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Notable Alumni in the Arts

Tan, Dun (1957 - )
Composer, Conductor

Dun began his career with the Peking Opera and in 1978 won one of 30 coveted spots in the newly reopened Central Conservatory in Beijing. Dun is most popular for his nineteenth-century-influenced score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won Dun an Academy Award and a Grammy. Dun's compositions include the operas Marco Polo (1996) and Peony Pavilioni (1998); Symphony 1997, a choral work commemorating the return of Hong Kong to China; and original music for A World Symphony for the Millennium, broadcast by the BBC. Dun's style combines avant-garde, indigenous, Eastern and Western influences. He was named one of The New York Times' Musicians of the Year in 1997; he has earned the Glenn Gould Prize in Music and Communication, an Emmy Award, and a Grawemeyer Award. Learn more.

Tharp, Twyla (1941 - )

Tharp studied under Martha Graham, Igor Schwezoff, Barbara Fallis, and Merce Cunningham before debuting with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963. She served as the American Ballet Theater's lead choreographer from 1988-1991 and founded her own company in 1965. Tharp is known for her use of classical, jazz and modern techniques. She has won commissions from the New York City Ballet and the Martha Graham Dance Company, and has choreographed for Broadway and film. Standout works include "Cutting Up," a 1991 collaboration with Mikhail Baryshnikov, the films Hair (1978) and Ragtime (1980), and her 1985 staging of Singin' in the Rain, which enjoyed 367 performances on Broadway and an extensive national tour. Tharp was honored with a Tony Award in 2003 for Movin' Out, her collaboration with Billy Joel. Among other awards are two Emmys and the 2004 National Medal for the Arts. Learn more.

Tobias, Tobi (1938 - )
Critic, Writer

Tobias has led two careers-one as a writer of children's literature and another as a distinguished dance critic. She edited criticism for Dance magazine for more than a decade and has served as dance critic at New York Magazine since 1980. She has contributed to the Lincoln Center Library Dance Collection's oral history project and the PBS series Dance in America and Live from Lincoln Center. The Order of the Dannebrog knighted Tobias for her writing and oral history on the Royal Danish Ballet. Tobias's novels for children include A World of Words (1999), Serendipity (2000) and Wishes for You (2003). Learn more.

Tower, Joan (1938 - )

Tower grew up in South America, which she credits as making her keenly aware of rhythm. In 1969, in the United States, she helped form the Da Capo Chamber Players, with whom she performed for 15 years. In 1972, she joined the faculty of Bard College, where she still teaches. Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1976), the Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composers (1998), and the Grawemeyer Award (1990). She has been commissioned to write works for leading orchestras and musicians, and she was composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony (1985-88). Tower's orchestral works include Sequoia (1981), Silver Ladders (1986), and For the Uncommon Woman (1992). Her concertos include Homage to Beethoven (1985) and Rapids (1996), and notable chamber music includes Breakfast Rhythms I and II (1974-75), Black Topaz (1976), and Petroushskates (1980). She has also composed for the stage. Learn more.

Tower, Wells (1973 - )
Fiction Writer

Wells Tower's short stories and journalism have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Washington Post Magazine, and elsewhere. He received two Pushcart Prizes and the Plimpton Prize from The Paris Review. His most recent book of short stories, Everything Burned, Everything Ravaged, was published in March, 2009 by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux and immediately received widespread praise. In the words of New York Times Book Reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, "Mr. Tower has a magnetic eye for the nasty and the weird." He divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. Learn more.

Tresnjak, Darko (1968 - )

While Darko Tresnjak was a graduate student at Columbia, his mentor, Andrei Serban, encouraged him to pursue the lesser-known gems of the theater repertoire. The Yugoslavia-born director followed Serban's advice, and has become nationally renowned for wrestling with neglected plays-"bruised beauties," as he calls them-to develop their potential. Currently the Artistic Director of San Diego's Old Globe Shakespeare Festival, he won the Theater Communications Group's 2001 Alan Schneider award for excellence in directing. TCG describes a typical Tresnjak production as "nonrealistic, with strong storytelling, often encompassing myth or fable." Learn more.

Trilling, Lionel (1905 - 1975)
Writer, Critic
'25CC, '26MA, '38PhD

Trilling's long academic career at Columbia included being the first tenured Jewish professor in the University's English Department. He was popular on campus for his humor, wit and commitment to undergraduates; among his students were Allen Ginsberg, John Hollander and Norman Podheretz. Trilling was equally renowned for his criticism, illuminating the interaction of society, the artist and art, and appealing to both the scholar and general reader. His most famous volume of essays was the 1950 The Liberal Imagination. Another collection of essays is entitled The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent. Trilling contributed to and edited such journals as The Partisan Review and The Kenyon Review. He published one novel, The Middle of the Journey, about an affluent Communist couple, in 1947. Among his honors were Columbia's Mark Van Doren Award, the Brandeis University Creative Arts Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more.

Truong, Monique (1968 - )

Truong, who specialized in intellectual property at Columbia Law School, went on to focus on her writing career. Her first novel, The Book of Salt, was a national bestseller and won her the 2003 Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, and the Young Lions Fiction Award, among others. Learn more.

Tyler, Anne (1941 - )

Tyler, who cites former Columbia student Eudora Welty for showing her "that very small things are often really larger than the large things," has earned consistent critical acclaim. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, an examination of a twenty-eight-year marriage, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Morgan's Passing won a National Book Critics Circle award nomination (1980), the Jane Heidinger Kafka Prize, and an American Book Award nomination. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982) won a National Book Critics Circle nomination, an American Book Award nomination, the Pen/Faulkner Award, and Pulitzer Prize nomination. The Accidental Tourist (1985) garnered a National Book Critics Circle award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and was adapted to a film starring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in 1988. Recent novels include The Amateur Marriage (2004) and Digging to America (2006). Learn more.

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