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Newark Native, William Paterson University Alum Wins Pulitzer Prize for Music


By: Richard L. Smith

According to officials from William Paterson University, Mr Tyshawn Sorey, a 2004 graduate of their jazz studies program, has been awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in music.VaccineSorey received this prestigious honor for his composition "Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)." 

A multi-talented musician renowned for his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, composer, ensemble leader, and conductor, Sorey has gained international acclaim for his innovative approach in both improvisational and experimental music genres.

Over his career, William Paterson University officials confirmed in a statement that he has released 13 critically acclaimed albums and performed globally with his ensembles. 

Newark The Pulitzer Prize in music, awarded for distinguished musical compositions by Americans performed or recorded in the U.S. within the year, recognized Sorey's work for its unique quality.

The Pulitzer committee highlighted "Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)" for its introspective nature and complex textural range.

Premiered on March 16, 2023, at Atlanta Symphony Hall, this 21-minute saxophone concerto pays a quietly intense homage to American trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith, Sorey's mentor.

Newark Raised in Newark, New Jersey, RLS Media has learned that Sorey is a product of Newark's Arts High School, where he studied under Dr. Oscar Petty. He is now heading the music department at Cicely Tyson Performing Arts High School.

He completed his bachelor of music degree in jazz studies at William Paterson University before continuing his education at Wesleyan University, where he received a master of arts degree, and Columbia University, where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree.

Known for his reluctance to categorize his music, Sorey consistently blurs the lines between different musical genres, emphasizing a unique artistic identity, according to William Paterson University officials. 

Currently, Sorey serves as a presidential assistant professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania, where he joined the composition faculty in 2020.

His groundbreaking work and contributions to music continue to be recognized on the world stage, bringing honor to his roots and his alma mater.

NOTE: Journalist Mr. Richard L. Smith is a graduate of William Paterson University’s Communications Department and retired educator at Arts High School.