Eric Ewazen is an important American composer active in the latter twentieth and early twenty first centuries. He has demonstrated considerable versatility in his output, producing orchestral, piano, vocal, chamber, and various other works. He has favored brass and wind instruments in many of his compositions, however, and exhibits a unique style often tinged with the spirit of Copland, Creston, and other iconic American composers, and a melodic facility one critic compared to Prokofiev's, not that there is anything particularly Russian about his music.
Ewazen was born in Cleveland on March 1, 1954. He enrolled at the Eastman School of Music in 1972 and after graduating went on to Juilliard, where he earned a doctorate degree. Among his teachers were Milton Babbitt, Joseph Schwantner, Samuel Adler, and Gunther Schuller. He was active in composition even in his student years, turning out such works as Dagon for 5 cellos (1973), Psalm 90 for baritone, horn and piano (1977), and Kronos for brass quintet and tympani (1979). After receiving a BMI Award for Dagon, Ewazen continued with a string of composition prizes, his harvest including a Louis Lane Prize (1974) and Howard Hanson Prize (1976).
Ewazen joined the faculty at Juilliard in 1980 and serves as professor of composition there. He remained active in composition with highly successful works like the Colchester Fantasy for brass quintet and Ballade for clarinet, harp, and strings, both from 1987, and the American Indian-inspired 1996 work Shadowcatcher for brass quintet and orchestra, regarded by many critics as one of his finest compositions.
From the 1980s onward Ewazen extended his ties to education and to actively promoting serious music in general by accepting numerous invitations to appear at universities in the United States and abroad, including Curtis, Peabody, Boston Conservatory, the Santa Cruz Conservatory, and the Birmingham Conservatory in England. In addition, in 1992 Ewazen became a lecturer for the New York Philharmonic Musical Encounters program.
Ewazen has garnered numerous prestigious commissions in the new century, including a pair on patriotic subjects: Legacy (2000), for the Bi-Centennial of West Point, and Flight (2001), for the U.S. Air Force Band in Langley, VA. His later works include Rhapsody for trumpets and orchestra, whose successful 2005 premiere he attended in Bangkok, Thailand.