Craig P. First

Craig P.  First

Professor of Composition & Music Theory

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PhD, Composition, Northwestern University


Craig P. First is a professor and the composition and music theory area coordinator at The University of Alabama. His music has been praised by critics around the world as “dizzyingly seductive” (Chicago SunTimes), “concise and forceful” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “well stranded” (Irish Times), “real beauty” (Vienna Times), “wonderfully impressionistic” (Darmstadt News), “furious music” (The Music Connoisseur), “subdued, delicately textured” (Luxembourg World Music Days), “masterpieces” (Respublika Lithuania), “astonishingly complex and virtuosic” (Seen and Heard, England), and “excellent, difficult work well-worth taking a place in the standard repertoire” (Saxophone Journal).

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1960, First pursued composition studies in Chicago where he studied with Jack C. Goode, Stephen Syverud, Alan Stout, and at the University of Chicago with Pulitzer Prize winner, Shulamit Ran. First then earned a doctorate degree in composition from Northwestern University.

His music has garnered numerous prizes, awards, and honors including winner in the American ISCM National Composers Competition, winner of the Concurso Internacional Composicion de Musical Spain (String Quartet), the Fourth Annual International Spectri Sonori Competition, first prize in the 12th Annual National Association of Composers, U.S.A. Competition, the American Composers Forum Sonic Circuits (1998, 2000, 2002), three National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Awards, ASCAP Standard Awards for fifteen consecutive years, ASCAP Young Composers Awards, first prize in the ACM Orchestra Composition Competition of Chicago, first prize in the Padrone-Kantscheidt Competition, first prize in the William T. Faricy competition, the Alabama State Council on the Arts Composition Fellowship, and the National Symphony Orchestra Commissioning Competition (finalist). In 1998, he was one of three nominees for the distinguished California Institute of the Arts/Alpert Award in Music.

First’s music is published by MMB Music Inc., Apoll Editions Austria, European American Music Distributors, and Freeland Press. His works are recorded on Capstone Records. His complete violin works, recorded by Davis Brooks, will be released in the fall of 2006.

First has received commissions from the Lark Quartet, the Vienna Saxophone Quartet, Dimitris Marinos and Commissioning Music /USA, Paul Bowman for the Darmstadt Tage fur Neue Musik 2000 Festival, the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the CrossSound New Music Festival, Raimundas Katilus, Chicago 21st Century Music Ensemble, MTNA Commissioning Award, Christine Rutledge, Kurt Fowler and Davis Brooks of the New York Chamber Symphony and Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center. His biography is published in Who’s Who in America and the International Who’s Who in Music-Cambridge, England. Northwestern University cites First as one of five distinguished alumni in composition.

His most recent music includes The Eternal Return, a multimedia work for five ensembles and five films by New York filmmaker Matt Marello. The work was commissioned by CrossSound Singing Pictures Festival. His work was recently included in the New York Museum of Modern Art America in Berlin 2004 exhibition at the Academy of Art in Berlin.

Recent performances include those by Dimitris Marinos, the Ensemble United Berlin, The Chicago 21st Century Music Ensemble, CrossSound, the Meridian Trio, and others on concert stages in Germany, Italy, Spain, England, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Korea, Lithuania, Canada, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

From 1990 to 1995, First was a lecturer in composition and theory at Northwestern University and has taught at DePaul University. Currently he is the coordinator of composition at The University of Alabama. Since 1992 he has served as the artistic director of the Chicago 21st Century Music Ensemble.