One of the foremost living U.S. composers. She has been active for more than 50 years as a composer, a pianist (founding member and from 1969–1984 pianist in the Da Capo Chamber Players), conductor, and teacher. She earned her doctorate at Columbia University.
In 1990 Tower became the first woman to receive the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. Her Made in America was recorded by Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony and received three Grammy Awards in 2008, in the categories Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance.