Anna Weesner


Dr. Robert Weiss Professor of MusicDepartment Chair


Room 304, LERNER CENTER/6313



Playing the flute in the New Hampshire Youth Orchestra as a teenager was a formative experience for Anna Weesner, nourishing a love of music that began with Suzuki method violin lessons at the age of five. Composition was a natural discovery in high school and college for the daughter of a fiction writer and a music teacher. Anna maintains a lifelong relationship with the radio and the presets in her car are heavy on pop. Her recent output includes a set of songs called My Mother in Love, commissioned by Cygnus Ensemble for which she wrote music and text, and The Eight Lost Songs of Orlando Underground for clarinet quintet commissioned and premiered by the Lark Quartet with Romie de Guise-Langlois. Recent performances include the 2021 premiere of Where Songs Go at Night by the UMass Wind faculty, Cygnus Ensemble’s 2018 performance of My Mother in Love with soprano Tony Arnold at Symphony Space in New York, the Daedalus Quartet’s 2017 performance of The Space Between at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Riverside Symphony’s 2016 performance of Still Things Move in Alice Tully Hall.

Winner of the 2018 Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music as well as a 2008 Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a 2019 Independence Foundation Grant, she is also the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2002 Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe (declined), and a 2003 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has been in residence at MacDowell, the Virginia Center, Weekend of Chamber Music, Songfest, Seal Bay Festival, the Wellesley Composers Conference, Fondation Royaumont in France, at the American Academy in Rome as a visiting artist, and Civitella Ranieri as a Director’s Guest. Her music has been performed by the Daedalus Quartet, the Lark Quartet, the Cypress Quartet, the Cassatt Quartet, Prism Saxophone Quartet, Dolce Suono Ensemble, Peggy Pearson and Winsor Music, Counter)Induction, Cygnus Ensemble, Tony Arnold, Dawn Upshaw and Richard Goode, Eighth Blackbird, Network for New Music, Orchestra 2001, the American Composers Orchestra, the Riverside Symphony, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the New York Virtuoso Singers, Metamorphosen, Gilbert Kalish, Judith Kellock, Mary Nessinger, Jeanne Golan, Scott Kluksdahl, Open End, Melia Watras, and has been featured at Tanglewood, the Look and Listen Festival, and the Portland Chamber Music Festival, among others. Her music has been recorded on CRI, Albany Records, and XAS.

Weesner’s music has been described as “animated and full of surprising turns” (New York Times, Oct. 10, 2003), as “a haunting conspiracy” (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 2001) and cited as demonstrating “an ability to make complex textures out of simple devices” (San Francisco Classical Voice, March 27, 2001).  John Harbison has written that “none of it proceeds in obvious ways.  Her vocabulary is subtle and rather elusive; the effect is paradoxically confident and decisive.” She studied at Yale (B.A.) and Cornell (D.M.A.) and is Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania.



Research Interests


New work for Network for New Music, voice and ensemble, Harbison project, pending, 2012-13.

New work for string quartet and percussion for the Lark Quartet and Yousif Sheronick, pending.


Courses Taught

Undergraduate Courses:

  • Music 0160: Freshman Seminar: Being Moved by Music in America
  • Music 1450: Songwriting
  • Music 1700: Introduction to Theory:  Making Sense of Music
  • Music 2700: Music and Musicianship I
  • Music 2710: Music and Musicianship II
  • Music 1999: Independent Study in Composition, for undergraduates
  • Music 3660: Performance, Analysis, and a History
  • Music 3740: Composition for Musicians

Graduate Courses:

  • Music 6230: Composing With Performers
  • Music 6700: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches
  • Music 7210: Composition, graduate level
  • Music 7200: Composition Seminar
Selected Publications


The First Letter, for three singers, flute, clarinet, cello, percussion, commissioned and premiered by Orchestra 2001, Sept. 2009.

Lift High, Reckon—Fly Low, Come Close, for violin, cello, piano; commissioned by Open End, premiered in New York, May, 2009.

Flexible Parts, for viola and piano; commissioned by violist Melia Watras, to be be premiered (October 28, 2008) and subsequently recorded.

Third Quartet; commissioned by the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, premiered August 19, 2007, Newburyport, MA; Nurit Pacht, Neli Nikolaeva, violins, David Yang, viola, Caroline Stinson, cello.

Mother Tongues, for voice, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, was commissioned by Network for New Music; a setting of four haiku by Sonia Sanchez, premiered March, 2006, as part of The Poetry Project. 

The Nearness of Things, for solo violin, for Veronica Kadlubkiewicz; premiered June, 2005, Paris, France.

Forthcoming on Albany Records, Lift high, Reckon; five chamber works by Anna WeesnerPossible Stories, Caroline Stinson, cello, forthcoming on Albany Records.Flexible Parts, Melia Watras, viola, Kim Russ, piano, forthcoming.Distant Heart, for voice and piano, The Berg-Debussy Project, by Mary Nessinger and Jeanne Golan, Albany records.


CV (url)