A piano piece by Ashlee Mack ’03 and James Romig was a Pulitzer Prize finalist


From a trailhead in Everglades National Park to concert halls and museums throughout the Midwest, pianist Ashlee Mack ’03 has made Still, a composition by her husband, James Romig, a staple of her repertoire.

Mack played the piece’s premiere in 2017 and in more than 20 concerts since, which made April’s announcement that Still was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music particularly exciting. “We hadn’t collaborated on a project in a long time,” Mack says. “We were stunned, to say the least.”

Still draws inspiration from the works of American artist Clyfford Still and his stark, massive canvases. Since giving the premiere at Western Illinois University, where Romig teaches, and recording it at Knox College, where Mack is the director of piano studies, she has played it in U.S. National Parks and at the Denver museum that bears Still’s name.

Ashlee Mack
Photo: James Romig
Ashlee Mack ’03 and her husband were recognized as one of the 2019 finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

The 55-minute-long piece is a flowing stream of glinting harmonies, creating a placid yet restless soundscape. “The first performances were all about endurance and concentration,” Mack recalls. “I had never played for an hour without a break before.”

Mack was drawn to contemporary music during her first year at Bucknell, and with the guidance of Professor Lois Svard, music, she has made the 20th- and 21st-century repertoire her focus as a soloist and, with Katie Palumbo ’04, in the Khasma Piano Duo. They will tour a program of French music, with works by Boulez, Debussy and Messiaen, in 2020.

As more performances of Still crop up, Mack won’t have to wait long for another collaboration with Romig: Replicas, a piano concerto commissioned by Iowa’s Waterloo-Cedar Falls Orchestra, premieres in November.

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Watch and listen to Mack play Still.