Maria Schneider, born in Windom, Minnesota, was studying music by age
five. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in theory and composition
at the University of Minnesota, studied at the University of Miami, and
received a Masters degree from the Eastman School of Music. After
moving to New York City, she received a National Endowment for the Arts
grant to study composition with the legendary trombonist and
composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer.
In 1985 she became an assistant to famed arranger and Miles Davis
collaborator Gil Evans. Her work with him included assistance for the
movie 'The Color of Money,' and Sting’s 1987 European tour. At the 1993
Spoleto Music Festival and the 1996 JVC New York Jazz Festival, Maria
conducted the Gil Evans Orchestra in a concert of selections from 'Miles Ahead,' 'Porgy & Bess,' and 'Sketches of Spain.'
In 1994 she was commissioned to write music for and conduct concerts
with Toots Thielemans and the Norrbotten Big Band (Sweden). Maria and
Toots continue to work together with various orchestras in Europe. She
has also conducted the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, Bohuuselan Big Band
(Sweden), the UMO Orchestra (Finland), the Espoo Big Band (Finland), the
Blechschaden Big Band (Germany), the Sunday Night Orchestra (Nurmberg),
the Danish Radio Big Band, the Metropole Orchestra (Holland), Orchestre
National de Jazz (Paris), Jazz Balitca (Germany) and the Cologne and
Frankfurt Radio Orchestras in concerts of her music as well as for
various television and radio broadcasts.
In 1994 Maria conducted the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra at Carnegie
Hall in the commissioned premier of 'El Viento.' She was commissioned to
compose 'Scenes From Childhood' premiered by her own orchestra at the 1995
Monterey Jazz Festival. Her orchestra has given televised performances
at the opening of the 1995 Macau International Music Festival and the
1996 Berlin Jazz Festival. Maria was the recipient of a Doris Duke
award to compose a dance work for the Pilobolus dance group. The
project premiered at the American Dance Festival in June of 1998.
Maria has placed in several of the 'Downbeat' and 'JazzTimes' Critics and
Reader’s Polls. The 1997 Critics Poll placed her seven times, including
first place Arranger and first place Talent Deserving of Wider
Recognition in Composer and Arranger categories. Her orchestra placed
second, and her album 'Coming About' placed amongst the best Jazz albums
of the year.
The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra performed at Visiones in Greenwich
Village every Monday night for five years in the mid-'90s, establishing
themselves as one of the finest larger ensembles in Jazz. They have
also performed in Macau, Brazil, and extensively in Europe. Maria’s
debut recording 'Evanescenece' was nominated for two 1995 Grammy Awards:
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance, and for its title piece, Best
Instrumental Composition. She was a nominee for Copenhagen’s Jazzpar
prize in 1995. Her second recording, 'Coming About,' released in June of
1996, received five stars from 'DownBeat' and was also nominated for a
Grammy Award. Maria received the Critic’s Choice – Best Composer Award
at the 1996 Jazz Awards at Lincoln Center.