Pulitzer (1847-1911) bequeathed $2 million in his will to establish a
graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University (currently the
site where the Pulitzer announcements are made each April). The
Pulitzer Prizes were created with part of this money and were first
awarded in 1917.
The first Pulitzer Prize in music was awarded in 1943. Although he had a passion for music, his will did not call for a prize in that area, but only a scholarship for a music student. Instead, he bequeathed $500,000 to the New York Philharmonic Society--an amount equal to the entire Pulitzer Prize bequest. In 1943 the Pulitzer Board converted the scholarship to a prize. The requirements were stated:
"For distinguished musical composition in the larger forms of chamber, orchestral, or choral work, or for an operatic work (including ballet), first performed or published by a composer of established residence in the United States, Five hundred dollars ($500)."
The first recipient was William Schuman for his "Secular Cantata No. 2: A Free Song" for full chorus of mixed voices, with accompaniment of orchestra. Beginning in 1980, the list of Finalists for each year was also made public.