Tyshawn Sorey Wins 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Music

He earned the acclaim for “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith),” a saxophone concerto that premiered on March 16, 2023, at Atlanta Symphony Hall.

Tyshawn Sorey

Presidential Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey, a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has performed around the world, won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Music for “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith).” The saxophone concerto was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and premiered on March 16, 2023, at Atlanta Symphony Hall. Winners in this Pulitzer category are honored for “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”

“Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)”—which Sorey calls an “anti-concerto”—is dedicated to Smith, a trumpeter with whom Sorey has performed and recorded. As Sorey himself describes the concerto, “it is more about introversion than extroversion … the work unfolds slowly and quietly with beautiful, sustained harmonies and only slightly less sustained melodies introduced via the orchestra or intermittently by the saxophone soloist. This stately but understated work is a welcome respite from the chaos and intrusiveness of modern life.”

In 2023, Sorey’s composition “Monochromatic Light (Afterlife)” was a finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music. That same year, he and Brooke O’Harra, a senior lecturer in creative writing debuted a musical collaboration with percussion ensemble Yarn/Wire titled “Be Holding,” a multimedia adaptation of the book-length poem by Ross Gay about Julius Erving’s momentous sky hook dunk during the 1980 NBA Finals. Sorey was a 2018 United States Artists Fellow and a 2017 MacArthur Fellow. He has released 13 critically acclaimed recordings as a composer and bandleader, and has received support for his creative projects from The Jerome Foundation and The Shifting Foundation, among others.