Distinguished Composer in Residence George Tsontakis has been the recipient of the two richest prizes awarded in all of classical music: the 2005 international Grawemeyer Award for his Second Violin Concerto and the 2007 Charles Ives Living Award, awarded every three years by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
He has also received two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards, for String Quartet No. 4 (1989) and Perpetual Angelus
(1992), and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award (1995). He studied with Roger Sessions at Juilliard and with Franco Donatoni in Rome. Born in Astoria, New York, into a strongly Cretan heritage, he has in recent years become an important figure in the music of Greece; his music is increasingly performed abroad, with dozens of performances in Europe every season. Tsontakis's works have been commissioned and performed by the American, Blair, Colorado, and Emerson string quartets; New York Virtuoso Singers; Aspen Wind Quintet; Orpheus; flutist Ransom Wilson; violinist Glenn Dicterow; and many other orchestras, ensembles, and musicians.
Most of his music—including 11 major orchestral works and four concertos—has been recorded by Hyperion and Koch, leading to two Grammy Nominations for Best Classical Composition (1999, 2009). He is distinguished composer in residence at the Bard Conservatory and has been a composer in residence with the Aspen Music Festival for decades, where he was founding director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (1991-99). He served for three years as composer in residence with the Oxford (England) Philomusica, continues a six-year Music Alive residency with the Albany Symphony, and was the featured composer in residence with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2008-09 season). He lives in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, in Shokan, and has been on the Bard faculty since 2003.