American Mavericks

John Adams

(b. Worcester, Massachusetts, February 15, 1947)

After taking a degree at Harvard, where he studied with Leon Kirchner, John Adams settled in San Francisco. There he led a new-music ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1982 he became the San Francisco Symphony’s first Composer-in-Residence, a post he occupied until 1985. At the SFS he established his reputation with the concert works Harmonium (1981) and Harmonielehre (1985), in which he moved away from the minimalist style of his earlier music.

He tackled late-20th-century history in his operas Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, and Doctor Atomic. His many other works for various genres include the Violin Concerto, the piano concerto Century Rolls, and The Dharma at Big Sur, which spotlights the electric violin. His later theater pieces include El Niño and A Flowering Tree, both co-commissioned and given their North American premieres by the San Francisco Symphony. Today, Adams is among the world’s highest-profile living composers.

A Radio Profile of John Adams

Interviews from the “American Mavericks” series (c) (p) American Mavericks Public Media. Used with permission. All rights reserved.