Born in Connecticut, BARBARA KOLB attended the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford, where she received her B.M. (cum laude) and M.M. degrees. She has been the recipient of many awards, including three Tanglewood Fellowships, four MacDowell Colony Fellowships, and two Guggenheim Fellowships. Ms. Kolb became the first American woman to receive the Rome Prize (1969-71) in music composition. She was also awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for a year of study in Vienna.
Kolb's music is characterized by interwoven, impressionistic textures and a freely atonal yet deeply expressive harmonic language. Many of her works have drawn upon ideas and images having their sources in literature or the visual arts.
Among the many commissions received by Barbara Kolb during the 1970's were those from the Koussevitzky Foundation, the New York State Council for the Arts, the Washington Performing Arts Society, and the Fromm Foundation (1970, 1980). She has been awarded grants from the Institute of Arts and Letters (1973) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1972, 1974, 1979, 1989, 1992, and 2002).
The numerous major performances of Ms. Kolb's works include those by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Pierre Boulez (December, 1975, ) and by the Boston Symphony under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, the latter both in Boston and on the BSO's Japanese tour in March 1978, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Robert Shaw, Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwartz, and the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and St. Louis Symphony, all under Leonard Slatkin.
From 1979 to 1982 Ms. Kolb was artistic director of "Music New to New York" at the Third Street Music School Settlement, a contemporary music series which emphasized the works by composers living outside of New York who had limited possibilities of having their music premiered in NYC. In 1983-84 she spent nine months in residence at IRCAM, where she received a commission for chamber ensemble and computer-generated tape. The result was Millefoglie which was given its premiere in Paris at the Centre Georges-Pompidou on June 5, 1985, with Piotr Eotvos conducting. Subsequently, Millefoglie has been performed in Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Gelsenkirche (Germany), Helsinki, Liege, Montreal, Vienna, Dallas, Tx., Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, where it was performed by the Tokyo Sinfonietta under Kunitaka Kokaji as part of the 1996 Tokyo Summer Festival. In 1984-85 Ms. Kolb held the post of visiting professor of compostion at the Eastman School of Music. In 1986 she created a music theory course for the Blind and Physically Impaired Program under the auspices of the Library of Congress.
"Umbrian Colors", for violin and guitar, was premiered in 1986 by Pina Carmirelli and David Starobin (for whom it was composed) at the Marlboro Music Festival. The world premiere of Yet That Things Go Round, commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and the New York Chamber Symphony, was given its premiere at the 92nd St. Y on May 2, 1987, with Gerard Schwarz conducting. In the same year she received a prestigious Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Millefoglie. In 1989 Barbara was commissioned to write an organ work for the Cleveland Museum of Art's 75th anniversary. This resulted in Cloudspin and was premiered on May 6, 1991 at the Schlosskirche in Bayreuth, Germany.
Voyants, a work for piano and orchestra commissioned by Radio France, was first performed in 1991 at Theatre Champs-Elysees. Its U.S. premiere took place in February 1992 on an all-Kolb program by the Theater Chamber Players at the Kennedy Center. In October of the same year, Voyants appeared on another all-Kolb concert, this one performed on Austrian radio by the Ensemble of the 20th Century. In addition, the American Symphony Orchestra, I Solisti di Villa Albrizzi (Venice), the Seattle Symphony, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra have all programmed the piece, the latter on the 1996 'Imagine' festival in Memphis. Voyants was also performed in Rome in February 1997, with Andrea Morricone leading the Ensemble Terzo Suono. That work was followed by All In Good Time, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary, and given its premiere in February, 1994, under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Subsequently, Slatkin conducted All In Good Time with the St. Louis and San Francisco Symphonies. Two additional performances were given in the Spring of 1997 by the Long Beach Symphony, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Lancaster.
Kolb collaborated with filmmaker/painter, Jim Herbert, on Cantico, a film based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Commissioned by Alice Tully and the NEA, Cantico has been shown throughout the USA and Europe. In 1983, it won a first prize in the American Film Festival (visual essays category). More collaborative projects with other artists include: New York Moonglow, a 30 minute ballet written for the Elisa Monte Dance Co., and "ToDay", a work based on the life of Billie Holiday and written for Festival Ballet Providence. Misha Djuric, choreographer. Virgin Mother Creatrix, an a cappella choral work with original poetry by Sharon Mesmer, was commissioned by Indiana University of Pennsylvania and premiered in March, 1998 at the International Festival of Women Composers at the university where Kolb was the featured composer.
From 2001-04, Barbara Kolb was composer-in-residence in Providence under the auspices of a Meet The Composer New Residencies grant. Her constituents were Festival Ballet Providence, WaterFire Providence, and the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
In addition to her creative responsibilities, she founded and directed a new music series, VIBE OF THE VENUE, performing works by Rhode Island composers and invited artists from the U.S. and abroad. Also, in 2004 Barbara was recognized as one of "four outstanding women of the year" presented by the YWCA of greater Providence. In 2005 she was one of three composers to receive a prestigious MacColl/Johnson Fellowship ($25,000), administered by the Rhode Island Foundation in its inaugural year. Also, in 2005 she was the recipient of the 2005 Indiviidual Artist grant in Music Composition awarded by the RI State Council for the Arts. Subsequent RISCA grants in the same category were awarded to her in 2008, 2012, and 2014.
Barbara Kolb's music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.