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10 Questions for Maria Schneider / theartsdesk

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The acclaimed composer, arranger and bandleader on beauty, risk-taking and the ongoing struggle for creative rights

Maria Schneider is one of the luminaries of contemporary jazz. The composer, arranger and bandleader, together with her 18-piece orchestra, first came to prominence in 1994 with the release of their debut recording, Evanescence. Blazing the crowdfunding trail as ArtistShare's first release, Concert in the Garden (2004) made history as the first recording to win a Grammy with online-only sales, while "Cerulean Skies" from Sky Blue (2007) picked up another Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition. Featuring the soprano Dawn Upshaw, Schneider's song cycle Winter Morning Walks (2013) garnered a remarkable three wins in the classical category of the 2014 Grammy Awards, making Schneider one of only a handful of artists to succeed in both jazz and classical categories. 

A long list of commissions ranges from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Kronos Quartet, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to collaborating with David Bowie on his 2014 single Sue (Or In A Season of Crime). In 2012, her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, awarded her an honorary doctorate. Schneider has become a strong voice for music advocacy, testifying last year before the US Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property about digital rights. She has also spoken out against Spotify and streaming on CNN. Schneider's latest release, The Thompson Fields, celebrates both a reunion with her orchestra and its composer's love of her childhood home in Windom, southwest Minnesota. She talks to theartsdesk about the new album, the importance of pure expression, and the struggle to sustain a career in the face of online piracy.   READ THE Q&A