Maria Schneider Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters


​“To be recognized in this way by the most esteemed and accomplished creators in our nation — it’s hugely inspiring,” Schneider said.

(Photo: Briene Lermitte)

Composer and bandleader Maria Schneider is one of 19 new members and four honorary members who will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters during its annual Ceremonial on May 24. During the ceremony, the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov, who is being inducted into Foreign Honorary membership, will deliver the keynote address.

“This incredible news is a lot to absorb,” Schneider said. “I’d recorded my song cycle Winter Morning Walks in the beautiful concert hall of the Academy of Arts and Letters almost a decade ago. Upon touring the whole building, including the room of signed member photos going back to the beginning, I remember almost buckling facing the totality of all of those immensely creative individuals. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself being there among them. To be recognized in this way by the most esteemed and accomplished creators in our nation — it’s hugely inspiring.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 300 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

The Academy’s American Honorary membership, which began in 1983, recognizes up to 20 Americans of extraordinary artistic achievement whose work falls outside of or transcends the fields of architecture, art, literature and music composition. Foreign Honorary membership, which was established in 1929, celebrates up to 75 distinguished architects, artists, writers and composers from other countries whose work the Academy’s membership greatly admires.

Schneider is among a select few artists who have won Grammys in multiple genres, having received the award in jazz and classical, as well as for her work with David Bowie. Her varied commissioners stretch from Jazz at Lincoln Center to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to the American Dance Festival.

Schneider’s many honors also include 14 Grammy nominations, seven Grammy Awards, numerous Jazz Journalists Association awards, DownBeat and JazzTimes Critics and Readers Polls awards, an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, ASCAP’s esteemed Concert Music Award (2014), NEA Jazz Master (2019), election into the 2020 American Academy of Arts and Sciences and 2023 induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

A strong voice for music advocacy, Schneider has testified before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property on digital rights. She has given commentary on CNN, participated in roundtables for the United States Copyright Office, has been quoted in numerous publications for her views on Spotify, YouTube, Google, digital rights and music piracy, and has written various white papers and articles on the digital economy as related to music and beyond.

Her latest double-album, Data Lords (2020), a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, has melded Schnedier’s advocacy and art. DB

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