Composer Julia Wolfe ( is the Andrew W. Mellon Arts and the Common Good Artist-in-Residence for 2016-2017 at Drew University. Wolfe, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow ( and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. In works such as Anthracite Fields, Steel Hammer, and a current project commissioned by the New York Philharmonic based on the role of women in the New York garment industry, she combines music composition with oral history and archival research into the lives and struggles of American workers.

During the Spring 2017 semester, Wolfe will co-teach a seminar, ART 270/MUS 260: Special Topics in Documentary Expression, with Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Soderholm. She will also partner with Professor of Economics Jennifer Olmstead on the New York Semester on Social Entrepreneurship ( Wolfe is currently organizing a one-day Symposium on Documentary Art: Poetic Histories, to be held in Drew’s Concert Hall 2-5PM on 9 April 2017.

As part of Wolfe’s residency, the Music Department will host a three-day residency on 24-26 April 2017 with the ensemble Wolfe co-founded, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, ( that will culminate in the group’s performance of Wolfe’s 2009 evening-length chamber work, Steel Hammer, in the Concert Hall. In this work, Wolfe draws on over 200 versions of the John Henry ballad and references the folk music traditions of Appalachia. She and the Bang on a Can All-Stars will be working with students, professors, and various groups on campus during the residency and throughout the year.

For more information, contact Julia Wolfe ( or Leslie Sprout, (, Associate Professor of Music and chair of the Music Department.


Julia Wolfe/Bang on a Can Residency, April 2017

All events listed below will take place in the Concert Hall in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts on the Drew campus and are free and open to the public. Seating available on a first come, first served basis. Individuals needing assistance should contact the Office of Housing, Conferences and Hospitality at 973.408.3103 at least five working days prior to the event to ensure appropriate arrangements.

Monday 24 April
7-9PM Steel Hammer – An Inside Look: A Discussion with Julia Wolfe and the Bang on a Can All-Stars on the Making of Steel Hammer
In this lecture-demonstration, Julia Wolfe and the Bang on a Can All-Stars will perform music and discuss the building of this new work, which explores the quintessential American worker ballad John Henry and its implication for labor history then and now. Q&A following the talk.

Tuesday 25 April
1:15-3:45PM Open Reading of Student Works (ART 270/MUS 260: Special Topics in Documentary Expression, co-taught by Julia Wolfe and Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Soderholm) and Q&A with the musicians

Wednesday 26 April
3:30-6:30PM Open rehearsal for 8PM concert, plus Q&A with the musicians

8PM: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer