other commissioning organizations include the Metropole Orchestra in The Netherlands, Stuttgart Jazz Orchestra, Orchestre National de Jazz (Recapitulation), Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra (El Viento), Monterey Jazz Festival (Scenes from Childhood, Willow Lake), University of Miami Concert Jazz Band (Three Romances), Hunter College (Concert in the Garden, Sky Blue), Jazz at Lincoln Center (Bulería, Soleá y Rumba), Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (Aires de Lando) and Peter Sellars’ New Crowned Hope Festival (Cerulean Skies).
Maria was also the recipient of a Doris Duke award to compose a dance work (Dissolution) in collaboration with the Pilobolus dance group. It was performed with her orchestra at the American Dance Festival and The Kennedy Center.
Her most recent work, Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories, was commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for soprano, Dawn Upshaw. She‘s presently working on a piece commissioned by the Kronos Quartet for a 2010 premier.
Schneider has a distinguished recording career as well. Her debut recording, Evanescence, was nominated for two 1995 Grammy Awards. Her second and third recordings, Coming About and Allégresse were also Grammy nominated, Allégresse being chosen by TIME and BILLBOARD in their Top Ten Recordings of 2000, inclusive of all genres of music. Her most recent recordings have brought two Grammy Awards, the first for Concert in the Garden (Best Large Ensemble Album), released only through her website (an ArtistShare® site). It became historic as the first record to win a Grammy with Internet-only sales. The second Grammy was awarded for Cerulean Skies (Best Instrumental Composition).
Concert in the Garden and her orchestra‘s latest album, Sky Blue (on which Cerulean Skies was recorded) were both named “Jazz Album of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association and the DOWNBEAT Critics Poll. 2008 and 2009 brought further honors as she and her orchestra were awarded “Best Composer, Best Arranger and Best Big Band” from both the Jazz Journalist Association and the DOWNBEAT Critics Poll.
Maria Schneider & Maria Schneider Orchestra Press Quotes
“She now has become entrenched among the ranks of America‘s leading composers. ... For Schneider, the question is no longer whether she can sustain the heights she has attained on earlier recordings; it is now how far her musical journey will take her.” – DOWNBEAT
“Twenty-one musicians of tremendous technical sophistication and emotional energy channel their talents through the direction of the most significant big-band jazz composer of our time.” – THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
“...she puts together stories that speak with the clarity of Ernest Hemingway and the musical grace of Aaron Copland.” – PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
“Schneider... proved to be a compelling musical storyteller at home in the orchestral idiom. She was equally successful conducting... her first time fronting a classical orchestra. ... She employed a panoply of styles, from jazz and pop to traditional art song and Brazilian flavors, to bring the words to life. There was an intensity to Don’t Kill Yourself and a laugh-out-loud wit to Quadrille. Throughout, the results were both original and mesmerizing. – MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
[after premier of Carlos de Andrade Stories with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Dawn Upshaw.
“An exultant and spacious orchestral power suggest furthermore, that she is on her way to being Aaron Copland’s inheritor.” – GUARDIAN [UK]
“It seemed impossible for Schneider top her Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden, but she‘s done just that with Sky Blue. She has elevated her music to a seemingly impossible height. ... Cerulean Skies is the masterpiece within a masterpiece, ... Magnificent. A magical work of art, from beginning to end.” – ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM
“...some of the most graceful, naturally flowing orchestral settings she‘s ever written.” [Sky Blue] – THE IRISH TIMES [Sky Blue]
“To call Schneider the most important woman in jazz is missing the point... She is a major composer–period.” – TIME MAGAZINE
“Maria Schneider’s orchestral jazz is about feeling. Like Wayne Shorter, she somehow expresses compassion through tones.” – THE NEW YORK TIMES