Q&A: Jennifer Higdon, Composer

The 48-year-old classical composer and Curtis prof has won a Grammy and a Pulitzer. So what’s with her fondness for a certain white rapper from Detroit?

Why Philadelphia: I came here for Penn and Curtis 25 years ago and never left. I love the character, the feel.

Whether being a lesbian classical composer is unusual: Just being a female composer is unusual. 

Photography by J. Henry Fair

Whether she’s actually married, as her Facebook status indicates: No, but when it’s legal here, we will be. We’ve been together since high school.

Wedding-song candidates: Something by Alison Krauss.

How she celebrated her 2010 Pulitzer: Spent a month trying to believe it.

And the Grammy the same year: Positano Coast for dinner.

Which award is heavier: The Grammy. But the Pulitzer has a very sharp point, so it could still be used as a weapon.

Musical guilty pleasure: Eminem. I like his use of rhythm.

Most inspiring Philadelphia space: Independence Park. I’m blown away by the history.

Number of times her works are performed annually: Three hundred to 400.

Whether she gets royalties every time: Oh yes. I also own my own music publishing company.

Music other than classical she’d like to write: Electronic. Country Western. Film scores.

Preferred director to work with: Eastwood.

Most overrated composer: Bruckner. Most people sleep through it.

Instruments owned: A piano, a flute, and a violin that I play very badly.

Desired Christmas present: An iPad 2. I have five Apple computers, an iPhone and the original iPad, so I need to upgrade.

Next big project: An opera based on Cold Mountain. It’s for the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Santa Fe Opera.

New Year’s plans: My birthday is on New Year’s Eve, and I’ll be in St. John, sitting under a palm tree.

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra at the Kimmel, December 9th to 11th.

The piece originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Philadelphia magazine.