Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Evan A. MacCarthy

Committee Co-Chair

Travis D. Stimeling

Committee Member

Travis D. Stimeling

Committee Member

Matthew Heap


This thesis considers the ways in which the Pulitzer Prize for Music shapes and is shaped by music of the moment. Since 1943, the Pulitzer Prize has marked 83 pieces as “distinguished” examples of American music. The financial rewarding of winning composers and the initiation of a reciprocal transfer of prestige and political capital, the Pulitzer’s expert juries and governing body has contributed to the preservation of a perpetually-shifting status quo. By chronicling the year-to-year shifts of administrative power dynamics in prize selections, the Pulitzer Prize has mirrored the changing American musical landscape.

Drawing on methods of reception history, archival research, and sociological theory, I address recent efforts to reform the Pulitzer’s arbitration of taste. Through an examination of Pulitzer-winning pieces for voice and the prize juries who selected them, I argue that over the past decade we witness a broader and more inclusive definition of American music. A new emphasis by the Prize on global identities and themes—and the social conflicts they articulate—constitute an alteration of the Pulitzer Prize’s institutional identity and its ongoing construction of an American canon for the twenty-first century.