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NEWS: Jocelyn Hagen Wins The American Prize in Composition for Test Pilot

A rehearsal photo from the 2016 revival of Jocelyn Hagen and Penelope Freeh’s dance opera Test Pilot.

Composer Jocelyn Hagen’s opera Test Pilot has been awarded The American Prize in Composition’s First Place award in the opera/theater/film/dance category, professional division. This honor comes some three and a half years after the work premiered at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, as part of the O’Shaughnessy Women of Substance Series. The piece was previously awarded a Sage Dance Award in 2015 and reprised at the O’Shaughnessy theatre in Fall 2016, as part of a 6-city tour across Minnesota.

Test Pilot featured six vocalists, four dancers, a string quartet, projections by Justin Schell, choreography by Penelope Freeh – and, of course, the score by Hagen. Freeh and Hagen co-created the overall work. Its story is a varied exploration of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight from the perspective of their sister (and airplane building partner) Kathryn, interspersed with personal narratives from the creators’ lives.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to win The American Prize,” said Jocelyn Hagen. “The birth of flight is a timeless story centered on human ingenuity and creativity, and my collaborator Penelope Freeh and I loved telling the story in an abstract
way through the eyes of Kathryn Wright, Orville and Wilbur Wright’s sister.”

Hagen is a native of Valley City, North Dakota and a current resident of Plymouth, MN. She holds a Bachelor’s in Music Theory, Composition, and Vocal Music Education from St. Olaf College, and a Masters degree in Composition from the University of Minnesota.

Co-creator Freeh is a contemporary ballet dancer and choreographer whose honors include a McKnight Fellowship for Choreographers and SAGE awardee for Outstanding Performer. Freeh and Hagen previously collaborated on 2012’s Slippery Fish.

Hagen was not the only Twin Cities resident to figure in the competition; Minneapolis-based composer Basil Considine was named a semi-finalist in the same division for The Frat Party, which also had its Minnesota premiere in 2014.

Hanne Appelbaum