University honors achievements of composer, economist, mathematician

    Northwestern has honored three figures “of outstanding achievement” in the fields of music composition, economics and math in the past month.

    American composer Aaron Jay Kernis was named the 2012 recipient of the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition on Monday, following last month’s announcement of Daron Acemoglu and Ingrid Daubechies as the Nemmers Prize recipients in Economics and Mathematics, respectively.

    The Nemmers prize is only the latest of Kernis’s several honors in the field of composition. In 1998, Kernis was among the youngest composers to win the Pulitzer Prize, and has previously received the Grawemeyer Award, among others.

    “The previous winners are some of the finest composers in the world, something that was particularly moving about winning this prize,” Kernis said. “To have such incredible predecessors and to feel, even in some way, to be considered at that level is really quite wonderful. It is a vote of confidence in the work that I’ve done, not just for a specific piece of music but a whole body of work.”

    In addition to a $100,000 cash award, the prize includes a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 2013-2014 performance season and a residency of four non-consecutive weeks at the Bienen School of Music, during which Kernis will work with students and faculty.

    Details of the residency “remain to be developed,” but Kernis anticipates giving private instruction to Bienen students and teachers, and hopes, on some level, to reproduce the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, where he currently serves as director. The Institute provides up to eight young composers each year with the opportunity to hear their music performed by a professional orchestra after an intensive immersion week under Kernis’s guidance.

    Kernis may also have a role in developing the Institute for New Music, a component of Bienen’s recent strategic plan to create a physical and intellectual space for the new music community within Northwestern and beyond.

    In April, Northwestern announced MIT economist Acemoglu the winner of the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, one of the the largest monetary awards in the United States for achievement in the field. Acemoglu is the sixth most cited economist in the world.

    Acemoglu’s best-known research, performed with fellow MIT economist Simon Johnson and political scientist James Robinson, studies the influence of political institutions in long run economic performance. The economist’s latest book, New York Times bestseller Why Nations Fail, is a “vital work for these times,” according to a Wall Street Journal review.

    Five out of 10 previous Nemmers economics winners have since won a Nobel Prize.

    Also last month, Duke University physicist and mathematician Daubechies received the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics. Daubechies is noted for her work in computational harmonic analysis, a field with implications in several scientific disciplines and millions of consumer and technological products like communication systems, medical imaging and audio and video coders.

    “[Daubechies] is one of the foremost applied mathematicians of our time, and her passion for educating the world about the importance of mathematics has no bounds,” Provost Daniel Linzer said in an April press release.

    Awarded biennially, the Nemmers Prizes in Music Composition, Economics and Mathematics are funded by bequests from former Northwestern faculty member Erwin Esser Nemmers and his late brother. In 2013, Northwestern will grant the first Methchild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science, an award with a $200,000 stipend.


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