When There Are Nine is a protest piece.
“Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1967 and it still hasn’t passed? We need thirty-eight states to agree that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional.
“We’ve had a record number of women running for office and winning, and still, we have twenty-three percent of the House and twenty-five percent of the Senate. I’m getting tired of the novelty of ‘the first female governor of this state,’ ‘the first female African-American mayor of this city.’ When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception?
“How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them preparing them for the future? We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible women leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. Girls are socialized to know when they come out gender roles are already set. Men. Run. The world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions. It’s always the man that is the stronger one.
“And when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be?…wouldn’t it be great to teach them to watch how women lead?”
— Ann “Muffet” McGraw, American basketball coach, April 2019
Composer Kristin Kuster “writes commandingly for the orchestra,” and her music “has an invitingly tart edge” (The New York Times). Her colorfully enthralling, lush and visceral compositions take inspiration from architectural space, the weather, and mythology. Her orchestral music “unquestionably demonstrates her expertise in crafting unique timbres” (Steve Smith, Night After Night).
Kristin is based in Ann Arbor, where she is an associate professor and chair of composition at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. When she is not writing or teaching you can often find Kristin fiercely advocating for the marginalized and underrepresented groups of composers in our classical music culture, hanging out with her son with special needs, or on her deck with locally-brewed Sweetwaters and/or Comet coffee. Kristin loves camping, hiking, kayaking, and riding her mountain bike around town.
Most recently, Kristin received an OPERA America Discovery Grant for female composers, made possible through The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The grant supported Kristin’s work Kept: a ghost story, a 70-minute chamber opera drawn from the haunting of northern Michigan’s Old Presque Isle Lighthouse. Featuring a libretto by poet Megan Levad, Kept was premiered at the Virginia Arts Festival with support from the John Duffy Institute for New Opera in May 2017.
Upcoming and recent premieres of Kristin’s music include works for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the United States Air Force Heritage Brass Ensemble, Philadelphia-based Network for New Music, the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the Lisbon Summerfest Chamber Choir, multi-percussionist Joseph Gramley, and the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet.
Kristin was awarded one of the highest honors the University of Michigan bestows upon junior faculty — a 2015 Henry Russel Award. The award recognizes faculty early in their academic careers who already have demonstrated an extraordinary record of accomplishment in scholarly research and/or creativity, as well as an excellent record of contribution as a teacher. Given yearly, university-wide faculty are eligible for the Henry Russel Award, and Ms. Kuster is among only five music faculty to receive the award since its inception in 1926.
Kristin’s music has received support from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles Ives Fellowship), the Sons of Norway, American Composers Orchestra, League of American Orchestras, New Music USA, American Opera Projects, the Jerome Foundation, and the Jack L. Adams Foundation.
Born in 1973, Kristin grew up in Boulder, Colorado. She often misses the daily-gazing at the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of her youth; yet she loves that Ann Arbor is blanketed in deciduous trees. Follow her on Twitter: @KristinKuster, or visit kristinkuster.com
MEGAN LEVAD, LIBRETTIST & POET
Megan Levad’s work has been praised as “surprising” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “odd, darkly funny, very smart” (Portland Mercury). The Paris Review wrote that 2017’s What Have I to Say to You is “one of the best poetry books of the last fifteen years.”
A 2017 MacDowell Fellow, Levad is the author of Why We Live in the Dark Ages, the first selection in Tavern Books’ Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Poem-a-Day, Granta, Fence, and the Everyman’s Library anthology Killer Verse, which published a poem from her first musical collaboration, Murder, a song cycle with Tucker Fuller.
Levad has since written lyrics for several pieces, including Let Us Plant Our Gardens Now with Dominick DiOrio, who also set Broken with text from What Have I to Say to You; And Yet the Stars with Theodore Morrison; and Volta and Given a Body with Kristin Kuster. Kuster and Levad premiered their first opera, Kept, in May 2017 with the Virginia Arts Festival; and Levad is again working with Tucker on Gilded, a song cycle for tenor scheduled to premiere at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans in Fall 2019.
Megan earned her B.A. in English from The University of Iowa and her M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Program’s Roethke Prize and was selected by Mary Ruefle for a Zell Postgraduate Fellowship. Levad served for several years as Assistant Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program.