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School of Music faculty member pens book on contemporary composer

Christina Reitz with her new book on acclaimed composer Jennifer Higdon.

Christina Reitz, an associate professor of music at Western Carolina University, recently published a book on acclaimed composer Jennifer Higdon.

Reitz described her interest in Higdon as stemming from an appreciation of the music ― and wanting to learn more about the woman behind it.

“I was very surprised when I discovered there wasn’t more written about her,” Reitz said. “She’s won a Pulitzer and two Grammys, and received or been nominated for so many other awards and recognitions. She’s a huge name in music, she’s critically acclaimed and her works are among the most performed. But no book.

"So, I reached out to her about a possible book about her and her composing. I told her I didn’t want to go down this path without her blessing. She was very open to interviews and encouraging, but not meddlesome with my writing or my analysis,” Reitz said.

“Jennifer Higdon, Composing in Color” is published by McFarland and Company. The book examines five symphonic works and Higdon’s first opera. Along with commentary by Higdon, Reitz looks at compositional history, musical characteristics, formal analysis and critical reception. The foreword is by Marin Alsop, herself a noted conductor, violinist and music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and soon to be chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Higdon is best known for her symphonic pieces “blue cathedral,” “Concerto for Orchestra,” “City Scape,” “Concerto 4-3” and “Violin Concerto,” the winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Higdon’s first opera, “Cold Mountain,” was inspired by Charles Frazier’s best-selling, critically acclaimed Civil War novel “Cold Mountain.” The opera won the prestigious International Opera Award for Best World Premiere and the opera recording was nominated for two Grammy awards. Two chapters of Reitz’s book are devoted to the “Cold Mountain” opera and its local associations, the book “Cold Mountain” and its author.

“Jennifer's music appeals to a broad range of audiences, from those with detailed music study as well as the aficionado. It's rather remarkable and quite rare in the 21st century,” said Reitz. “I believe she is quite happy with the book and we continue to maintain a warm friendship, personally and professionally.”

The book is available through select bookstores, Amazon or from the publisher at

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