1990 – Joan Tower

Flowing instrumental solos combine with tension-building momentum in Joan Tower’s “Silver Ladders,” winner of the 1990 award. The 22-minute orchestral work, commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Meet the Composer Inc., premiered on Jan. 9, 1987.

“Its many upward-moving lines suggest nothing so much as a giant ladder, reaching to the sky and moving into space,” said one critic. “Just as the metal silver has many contrasting qualities, so the textures of this music range from heavy to light, solid to fluid.”

Another critic praised the piece as “a dynamic contribution to modern orchestral literature.”

Tower was a founding member and pianist in the Naumberg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players in 1969. She left the group in 1984 to devote time to composing and teaching.

In 1985, she was appointed composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for a three-year term.