Music Director nominated for Pulitzer

Composer performs third stream music, enjoys jazz, classical

YASMEEN WAFAI, Evergreen assistant editor

WSU School of Music Director Greg Yasinitsky has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music for his piece, “Jazz Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.”

“There is almost no way to describe it,” Yasinitsky said of the nomination. “For me, it’s the biggest, most important musical award in the country.”

Yasinitsky said the piece is influenced by both jazz and classical music and was a slightly strange piece for him to write, as he rarely writes compositions that combine the two genres. He said the combination of classical and jazz is known as third-stream music.

“It’s somewhat unusual to find someone who plays both at an extremely high level,” Yasinitsky said.

He was inspired to write the song when he heard the playing of Willis Delony, Virginia Martin Howard professor of keyboard and jazz studies at Louisiana State University. He thought Delony had an unusual and unique ability to combine both styles and wanted to write something for him.

The piece became a concerto with three movements and was played for the first time by the Baton Rouge Symphony. The piece has three movements, and in addition to the written-out parts, features improvisation by the pianist.

“[The] idea of a concerto is to have a featured soloist who is heard within the orchestra,” Yasinitsky said.

Delony and the conductor of the piece asked if he would like to be nominated for the concerto, and he agreed. He said he has known for a couple months, but thought now was a good time to announce it to the WSU community. He said the response has been fantastic.

“I am humbled and flabbergasted,” Yasinitsky said. “It’s a tremendous honor just to be nominated.”

Yasinitsky hopes the nomination will bring more recognition to the School of Music, and said that’s part of the reason he wanted to announce it.

According to the Pulitzer Prize website, winners will be announced on April 16.