Pulitzer Prize Goes Hollywood in Music Category

The Pulitzer Prize (search) music judges, hoping to encourage a broader range of entries from American composers, may soon be saying hooray for Hollywood — and all that jazz.

Administrators of the prestigious awards announced Monday they have decided to expand the criteria for the music prize, starting with entries for 2004.

In a typical year, about 75 percent of the music entries have been for orchestral pieces, works with instrumental soloists and chamber music, said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism (search).

Now, the Pulitzer Board, which has been awarding the music prize for 61 years, wants to hear more from the world of jazz, musical theater and movies.

"We feel good about the prize; it's done a lot of good work through the years," said Gissler. "But we feel that we should broaden the prize a bit so that we can be more assured that we are getting the full range of the best of America's music, especially as the forms change, the categories erode, and composers move from one form to another."

Among the changes: The composition of the five-member jury pool is being altered to include musical performers or presenters, in addition to composers and a critic. Also, entrants no longer must submit a score of a work performed for the first time in the United States during the year. A recording will be accepted, although scores are still "strongly urged." The Pulitzer Board hopes this will level the playing field for improvisational works, such as jazz.

Eminem (search) and Madonna (search), however, need not submit entries.

"The main thing is we're trying to keep this a serious prize. We're not trying to dumb it down any way shape or form, but we're trying to augment it, improve it," Gissler said. "I think the critical term here is 'distinguished American musical compositions.'"

The first music award was issued in 1943, 26 years after the first Pulitzer for journalism was handed out. Honored composers include Aaron Copland for "Appalachian Spring," Virgil Thomson, Gian Carlo Menotti and Wynton Marsalis.

Thomson's Pulitzer, in 1948, was the only one for a movie score, "Louisiana Story," (search) but the film was a documentary rather than a big Hollywood production. Menotti's first Pulitzer, in 1950, was for "The Consul," a musical drama that appeared on Broadway. (Seven Broadway musicals have won in the drama category, most recently "Rent" in 1996.)

Marsalis won his Pulitzer in 1997 for "Blood on the Fields," (search) a jazz oratorio.

"That's the only piece in the jazz realm that won," Gissler said. "And usually we don't get the submissions (from jazz), maybe one and sometimes none."