Joan Tower (BardCorps)

Joan Tower (BardCorps)


Download Childhood in Bolivia.mp3 (872 KB)

Download Greenwich House Music School, college life, and forming the Da Capo chamber group.mp3 (990 KB)

Download Growth of the music department.mp3 (3.1 MB)

Download Transition from playing to composing music.mp3 (2.0 MB)

Download Process of titling her pieces.mp3 (1.5 MB)

Download Process of composing music.mp3 (1.5 MB)

Download Influence on Bard’s music curriculum.mp3 (835 KB)

Download Changing character of Bard students over time.mp3 (1.3 MB)

Download Why are you still teaching?.mp3 (950 KB)

Download Where do you see your music fitting into the landscape in the future?.mp3 (1.5 MB)

Download Joan Tower Headshot.JPG (873 KB)

Interviewee Role


Years Active

1972 - Present

Significant Quote

"To me, it’s not just an education: it’s making a whole life in music. It’s not getting a degree. It’s providing a huge future of ‘this is what I want to do, this is what I love to do, this is what I want to spend my time doing’ kind of thing.”


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Academic Program



Anna Hallett-Guttierez, '21; Helene Tieger, '85


Joan Tower began her teaching career at Bard College in 1972, a few years prior to Leon Botstein assuming his role as president of the college. “I’m eighty-two now,” she says proudly, “still teaching, still composing.” Her rich life preceding this fifty year commitment to Bard involved learning music in Bolivia as a young child, piano instruction at Greenwich House Music School, and over a decade of working with the Da Capo Chamber Players. Musical education is the golden thread woven into the fabric of Joan’s career, characterizing her unique approach to crafting sound. As an instructor, composer, performer, and conductor, she understands that students “learn more by making [music] than by reading about it.” Joan’s influence on the curriculum has been sculpted by this philosophy, alongside her enduring passion as an educator who is living what she preaches.

Bard was once a “totally different scene.” She has witnessed the expansion of the music program since the 70s–a time when students commonly referred to Annandale House (the music building that preceded Experimental Humanities Center) as “Motel on the Hudson”. Joan recounts changes in physical infrastructure, faculty, gender dynamics, and even the character of Bard students. Her style of teaching has evolved, as well: “I think of myself now as a choreographer of sound/novelist/architect.” Joan’s “organic” workflow has not only rewarded her with far-reaching success, but enriched the lives of countless students. This interview is a testament to Joan’s personable character, lively curiosity, groundbreaking music and dedication to her craft.


Joan Tower, Anna Hallett Gutierrez '21, Helene Tieger '85, Bard College Conservatory of Music, Bolivia, Bard College, Larchmont, New York, La Paz, Bolivia, South America, Inca, Chopin, Europeans, Bennington College, De Capo Chamber Players, Columbia University, Greenwich House Music School, Carnegie Hall, Hudson River, Annandale House, Brook House, Bard Hall, Olin Hall, Fisher Center, Luis Garcia Renart, Leon Botstein, Blum Gallery, Laszlo Bito '60, Richard Teitelbaum, Benjamin Boretz, Eli Yarden, Janet Wheeler, Arthur Boroughs, Sarah Rothenberg, Adolf's, Down the Road, United States, Title IX, Renee Louprette, Pat Spencer, Jeff Preslaff, Brahms, Debussy, Laura Flax, San Francisco, "Wings", Beethoven, Leonard Slatkin, Halifax, Canada, Pierre Boulez, Kamala Harris, Presidential Inauguration, COVID-19 Pandemic, Joe Biden, Mars, Rite of Spring, Aaron Copeland, Appalachian Spring, Beethoven's 7th, Olivier Messiaen, Quartet For The End Of Time, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Red Hook



Interview Date


Interview Duration


Joan Tower (BardCorps)