AUSTIN, Texas—Kevin Puts, assistant professor of composition at The University of Texas at Austin School of Music, has been awarded the Prix de Rome, one of the most coveted awards for gifted American scholars and artists. Given annually by the American Academy in Rome, the Rome Prize will provide living and working accommodations in Rome and a $20,000 stipend. Besides musical composition, the prize encompasses such studies as architecture, classics and archaeology, design arts, historic preservation, literature and visual arts.
Puts also has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2001-2002.
"We in the School of Music are very proud of Professor Puts’ accomplishment, but we are hardly surprised by the recognition accorded him by the American Academy of Rome," said Michael Tusa, the school’s acting director. "Professor Puts has, in less than two full years as a faculty member at UT Austin, quickly established himself as a vital part of our outstanding composition program and demonstrated repeatedly that he is one of the most impressive young talents in composition today. We expect great things from him."
While on leave in Rome next year, Puts, a prolific composer, plans to finish three major orchestral compositions: one for the American Composers Orchestra, which premieres in April, 2002 at Carnegie Hall; one for the Phoenix Symphony, premiering in January, 2002, and one for the Cincinnati Symphony, premiering in March, 2002.
He will also celebrate his 30th birthday while at the American Academy.
Although the three commissions are for orchestral pieces, Puts enjoys "the challenge of composing all types of music" rather than limiting his talents to orchestral or chamber music alone. He is an accomplished pianist, but he usually doesn’t compose for piano. "I know the literature too well," he says, and doesn’t want to be influenced by it. But he remains close to the instrument. "I improvise and compose on piano first, at the same time thinking in terms of the various instruments to be involved in the piece," he says. "The work may not be pianistic, but I can think better on the piano."
A recent solo piece written for the Korean violinist Chee Yun offers insight into Puts’ composing. It was premiered last October at the Seoul Arts Center and will be presented this summer at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina. "She asked me to write an encore for a larger piece. Since I’m not a violinist, this became a truly collaborative project — learning about the instrument and how to write real virtuoso music for violin in a way that allows the violinist to play with command. Working with the soloist this closely adds to the creative process, something we developed together."
Puts joined the UT Austin music faculty in 1999, where he shares his compositional skills with both graduate and undergraduate students. Through his experience as an emerging composer Puts places an emphasis on guiding students into the music world outside academe. He urges them to start thinking about where they want to go musically and to develop strong convictions about their aesthetic values.
Puts received bachelor of music (1994) and doctor of musical arts (1999) degrees from the Eastman School of Music and a master of music degree from Yale School of Music in 1996. Rome Prize winners pursue independent projects, which vary in content and scope, for periods ranging from six months to two years at the academy.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation provides fellowships for advanced professionals in all fields — natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, creative arts — to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts.