Larry Hicks can remember a “little tiny girl” who entered the Heritage High School band in the late 1970s as a bass drummer for the marching band.
But, he said, that wasn’t enough for Jennifer Higdon.
“She didn’t want to be in the percussion session,” recalled Hicks, former band director at Heritage in the Blount County Schools system. “She came in and said she wanted to play flute.”
The flute is not an easy instrument to play, he said, and he told her if she could learn it over the summer, he’d consider it.
The next fall, she came back - after taking private flute lessons - and wowed Hicks with her ability. By her senior year, she was the “first chair,” or principal, flute player.
Thirty years later, Higdon is a Grammy Award winner and new Pulitzer Prize winner for her musical compositions.
Higdon, a 1981 Heritage High School graduate and classical composer, has been awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her composition “Violin Concerto,” which premiered in Indianapolis on Feb. 6, 2009. It’s described as a “deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity,” according to the Pulitzer Web site.
“She was one of those go-getter types who made up her mind that she wanted to do something, and then she did it,” said Hicks, who described her as a hard worker, a good student and someone who loved music.
The Pulitzer Prize in Music is “for distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year,” according to the Pulitzer site.
Earlier this year, Higdon received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her “Percussion Concerto.”
Currently, she holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
“She’s done well, and we’re really proud of her,” Hicks said. “This is an unbelievable accomplishment.”