Composer Portraits

2016 Composer Portrait: David Amram


David-AmramDavid Amram started his professional life in music in the early 1950s playing French horn in the legendary jazz bands of Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton. Appointed by Leonard Bernstein as the first Composer-in-Residence for the New York Philharmonic in 1966, he also composed the scores for the films Pull My Daisy (1959), Splendor In The Grass (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).  He composed the scores for Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare In The Park from 1956-1967 and again worked with Papp on the comic opera 12th Night in 1968.  He also wrote a second opera, The Final Ingredient, An Opera of the Holocaust, for ABC Television in 1965.  From 1964-66, Amram was the Composer and Music Director for the Lincoln Center Theatre and wrote the score for Arthur Miller’s play After The Fall (1964).

A prolific composer for over 50 years, his most recent symphonic compositions include This Land, Symphonic Variations On A Song By Woody Guthrie (2007), commissioned by the Guthrie Foundation and recently performed by the Colorado Symphony with Amram conducting and recorded by Newport Classics in 2015; Giants of the Night (2002) commissioned and first premiered by flutist Sir James Galway; Kokopeli, A Symphony in Three Movements (1995), premiered by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra with Amram conducting; and Three Songs, A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009).

davidamram_liveatpianoHe has also collaborated as a composer with Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ormandy, Langston Hughes and Jacques D’Amboise and as a musician with Thelonious Monk, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Betty Carter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Paquito D’Rivera and Tito Puente. In 1957, he created and performed in the first ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York City with novelist Jack Kerouac, a close friend with whom Amram collaborated artistically for over 12 years.  Since the early 1950s, he has traveled the world extensively, working as a musician and a conductor in over 35 countries including Cuba, Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan, Israel, Latvia and China.  He also regularly crisscrosses the United States including annual sojourns to Lowell (Massachusetts), Okemah (Oklahoma), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Denver, Colorado, as a featured performer at musical and literary festivals.

Amram is the author of three memoirs all published by Paradigm-Routledge Press, Nine Lives of a Musical Cat (2009), Collaborating With Kerouac (2005) and the highly acclaimed Vibrations (1968, 2007).  His archive of professional and personal papers were recently acquired by the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts Branch of the New York Public Library. And, he was recently the subject of the full length feature documentary David Amram: The First Eighty Years, which is available on Vimeo On Demand.

In 2011, Amram was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame as recipient of the The Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2013 he was presented with Clearwater’s Pete and Toshi Seeger Annual Power of Song Award.  And in 2015, The Theater For The New City honored him with their annual Love and Courage Award.  In recognition of his enormous achievements and continuing contributions to the cultural life of New York, Brooklyn College presented David Amram with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.


2015 Composer Portrait: Nico Muhly

Nico-Muhly2Nico Muhly is a composer of chamber music, orchestral music, sacred music, opera, ballet, and music for collaborators across a variety of fields. He has composed on commission from St. Paul’s Cathedral and Carnegie Hall, and has written choral music for the Tallis Scholars and the Hilliard Ensemble, songs for Anne Sofie von Otter and Iestyn Davies, an encore for violinist Hilary Hahn, and a viola concerto for Nadia Sirota.

The Metropolitan Opera recently commissioned him to compose Marnie for its 2019-2020 season, based on Winston Graham’s 1961 novel that was adapted into an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Muhly has scored ballets for choreographer Benjamin Millepied and films including The Reader and Kill Your Darlings, in addition to arranging music by Antony & the Johnsons, Björk, Grizzly Bear, and the National. His debut CD Speak Volumes (2007) was the first of many collaborations with the artists of Reykjavik’s Bedroom Community label, and with singer/songwriter Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), he is half of the gamelan-inspired song project Peter Pears. He lives in New York City.


2014 Composer Portrait: Nathaniel Stookey

gs-stookey-portraitwebIn partnership with The Walden School, a summer music camp in Dublin, NH, Nathaniel Stookey will be the first NHMF composer-in-residence in a new concert series called Composer Portraits.

First commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony at age 17, Nathaniel Stookey has gone on to collaborate with many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Manchester’s venerable Hallé Orchestra, where he was composer-in-residence under Kent Nagano.

Stookey’s concerto for two violins and strings, Double, was commissioned to represent the year 1999 in the millennial Festival of 999 Years of Music in Sheffield, England, and has since been released on Albany records. In 2006, the San Francisco Symphony commissioned, premiered, and recorded The Composer Is Dead, a sinister guide to the orchestra with narration by Lemony Snicket.

“Having created a furor in the United States” (Hamburger Abendblatt), the work has since been performed by over 100 orchestras on four continents, and according to BBC commentator Norman Lebrecht, is one of the five most performed classical works of the 21st century, worldwide.

His latest orchestral work, Mahlerwerk, commissioned by NDR-Sinfonie (Hamburg) for the final concert of their centennial Mahler cycle, was premiered under Christoph Eschenbach before an audience of 10,000. The Schleswig-Holsteiner Zeitung describes this “crazy puzzle” as an “intelligent, musically very appealing, even exhilarating homage to Gustav Mahler.”

Stookey’s most recent work, String Quartet No. 3 ‘The Mezzanine’ — commissioned and premiered by the Kronos Quartet in 2013 — received critical acclaim for its “wealth of puckish inventions, including an offbeat rhythmic groove that morphs into a tenderly sardonic waltz, and a slow hymn whose harmonies grow and expand in surprising directions” (San Francisco Chronicle).