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Jeanine Tesori

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Jeanine Tesori

Siena Rafter

Barnard College

Michael Rafter


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Nights in Rodanthe, Twelfth Night

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Lisa Kron, David Lindsay‚ÄĎAbaire, Dick Scanlan, Michael Cerveris, Beth Malone

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Jeanine Tesori (born November 10, 1961, known earlier in her career as Jeanine Levenson) is an American composer and musical arranger. She is the most prolific and honored female theatrical composer in history, with five Broadway musicals and five Tony Award nominations. She won the 1999 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in a Play for Nicholas Hytner's production of Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center and the 2004 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music for Caroline, or Change, and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Original Score for Fun Home (shared with Lisa Kron), making them the first female writing team to win that award.


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Her major works include Fun Home, Caroline, or Change, Shrek The Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Violet.

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Early life and education

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Her first foray into theatre was seeing Godspell Off-Broadway at the Promenade when she was fourteen. She said of the event that she felt "someplace where there's something happening, and I don't want to be anywhere else."

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She is a graduate of Barnard College, with an initial major in pre-med but she changed her major to music.


Tesori made her Broadway debut when she arranged the dance music for the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In 1997 she composed the score for the Off-Broadway musical Violet, for which she won an Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and arranged the music for the Johnny Mercer revue Dream, which she repeated with the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music and the 1999 revue Swing! She also served as associate conductor for the Broadway productions of The Secret Garden and The Who's Tommy.

In 2000, Tesori joined forces with lyricist Dick Scanlan to write eleven new songs for a stage adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie. A successful run at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego resulted in a transfer to Broadway in 2002, and Tesori was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Original Score and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music.

Tesori has collaborated with Tony Kushner three times. In 2004 she supplied music for the sung-through musical Caroline, or Change, which garnered her a second Tony nomination for Best Original Score. In 2006 she wrote incidental music for Kushner's new translation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, which was produced as part of the 2006 Shakespeare in the Park season staged at the Delacorte Theater by The Public Theater. In the summer of 2011 their opera A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck premiered at Glimmerglass.

Tesori has composed music for the films Nights in Rodanthe, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Shrek the Third, Mulan II, and The Emperor's New Groove 2: Kronk's New Groove.

Tesori wrote the music for Shrek the Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2008 and for which she earned both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her music.

In 2011, she wrote the music to Fun Home with a book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, and based on the memoir by Alison Bechdel. The show was overseen by Philip Himberg while being workshopped at the Sundance Institute's 2011 Theatre Lab at White Oaks Lab in Yulee, Florida. It was previously developed during the 2009 Ojai Playwrights Conference. It opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater on October 17, 2013 and sold out through November 4, 2013, with numerous extensions until it closed there on January 12, 2014. Following the successful Off-Broadway run it transferred to Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre, with previews beginning on March 27, 2015 and an official opening on April 19, 2015. Tesori and Kron won the Tony Award for Best Musical for Fun Home, marking the first time an all female composing team won.

Tesori is the artistic director of a new concert series of Off-Broadway musicals, "Encores! Off-Center". The first season, in July 2013, included The Cradle Will Rock, I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, and Violet.

Her new opera, The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me, had its world premiere in a production by the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center in December 2013. The libretto is by J. D. McClatchy, based on the children's book by Jeanette Winterson and was directed by Francesca Zambello.

Personal life

She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. She lives with her husband, Michael Rafter, and their daughter, Siena, in Manhattan.


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