Thomas Kitt Wins Pulitzer for "Next to Normal"

This May, Thomas Kitt (IAC 90) received a Pulitzer Prize for his work as composer and co-orchestrator for Broadway musical drama, “Next to Normal.” This most recent recognition comes on the heels of two Tony Awards in 2009 for “Best Score” and “Best Orchestration.” Kitt is now serving as the musical supervisor and arranger for the new Green Day musical, “American Idiot” on Broadway. His first Broadway show, “High Fidelity,” premiered in 2006. He is also performs with his own group, the Tom Kitt Band.  

Kitt’s career has frequently intersected with those of other Interlochen alumni. Over the past few years Tom has collaborated with Barrett Foa (IAC 92-95) on various projects. Tom Hulce (IAC 66-67, IAA 69-70) is the producer of the new Green Day musical “American Idiot.”

Crescendo: Can you share your thoughts on winning the Pulitzer? The Tony?

TK: It is hard to describe how it feels to win both the Pulitzer and Tony award. It is something you dream about. As an artist, you aspire not only to have a career and sustain it, but to be encouraged by your peers and told that the work you are doing matters. It is the greatest compliment to find yourself on a list with the same people who inspired you to become an artist in the first place. To hear my work mentioned alongside “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Rent,” “South Pacific” and “A Chorus Line,” to name a few … the feeling is beyond words.

Growing up, did you aspire to what you are now doing? Or something else?

I had a brief period where I wanted to play first base for the New York Yankees, but I gave that up rather quickly. In all seriousness, I think I always knew I wanted to be a musician, especially because I started playing the piano when I was four years old, but I had a few different aspirations along the way. At first I wanted to be a classical pianist. Then I wanted to be a singer-songwriter like Billy Joel or Elton John. It wasn't until college that my wife introduced me to Brian Yorkey, my collaborator on “Next to Normal” and we started writing shows together.  

Do you have any thoughts or advice you would like to share with composers and musicians who aspire to the same kinds of success that you have already achieved?  

I think the best thing someone once told me is that you need to do something for your art every day, whether it is writing something, or meeting with someone who might be a potential collaborator, or going to see something that might inspire you, or simply practicing your instrument. It is so easy to get frustrated and bogged down by the difficulties of getting anywhere in this business, so you have to always be serving yourself as an artist and feeding your creative heart so you always feel in it and vital. And never be afraid to learn something from someone.  There is always something to learn.

What are your long-term goals?

Having been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with so many of my musical influences and heroes, you realize how much work, sacrifice, and drive it takes to not only find a career, but sustain one. And for everyone who has had a long career in this business, there are ups and downs. My long term goal is simply to spend years experiencing those ups and downs, and to keep writing and finding projects that inspire me. If I can look back years from now with a body of work that feels full and inspired, I will be immensely gratified.