CCM professor honored by American Academy of Arts and Letters

Longtime composer and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music professor Michael Fiday is among 20 musicians to receive recognition – and just as importantly, significant funding – from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Fiday is one of four 2024 recipients of an Arts and Letters Award in Music. The prize, which includes a $10,000 grant, recognizes composers who’ve found their own voice as an artist.

Overall, the Academy is honoring a collection of 20 established and emerging composers as part of its 2024 Awards in Music program.

“I’m both honored and humbled,” Fiday said a few hours after learning he’d won the award. He admitted to feeling some surprise when he first learned of his big win.

Michael Fiday

A person can’t apply for an Arts and Letters prize; they have to receive a nomination. Regardless of who entered his name, Fiday is glad it came from one of his peers.

“It’s the kind of thing I’ve seen other composers with notable careers in my field receive over the years, so it’s a very meaningful experience to find myself to be part of that illustrious group of artists,” he added.

Rewarding a lifetime of work

Over his career, Fiday’s compositions have become known for their expressive directness, inventive sound world, gradually unfolding dramatic narratives and distinctive rhythmic energy. 

His music has been commissioned and performed internationally by a broad range of performers spanning the worlds of classical and contemporary music, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica de Guanajuato, Percussion Ensemble of The Hague and Percussion Group Cincinnati.

Fiday has garnered numerous awards, including three Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council. 

A former composer-in-residence at the Musikhochschule Münster in Germany, Fiday has served as a professor of composition at CCM since 2002.

Other 2024 recipients include Keith Fitch, Stephen A. Taylor and Amy Williams. Each of these honorees receives an additional $10,000 grant to use toward recording their work. They’ll also perform this spring during a ceremony at the Arts and Letters library in New York City.

Fiday called the financial component of the award “very timely” because he has a number of recording projects in the planning stage.

A night to remember

 The American Academy of Arts and Letters is an honor society of roughly 300 artists, architects, composers and writers. They work to support interest in the arts by funding things such as concerts, commissions, exhibitions and lectures.

Since 1942, music awards have been made annually by Arts and Letters members to recognize and support fellow artists. This year’s award committee members were Christopher Theofanidis, Stephen Hartke, Shulamit Ran, Roberto Sierra, Wadada Leo Smith and Chinary Ung. Ung was one of Fiday’s professors in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.

The 2024 Awards in Music awards total $465,000 in prizes.

 A full list of the recipients follows. You can read more about the awards and the recipients on the American Academy of Arts and Letters website.

The Academy will present the music prizes in May alongside the awards for architecture, art and literature awards at the annual American Academy of Arts and Letters ceremony.

Fiday admitted to being “totally stoked” for both the awards ceremony and reception afterward. “It’ll be great to catch up with old friends and also meet his fellow composers who won various awards from the American Academy,” he said.

He’ll also have a chance to meet some of the illustrious stars of his industry, some of whom are fellow award recipients. He noted a particular interest in talking with jazz pianist/composer Vijay Iyer and roots musician/composer Rhiannon Giddens.

“It doesn’t make composing any easier,” Fiday said, “but it does make one feel a bit lighter,” he added. “Artists need reminders from time to time that there is that appreciation out there, that they aren’t working in a vacuum.”

2024 American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards

  • Charles Ives Living: Sean Shepherd
  • Arts and Letters Awards in Music: Michael Fiday, Keith Fitch, Stephen A. Taylor and Amy Williams
  • Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music: Rhiannon Giddens
  • Benjamin H. Danks Award: Aaron Helgeson
  • Andrew Imbrie Award in Music: Anthony Cheung
  • Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award: James Newton
  • Goddard Lieberson Fellowships: Vijay Iyer and Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
  • Walter Hinrichsen Award in Music: Jesse Jones
  • Charles Ives Fellowships: Fang Man and Susie Ibarra
  • Charles Ives Scholarships: Elise Arancio, Jacob Beranek, Luke Blackburn, Liam Cummins, Isaac Santos and Justin Weiss

American Academy of Arts and Letters

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