Musical America honors CSO affiliates Hilary Hahn and Jessie Montgomery

Hilary Hahn and Jessie Montgomery, holders of titled positions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, have received top honors from the online magazine Musical America. Hahn, the CSO’s Artist-in-Residence, has been named 2023 Artist of the Year, while Montgomery, CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence, has been named 2023 Composer of the Year.

The awards, announced Oct. 11, recognize classical music artists and leaders who made outstanding contributions to the performing arts industry in the past year.

“Each of these incredible talents have, in their own unique ways, advanced the artform in the past year far beyond any expectations and have brought entirely new perspectives and vistas to the performing arts,” said Stephanie Challener, publisher of Musical America Worldwide. “It is our honor to recognize these great artists and their contributions.” 

Hahn and Montgomery will receive their honors at the 62nd annual Musical America Awards in New York City on Dec. 4, which also will be broadcast at 4 p.m. (3 p.m. CST) on Facebook Live. Coinciding with the ceremony will be the release of the 2023 Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, which, along with its detailed industry listings, will salute each honoree in its editorial pages.

Musical America also is honoring Semyon Bychkov, a frequent CSO guest maestro, as Conductor of the Year,  and Chicago-born Yuval Sharon, artistic director of Detroit Opera, as Director of the Year.

A former prodigy, Hahn has inspired thousands through her live performances, recordings and practice videos. Musical America noted that “the high-wattage brilliance and crystalline projection of her sound has been her calling card all along, but her repertoire keeps expanding along with her healthy appetite for new works by living composers. Emerging from the crucible of the pandemic, music-making is more important than ever to Hahn."

Now in her second year as the CSO’s Artist-in-Residence, Hahn will build on connections established through work with young musicians and songwriting activities associated with the Notes for Peace program of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO. This season, she will make solo appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in December and April, as well as in a March solo recital of works by J.S. Bach on the Symphony Center Presents Chamber Music series.

A native New Yorker, Montgomery grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side before heading to Juilliard for violin performance studies. In her 20s, she switched to composition, beginning to bring her Black identity into her musical ideas. Musical America observed: “Her work has been embraced worldwide for its freshness and energy. ... Her vivacious pieces incorporate vernacular and improvisatory elements into textures and sonorities that feel fresh and new.”

Now in her second year as Mead Composer-in-Residence, Montgomery
continues to curate the CSO MusicNOW series, which opens its season on Oct. 24, and is writing a world-premiere commission for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to be performed in May. She’s also writing a work for the New York Philharmonic as part of its initiative to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

Past Musical America recipients include Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Horowitz, Beverly Sills, George Balanchine, Arthur Rubinstein, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Marilyn Horne, André Previn, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald, Peter Sellars and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Last year, Musical America honored pianist Mitsuko Uchida as Artist of the Year, Teddy Abrams as Conductor of the Year, Missy Mazzoli as Composer of the Year, and Davóne Tines as Vocalist of the Year.