Carl Schimmel



For the sixth year, audience members at the Underwood New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. The winner this year is composer Carl Schimmel, for his piece Two Variations on Ascent into the Empyrean. As the winner, Carl has been commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which will be available to everyone who voted, free of charge.

“Bravo, Carl–I thought your piece was quite a ride and I am glad the audience thought so too!”
-Kevin Puts

“Yay, Carl! Yay, audience! Great choice as Carl’s piece was appealing and beautifully colorful.”
-Gabriela Lena Frank

“Carl Schimmel is a masterful orchestrator and it was very exciting for the musicians to perform his work at the Underwood Readings”
-George Manahan

Carl Schimmel

Carl Schimmel is a composer based in Iowa and Illinois. Praised by The New York Times as “vivid and dramatic,” his recent music is dense with literary and musical references, often humorous, and combines intensity of expression with a structural rigor which draws upon his mathematics background. In infusing his music with extra-musical influences such as poetry, art, and even unusual words, he strives to construct nexuses of experience which reflect both the inner life of emotions and the outer physical world which shapes us and is shaped by us.

Winner of Columbia University’s Joseph Bearns Prize and the Lee Ettelson Award, Schimmel has received honors and awards from many organizations, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, New Music USA, and ASCAP. His works have been performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, Severance Hall in Cleveland, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, and at other venues throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. He has received performances and commissions from the California EAR Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, North/South Consonance, saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Lucy Shelton, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and many others. A graduate of Duke University (Ph.D.), the Yale School of Music (M.M.), and Case Western Reserve University (B.A. Mathematics and Music), he is currently Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.

Two Variations on Ascent into the Empyrean – Rocketship:


In the Composer’s Own Words:
Two Variations on Ascent into the Empyrean
is a pair of short orchestral movements inspired by my children’s artwork. The drawings, for me, reflect the children’s fascination with the immensity of our world and provide a glimpse into the immensity of the worlds inside their minds. Both transport us into the heavens – the Empyrean – and beyond. But while Thora enters this realm via a small golden portal, Otto is propelled skyward by the colossal power of a rocket, leaving in his wake a spectacular rush of fire and smoke. Two Variations on Ascent into the Empyrean was composed for and premiered by conductor Glenn Block and the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra.


“Rainbow for Mama, with Door” (Thora, at age 3 yrs. 9 mos.)

“Rainbow for Mama, with Door”
(Thora, at age 3 yrs. 9 mos.)

 “Rocketship and Blast-off Fire” (Otto, at age 3 yrs. 11 mos.)

“Rocketship and Blast-off Fire”
(Otto, at age 3 yrs. 11 mos.)