Described as "taut, focused... colourful" by Gramophone, "mesmerizing," by critic Tim Smith, and "especially glorious... ethereal" by Whole Note, the music of Canadian composer Tawnie Olson draws inspiration from politics, spirituality, the natural world, and the musicians for whom she composes. Her opera Sanctuary and Storm (libretto by Roberta Barker) is the winner of the 2021-2023 National Opera Association Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Composition Competition; Olson also won a 2019 Copland House Residency Award, the 2018 Barlow Prize, and the 2015 Iron Composer Competition. Her Three Songs on Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn took second prize in the 2018 NATS Art Song Competition. In 2018 she was the Composer-in-Residence of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford, an American Composers Forum BandQuest Composer-in-Residence at E.C. Adams School in Guilford, CT, and received a 2018 Connecticut Artist Fellowship. In 2017, she received an OPERA America Discovery Grant to develop Sanctuary and Storm with re:Naissance Opera, and a Canada Council for the Arts Professional Development Grant to study field recording at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Olson has been commissioned by the Canadian Art Song Project, Third Practice/New Music USA, the Canada Council for the Arts, Mount Holyoke College/The Women’s Philharmonic, the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra, Ithaca College, the American Composers Forum, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Robert Baker Commissioning Fund, among others.
Recent projects include Beloved of the Sky, commissioned by the Barlow Foundation for Seraphic Fire, The Crossing, and the BYU Singers, Salve Mater, commissioned by Tafelmusik for their Chamber Choir, Perfectly Logical, for bassoon and electronics, commissioned by the International Double Reed Society for Rachael Elliott, Wild, commissioned by the Mirror Visions Ensemble for soprano Mireille Asselin and pianist Margaret Kampmeier, the chamber opera Sanctuary and Storm (libretto by Roberta Barker), co-commissioned by the Women Composers Festival of Hartford and the Canada Council for the Arts for re:Naissance Opera, and Composition en rouge, bleu et jaune, commissioned by Pentaèdre Woodwind Quintet.
Olson's music is performed on five continents; it can also be heard on recordings by percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum, the Yale Schola Cantorum and Elm City Girls Choir, Parthenia viol consort (with bass-baritone Dashon Burton), bassoonist Rachael Elliott, the Canadian Chamber Choir, Chronos Vocal Ensemble, soprano Magali Simard-Galdès, clarinetist Shawn Earle, oboist Catherine Lee, and Shawn Mativetsky, McGill University professor of tabla and percussion. Her scores are available from the Canadian Music Centre, E.C. Schirmer, Galaxy Music, Hal Leonard's BandQuest and Mark Foster series, and Oxford University Press. Olson holds a doctorate in music composition from the University of Toronto, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, an Artist Diploma from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Calgary.
Biography taken from composer’s website.
Photo: Kristan Toczko