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Something Unique

ROOMFUL OF TEETHCentral Jersey Entertainment
By Anthony Stoeckert

The word “unique” is tossed around so liberally that its true meaning gets lost. But the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth truly is unique, in a unique sort of way.

The group was founded five years ago by Brad Wells, and performs music written specifically for its members. In fact, the groups says the pieces it performs cannot be sung by any other group.

"They are written specifically for our voices,” says Roomful of Teeth member, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. Of her own piece, she says, “it’s specifically for this group, so it couldn’t be done, not only by any other instrumental ensemble, but by any other vocal ensemble that exists in the world.”

That piece is the “Partita for 8 Voices,” which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music. It was written by Ms. Shaw, an alto in the group and a graduate student at Princeton University. Her Partita is the first strictly a cappella work to win the Pulitzer, and Ms. Shaw is the youngest winner of the Pulitzer for music. Earlier this month, her win was followed up by Roomful of Teeth’s Grammy win for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.