ALTADENA — Southern California composer William Kraft has taken home the top prize in the prestigious 1990 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards for New American Music.
One of four finalists, Kraft was presented with the award Oct. 28 at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Kraft shares the first-place slot with Chicago composer Ralph Shapey. Each received $4,000.
"Of course anyone would want to be the first-place winner," Kraft, 67, said from his hillside Altadena home. "But I am very proud to be the first-place winner along with Shapey. He's an extremely respected composer, and I'm very honored."
During the ceremony, the Orchestra of the Mannes School of Music, conducted by Michael Charry, played the four chosen works for a small audience and for the three judges: Tim Page, a New York Times music critic, and conductors David Zinman and Werner Torkanowsky.
Kraft's composition, "Veils and Variations for Horn and Orchestra," was nominated by Paul Polivnick, music director for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
Kraft has written about 100 compositions, including "Concerto for Four Percussion Soloists and Orchestra," first conducted by Zubin Mehta and now Kraft's most oft-played work. Kraft was a percussionist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for eight years, a timpanist for 18 years and later composer-in-residence and assistant conductor there. He also founded the Philharmonic New Music Group, and today teaches at various California colleges.
Kraft's appearance at the Kennedy Friedheim competition marks the third time he has been nominated. In 1986 his "Timpani Concerto" took second prize, and in 1987 he was a semifinalist for his string quartet "Weavings."
"It's been wonderful," Kraft said of snaring first place at last. "I've never had so many congratulatory greetings."