Tania León, composer

Tania León headshot

Tania León is a highly regarded composer and conductor recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been the subject of profiles on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo and independent films. Recent commissions include: the score for the opera, The Little Rock Nine, with a libretto by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., commissioned by the University of Central Arkansas's College of Fine Arts and Communications, with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the Fred Darragh Foundation; Acana for orchestra; and Inura for voices, strings and percussion.

Appearances as guest conductor include those with the Symphony Orchestra of Marseille, France the Gewandhausorchester Orchestra, Germany and Orquesta Sinfonica de Guanajuato, Mexico among others. Tania León's honors include the New York Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award, the ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, she instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, was co-founder of the American Composers Orchestra "Sonidos de las Americas Festivals" and New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic. She has lectured at Harvard University, served as visiting professor at Yale University and as guest composer/conductor at the Hamburg Musikschule, Germany, the Beijing Central Conservatory, China and the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa.

León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin and SUNY Purchase Colleges. She served as US Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A Professor at Brooklyn College since 1985, she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 Ms. León was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Tania León's piece "Ritmicas" premiered with the Grossman Ensemble on December 6, 2019. 

Performance notes: 

This is a five-movement work I based on a rhythmic spectrum that creates a rainbow of polyrhythmic inventions emerging from the Son and Guaguancó clave — a key pattern used as a tool for temporal organization and as a ground or rhythmical motive, and which is at the basis of each movement. The clave pattern is a fundamental African derived rhythmic device which consists of the addition of irregular pulses repeated as a persistent structure — ostinato — throughout a piece. This rhythmical tool creates and instills music with a sense of energetic groove and can be found in the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, throughout the rest of the Caribbean basin, and in Brazil, in Latin America and, in sub-Saharan cultures. Ritmicas was inspired by the legacy and title of a work by Cuban composer, violinist and conductor Amadeo Roldán, who in 1930 wrote the first symphonic pieces to incorporate AfroCuban percussion instruments. The fifth and sixth of Roldán’s Ritmicas, composed around the same time as Edgard Varèse’s Ionization (1929-1931), were among the first works in the Western classical music tradition scored solely for the newly conceived percussion ensemble: an ensemble comprised exclusively of all types of percussion instruments.

Grossman Ensemble premieres Tania León's "Ritmicas"