Artistic Leadership Refresh
Derek Bermel Named Artistic Director
Derek Bermel has been named ACO's new Artistic Director, becoming the top composer in ACO's artistic leadership. Meanwhile, conductor George Manahan has renewed his commitment as Music Director, with a new five-year contract.
Bermel has been ACO’s Creative Advisor since 2009, and succeeds composer Robert Beaser who has been served as an artistic leader with ACO since 1993.
Departing Artistic Director Robert Beaser has dedicated over twenty years to the orchestra, and will continue as ACO’s Artistic Advisor Laureate. Executive Director Michael Geller said, “ACO and the entire community of composers owe a great debt to Bob. He has been a key member of ACO’s artistic team for over 20 years, and helped shape programs during the tenures of three ACO principal conductors. His work in launching and guiding our New Music Readings for 22 years has provided mentorship and career-building experience to over 100 young composers. I am thrilled that Bob will continue to play an integral role on ACO's board, as artistic advisor laureate."
Derek also just finished his residency at the Institute for Advanced Study, and as Director of Copland House's Cultivate. Bermel, an "eclectic with wide open ears" (Toronto Star), has become recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer.
Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language, in which the human voice and its myriad inflections play a primary role. Bermel first came to ACO's attention as a participant in the Whitaker Emerging Composers Readings with his piece Dust Dances in 1994. ACO has provided Bermel with numerous commissions and premieres including his first professional orchestral commission, and his Carnegie Hall debut, with his clarinet concerto Voices, which premiered in 1998; the commission and premiere of A Shout, A Whisper, and a Trace (2009); Elixir (2006); and The Migration Series with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which premiered to sold-out audiences in 2006. Bermel was ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence from 2006-09 and later joined ACO's board and became the orchestra's Creative Advisor in 2009.
Among his major accomplishments, Bermel excels at programming the innovative Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall which has reinvented and reinvigorated the orchestra with dozens of premieres featuring new technology, multidisciplinary collaborations, and new influences not often encountered in the symphonic concert hall; and SONiC, Sounds of a New Century Festival (2011) that featured 21st century music by 120 emerging composers. Bermel has also been active in several of ACO's composer development initiatives including serving as a mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings and EarShot programs, and serving as an artist-faculty member for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute.
In addition to his commissions from American Composers Orchestra, he has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri String Quartet, Music from Copland House and Music from China, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), violinist Midori, electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans among others. Bermel's clarinet playing has been hailed by The New York Times as "brilliant," “rhythmically fluid, rich-hued" and "first-rate."
Music Director George Manahan, who joined ACO in 2010, said of his five-year renewal with the orchestra, “Nothing could make me happier than to be continuing as Music Director of ACO. For me the work is one of constant discovery and enjoyment. In no other conducting job do I get to explore so much new work. It certainly keeps me on my toes! And the ACO musicians are phenomenal. Nowhere else have I experienced the level of collaboration, commitment and experience that our players bring to new music. I can't wait to see what surprises next season brings.”
In addition to his work with ACO this season, Manahan continues his commitment to working with young musicians as Director of Orchestral Studies at the Manhattan School of Music as well as guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Manahan was Music Director at New York City Opera for fourteen seasons. There he helped envision the organization’s groundbreaking VOX program, a series of workshops and readings that have provided unique opportunities for numerous composers to hear their new concepts realized, and introduced audiences to exciting new compositional voices. In addition to established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert X. Rodriguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour, through VOX Manahan has introduced works by composers on the rise including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David T. Little.
In May 2011 Manahan was honored by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his “career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time has enriched and enabled Concert Music both at home and abroad.” His recent Carnegie Hall performance of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra was hailed by audiences and critics alike. The New York Times reported, “the fervent and sensitive performance that Mr. Manahan presided over made the best case for this opera that I have encountered.”
George Manahan’s wide-ranging recording activities include the premiere recording of Steve Reich’s Tehillim for ECM; recordings of Edward Thomas’s Desire Under the Elms, which was nominated for a Grammy; Joe Jackson’s Will Power; and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline. His enthusiasm for contemporary music continues today; he has conducted numerous world premieres, including Charles Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang’s Modern Painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner. As music director of the Richmond Symphony (VA) for twelve years, he was honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his commitment to 20th century music.