Brooklyn College Distinguished Professor Emeritus Tania León has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for her work “Stride.” The piece was commissioned as part of the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Project 19, a multi-season initiative featuring 19 female composers—the largest women-only commission in history—to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

The Pulitzer Prize is among the country’s most distinguished and is awarded for a musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year. León will receive $15,000 as part of the award, but she says the honor means more to her.

“Everything that happens big for me brings me back to my initial times and the fact that my family, even with little means, did everything possible for me,” says the Cuban-born artist, who cried when she found out about her award late last week after a colleague congratulated her. “It’s a big recognition from my colleagues and something I will cherish. I hope that my sounds can contribute to the canvas of sounds in the Americas.”

The Pulitzer jurors called her piece “a musical journey full of surprise, with powerful brass and rhythmic motifs that incorporate Black music traditions from the U.S. and the Caribbean into a Western orchestral fabric.”

“As a professor and director of music composition in Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music, Tania León helped nurture our talented students for decades, and has left an extraordinary musical legacy on our campus,” said Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson. “We are proud that the world is now celebrating her incredible composition, ‘Stride,’ a timely salute to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. On behalf of the Brooklyn College extended family, I congratulate Professor León on this tremendous achievement.”

León began teaching at Brooklyn College in 1985 and went on to become the director of music composition in the Conservatory of Music of Brooklyn College, and in 2006, a CUNY distinguished professor. She retired in 2019.

She is currently the vice president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Music Division, the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, and sits on the board of directors for the MacDowell Colony and the New York Philharmonic.