CU Boulder music professor named finalist for 2016 Pulitzer Prize

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BOULDER, Colo. -- An associate music professor at the University of Colorado has accomplished something most will never have the chance to do.

Carter Pann has been named a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in music. The prestigious award is handed out once a year for special achievement in journalism, literature and music.

Pann did not win the top prize, but his name does appear next to the winner’s as a finalist.

He began playing the piano when he was very young and said he did not enjoy it until he was about 10 years old. He continued to play the piano through high school when a music teacher suggested he write music instead.

“I mean, a composer was like, those were the old graying sort of, the old dead guys from 200 years ago,” Pann said.

He went on to earn a doctoral degree in music composition and began teaching at CU in 2005. He said he loves music even though it has been a difficult and demanding career choice at times.

“You kind of just pass by a lot of experiences that most people have and cherish,” he said.

A couple of years ago, Pann said he was inspired to write a six movement piece of music called “The Mechanics: Six from the Shop Floor” after watching a saxophone quartet called Capitol Quartet perform.

“I actually almost tackled them after a performance I heard,” he said.

The group agreed to let Pann write a piece for them. “The Mechanics” is what he came up with. It is the first saxophone quartet music he has attempted, and he admits, although he likes it, he does not think it is his best work.

“No actually,” he said. "I don’t think of it that way.”

He doesn’t, but the committee for the Pulitzer Prize in music disagrees. “The Mechanics” was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist, etching Pann’s name in history.

“It’s really magnificent. It’s cool,” he said. “Needless to say it was very unexpected.”

Most prizes for music are awarded to orchestra arrangements and opera pieces. Very rarely are Pulitzers given to small chamber works like saxophone quartets.

Pann said he does not know why his music stood out to the judges this year, but he said the accomplishment reminds him why he has stuck with it for so long.

“I want to do this. I love to do this,” he said.

Pann said being named a Pulitzer finalist motivates him to keep writing. He plans to submit again for the Pulitzer Prize until he wins it.

Here are the six movements that make up “The Mechanics: Six from the Shop Floor”: