Composer Derek Bermel
Begins 3-Year Residency
Derek Bermel has been named ACO’s Music Alive Composer in Residence. Bermel is a unique figure in American music today-a masterfully eclectic composer, clarinetist, jazz and rock musician-who boasts a decade-long relationship with ACO, beginning with his participation in ACO’s 1994 New Music Readings and continuing with his Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 as soloist in his clarinet concerto Voices. The residency will utilize the full range of Mr. Bermel’s talents, through commissioned works, performances, educational programs of his own design, and outreach activities. Bermel will play a lead role in curating ACO’s innovative new “Orchestra Underground” series and category-crossing “Composers Out Front” concerts, and in developing collaborative programs, including a new initiative with Jazz at Lincoln Center.
ACO’s Artistic Director, Robert Beaser, says, “Derek is an extraordinary composer with an engaging world view, a singular voice in American music today. The residency will not only bring Derek’s expansive vision directly to the orchestra, but will also allow him to ‘spread his wings’ as a musical citizen, educator, and trendsetter. I am thrilled that ACO will be able to tap his creativity, passion, and innovative thinking.” New York Newsday has said, “The American composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel recalls the much earlier model of virtuosos such as Rachmaninoff and Kreisler.”
The residency runs three years, and commences officially this May. ACO patrons will be introduced to Mr. Bermel in preview, as part of ACO’s spring gala Monday, April 10 at Tribeca Rooftop in lower Manhattan.
Commissions & New Collaborations
Bermel’s residency kicks-off on May 3, 2006 when ACO premieres his new work Elixir at its season-finale concert at Carnegie Hall. Bermel seductively calls Elixir “a spectral love potion,” reflecting influences as varied as Charles Ives, Gesualdo, John Lennon and the Isley Brothers. True to its sprit of romance, the piece uses strings and harp as its core with wind players serenading from the balcony. Elixir was commissioned for ACO by esteemed music patron Betty Freeman, and co-commissioned by the Westchester Philharmonic, Paul Lustig Dunkel, music director.
Bermel’s residency is also the impetus for a new collaborative initiative for ACO: joint concerts with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. For these programs, scheduled for November 2006, Bermel is writingHarmonica, a major new work that will combine the forces of a symphony orchestra and jazz big band.
Mr. Bermel will play a central role in ACO’s programming, serving as curator and artistic advisor to the orchestra’s Orchestra Underground series. Designed for the state-of-the-art Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Orchestra Underground challenges conventional notions about symphonic music, embracing multidisciplinary and collaborative work, diverse influences, novel instrumental and spatial orientations of musicians, new technologies and multimedia. The series develops new repertoire, and provides fertile working ground for artists who have not traditionally had access to the orchestral ensemble. Since its launch two seasons ago, Orchestra Underground has reached new audiences and played to sold-out houses.
Bermel will also program the orchestra’s Composers Out Front series, which puts composers on stage, making connections between their musical roots as performers and their works for the concert hall. Launched in 1999, the series has featured composers whose experiences include concert music as well as jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, improvisation and music from a variety world cultures. Performances are held at informal and alternate music venues, expanding and diversifying ACO’s audiences, and providing connections with the performances ACO gives at Carnegie Hall.
Education & Outreach
The residency also allows ACO to take advantage of Bermel’s exceptional talents as teacher and communicator, to educate, build relationships with existing audiences, and attract new listeners.
Bermel will help to strengthen ACO’s educational and professional development offerings. He will participate in school workshops through ACO’s innovative “Music Factory” program, teaching New York City school children about music by creating their own. Bermel will also serve as mentor in ACO’s annual Underwood New Music Readings, a program that provides emerging composers with the rare career-development opportunity to work with a professional orchestra. In the second year of the residency, Mr. Bermel will develop a new adult-education composition class that will engage even those with only a basic knowledge of music in the process of composing. The composition class curriculum will be built on the groundbreaking curriculum of the program that Bermel designed for The New York Youth Symphony.
Described by the Toronto Star as “an eclectic with wide open ears”, Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity and theatricality as a composer and his virtuosity and charisma as a performer. Known for drawing freely from a rich variety of musical genres – including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, and gospel – he filters the sounds of the world through his own musical palette, crafting a singular artistic vision. From the complex Bulgarian melodies in Tied Shifts, to Irish bagpipes coupled by Led Zepplin inspired riffs in Voices, Bermel infuses his music with the rhythms and inflections of myriad folk traditions while maintaining a sophisticated and distinctive style of orchestration, harmony, and counterpoint.
As a composer of concert music, Bermel currently serves as the 2006-2009 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence of the American Composers Orchestra, curating its ongoing series Orchestra Underground: Composers Out Front. His most recent work The Migration Series written for ACO and Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was praised by both classical and jazz critics alike. His commissions include works for the National, St. Louis, Pacific, and New Jersey Symphonies, Westchester Philharmonic, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York Youth Symphony, eighth blackbird, WNYC radio, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), pianist Christopher Taylor, and cellist Fred Sherry. His premiere CD of chamber music, Soul Garden, was released last season to critical acclaim. “A superb album of consistently winning chamber works that demonstrate how a brilliant musical vagabond…” (Sequenza 21)
As clarinetist, he has appeared throughout the U.S. and Europe, including recitals in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Detroit, Jerusalem, The Hague, and Paris, and radio broadcasts on both sides of the Atlantic. He has premiered dozens of new works including his clarinet concerto Voices, which created a sensation at the Carnegie Hall premiere, and which he has since performed with the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, and others. In 2007, he will return to the LA Philharmonic as guest soloist performing John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons with the composer conducting. Bermel is also the founding clarinetist of Music from Copland House and co-artistic director of the Dutch-American interdisciplinary ensemble TONK. In addition, he rocks it with his Brooklyn-based band PEACE BY PIECE as bandeader/singer/ songwriter. His upcoming musical Golden Motors – written with librettist Wendy S. Walters – will be produced in fall 2007 by Music Theatre Group. Bermel’s many awards include the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Faber Music, and residencies at Tanglewood, Banff, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, and Aspen. To learn more about Derek Bermel, visit www.derekbermel.com.
The residency of Derek Bermel is made possible through Music Alive, a program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer. This national program is designed to provide orchestras with resources and tools to support their presentation of new music to the public and build support for new music within their institutions. Funding for Music Alive is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.