Musical America established its Musician of the Year award in 1960, recognizing many of the foremost artists of our time. The four categories of composer, conductor, instrumentalist, and vocalist were added in 1991 due to the expansion of the classical-music community in the intervening years. Ensemble, accompanist, and educator awards were subsequently established.
“For the world beyond Tan Dun’s Hunan village, the process of discovery has worked in two ways. As Tan himself finds his place in the musical realm of Bach, Beethoven, and John Cage, worldwide audiences are discovering a richness in authentic Chinese musical sources that goes far beyond the sing-song choruses of Turandot and Ravel’s cracked teacup. Tan has been particularly skillful in blending authentic presences East and West without blurring their original nationalities. He has done this, furthermore, over a wide variety of musical forms: in serious operas like the 1996 Grawemeyer-winning Marco Polo (with a text by British-born critic Paul Griffiths), the massive, hour-long “symphonies” to celebrate the unification of Hong Kong with China and to proclaim the universal meaning of the Millennium.”
— Musical America Profile, Alan Rich