Stark wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Award will support new chamber opera inspired by Dorothea Lange

Christopher Stark. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Christopher Stark, assistant professor of music in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been selected for a prestigious fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Stark, a composer of contemporary classical music, is among 173 Guggenheim Fellows chosen in 2017 from an applicant pool of nearly 3,000 scholars, artists and scientists in the United States and Canada. The Guggenheim Fellowship is awarded on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for this fellowship,” Stark said, “because it helps to facilitate my principal goal: to make more meaningful and substantial works of art.”

Born and raised in western Montana, Stark creates music that captures the energy and expanse of the American landscape. His Guggenheim Fellowship will support work on a chamber opera inspired by Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs of rural poverty. The libretto, based on Works Progress Administration stories collected during the same period, will be written by his sister, Megan Stark, an associate professor at the University of Montana.

Described as “fetching and colorful” by The New York Times, Stark’s music has been performed by such ensembles as Alarm Will Sound, American Composers Orchestra, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, FLUX Quartet, New Morse Code, Momenta Quartet, Los Angeles Piano Quartet and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.

In 2016, Stark’s composition “Ignatian Exercises” — which explores the conflict between Catholic settlers and the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreilles tribes — was performed by the Arctic Philharmonic in Norway and at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. Other recent highlights include a Copland House Residency Award and performances at the 2016 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the 2016 NY Phil Biennial.

Stark is currently composing a new piece, which members of the St. Louis Symphony will premiere June 19 as part of the Missouri Chamber Music Festival. He also recently composed music for the movie “Novitiate,” a story about a young woman struggling as she trains to become a nun in the early 1960s. The movie, directed by Margaret Betts, made its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and will be theatrically released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Next fall, he will serve as a Faculty Fellow in the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences.

Stark’s Guggenheim Fellowship is the seventh awarded to Arts & Sciences faculty in the last seven years. Glenn Stone, professor of anthropology, received the fellowship last year; Susan Rotroff, the Jarvis Thurston & Mona Van Duyn Professor Emerita, and Leigh Schmidt, the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, in 2013; John Bowen, the Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences, in 2012; Pascal Boyer, the Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory, in 2011; and Matthew J. Gabel, professor of political science, in 2010.

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $350 million in fellowships to over 18,000 individuals. In addition to Stark, this year’s recipients include alumna Sara Skrabalak, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in Arts & Sciences in 2002 and is now the James H. Rudy Associate Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website or follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

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