WIU Professor Finalist for Pulitzer Prize in Music


Newswise — MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University School of Music professor has been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, the first in the University's history.

Professor James Romig was nominated for the prize for the 55-minute piano solo composition, "Still." Romig was one of two finalists for the Pulitzer, while composer Ellen Reid won the prize for her piece, "prism."

The recording that won Romig the designation was released last year by New World Records, and was performed by Romig's wife, Knox College Director of Piano Studies Ashlee Mack. Romig said he learned of his finalist award from a former high school classmate the day the honors were announced.

"The winners and finalists of the Pulitzer Prizes are not informed until the results are announced publicly, so I had the surreal experience of finding out that I had been named a finalist when the lead singer from my high school rock band texted me with the news," said Romig. "I quickly went online to confirm it, and then spent the rest of the afternoon fielding texts, emails and Facebook messages from friends and colleagues. It was, needless to say, quite a surprise."

"Still," inspired by the paintings of artist Clyfford Still, was commissioned in 2016 by Mack and others, with support from the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, CO. The piece comprises 43 individual "iterations" that can be performed in a continuous, unbroken strand of music or divided into smaller segments or suites.

"I am delighted to be recognized by the Pulitzer Prize, especially considering the long list of musical heroes of mine that have been named winners and finalists in years past," he said. "Obviously, one doesn't set a goal of winning awards when one creates a work of art, but this pleasant surprise is certainly appreciated."

According to Romig's biography, he composes music "in response to an increasingly fragmented and accelerated world, creating highly self-referential works that evolve isomorphically and reveal themselves gradually." The biography says he acknowledges and celebrates focus and patience because they are both crucial elements to the initial creation of his pieces.

Before he began teaching at Western in 2002, Romig received his bachelor's degree and his master's degree in percussion performance from the University of Iowa. He received his doctoral degree in music composition and theory from Rutgers University. At WIU, Romig heads the School of Music's composition area.

His compositions have been performed in 49 states and 34 countries, and recordings of his music have been released by multiple outlets. He has served as a guest composer and an artist in residence at many sites.

Mack has given recitals across the United States and in Germany and Italy. She specializes in contemporary music and has premiered work by numerous notable composers. Since debuting "Still," Mack has presented the piece more than 20 times, including performances at the Clifford Still Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"Still" was debuted in 2017.

WIU had one other connection to a Pulitzer Prize when alumnus Mark Konkol won it as part of a reporting team at the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011.

To learn more about Romig's prize, visit pulitzer.org/finalists/james-romig. To learn more about Romig, visit jamesromig.com/still.html.

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