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Windom native earns top recognition in jazz

Maria Schneider (left) was recently awarded the Jazz Journalist Association's 2013 Jazz Composer-Arranger of the Year award. (Submitted Photo)1 / 2
Maria Schneider, formerly of Windom, conducts the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during the recording of her latest CD, "Winter Morning Walks." (Submitted Photo)2 / 2

WINDOM -- Two-time Grammy winner and Windom native Maria Schneider has once again been recognized for her work by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), which gave Schneider the 2013 Composer-Arranger of the Year award. Coming on the heels of the release of her latest CD, "Winter Morning Walks," Schneider continues to make a name for herself in the jazz world.

The JJA is a professional organization of journalists that promotes "the best use of media of all kinds -- new and old, online and off -- to tell the story of jazz," according to its website. Every year the association votes on the top jazz vocalists, instrumentalists, ensembles and composers.

"They are very kind to me with their recognition, and it was very nice of them to give me this award again," Schneider said, explaining that the composer-arranger award used to be two separate awards, both of which she has received in the past.

The winners were announced last week and will be recognized in a ceremony in June, Schneider said.

Schneider usually writes for jazz orchestra, and her music "is a little difficult to categorize. It's jazz and includes influences by classical and world music," she said.

However, "Winter Morning Walks," was commissioned by classically trained soprano Dawn Upshaw.

"The thing I love about this woman's voice is that she isn't a soprano that is over the top and operatic. She is very human and really takes great care to express the words. When you hear her sing, I always feel that it's a very maternal person telling me a story," Schneider said of Upshaw.

Schneider wrote two works for Upshaw that are both included on the CD, one of which is performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the other by the Australian Orchestra. Each work contains multiple pieces.

Schneider drew from the poems of poet laureate Ted Kooser for the lyrics of each of the works.

"Ted is an insanely beautiful poet. His poetry is everything he wants it to be as great poetry, but part of what he wants is accessibility for the person listening," Schneider said.

Kooser is originally from Ames, Iowa, and Schneider said Kooser's words led her as she wrote the music.

"Normally the inspiration is coming from myself, from my inner world. In this case, the music really came from Ted's poetry, and from me in the way that I take his poetry in my life and world and attach the meaning of the poetry to myself," she said.

Kooser wrote the poems used in "Winter Morning Walks" while he was fighting cancer, and Schneider was worried that the music she wrote wouldn't honor what he felt. It wasn't until she received an email from him praising her work that she "realized how much I took on that burden of not wanting to harm his poetry."

With the blended influence of Upshaw, Kooser, Schneider and all the musicians included in the project, the end result is a mixing of styles and backgrounds.

"This piece feel like a combination of worlds mingling," Schneider said.

While Schneider has lived in New York for more than 30 years, she still draws from her childhood on the prairie in southwest Minnesota for inspiration.

"For a lot of artists, it is that way, wherever you're from, it makes an impact because your first experiences in life are attached to at. For me, something about that land, the drama of the weather, the light, the sky and the realness of the people is something that I still love," she said.

Schneider attributes part of her connection with Kooser to their mutual respect and love for the prairie.

"There is a simplicity on the surface of the landscape in this area, but it's actually very exotic -- the light and everything," she added.

"Morning Winter Walks" was funded through, a website that connects artists with fans to share the creative process and fund new artistic works.

"When (people) buy through my website, they can download the CD and then log in and see additional content from the CD, like interviews with the producers," Schneider added.

To buy "Winter Morning Walks" or for more information about Maria Schneider's work, visit her website,

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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