The Riggs Blog

Allen Shawn, Award-Winning Composer and Author, to Deliver Keynote Address at Alumni Reunion 2013 on Saturday, September 28, 2013

An award-winning composer, Allen Shawn uses music as way to explore the world and discover hidden feelings. He has been composing since the age of 10. “I would feel an appetite to create music that would fill a particular shape. Melodies would come to me easily when I sat down to compose, as if they had been there all along but had been drowned out by the din of life.” After receiving his BA from Harvard University, Shawn studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He earned an M.A. in music from Columbia University, and later joined the faculty of Bennington College as a composer and professor of music.  

As an author, his first written work was Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey, about the 20th century Austrian composer, which won the 2003 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. In 2007 he wrote his memoir, Wish I Could Be There: Notes From a Phobic Life, in which he explored the roots of his own emotions. As he delved deeper into his past, he realized how central to his life his twin sister Mary was. This realization inspired a second memoir in 2010, Twin devoted to Shawn’s relationship with Mary, who at the age of eight was diagnosed with autism. Writing Twin helped Shawn to connect with Mary in ways he could not while growing up, while also acknowledging "the built-in distance between her reality and ours, the unfathomable inaccessibility of her way of experiencing things."

In addition to these books and to his large catalogue of music, Shawn has also published essays in The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, The Musical Times and The Times Literary Supplement. He is currently completing a book about Leonard Bernstein.

For a deeper look into Allen Shawn’s work, read the book reviews in the New York Times of Twin and Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life

Reunion is open to all current and former patients, current and former staff members and current and former Board members of Riggs. Register online and take a look at the preliminary schedule of events! More information on Reunion events is available in our online Alumni Community (register here) or by contacting Janet Hiser, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at janet.hiser@austenriggs.net or 413-931-5333.

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