Program Biography

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel, “one of the most original voices of American music” (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram), has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. Recently named Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, he is also Director of Copland House's emerging composers’ institute Cultivate. Having just concluded a four-year tenure as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, he is serving as composer-in-residence at the Mannes College of Music. Bermel 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--”In the hands of a composer less assured, all that globe-trotting would seem like affectation; Bermel makes it an artistic imperative." (San Francisco Chronicle) -- 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. 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, and 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." The Boston Globe wrote, "There doesn't seem to be anything that Bermel can't do with the clarinet." His many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, American Music Center's Trailblazer Award, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and Cary Trust; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri. His discography features three critically-acclaimed discs: an all-Bermel orchestral recording that features the Grammy-nominated performance of his clarinet concerto Voices, (BMOP/sound); Soul Garden, a disc of his small ensemble/solo music (New World/CRI); and his most recent disc, Canzonas Americanas, with Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe). Bermel made his Cabrillo Festival debut in 2013, conducting his Dust Dances, and served as composer-in-residence at the Bowdoin Festival. Recent and upcoming are appearances at the International Beethoven Festival in Chicago; and Hyllos, his evening-length collaboration with The Veenfabriek and Asko | Schönberg Ensemble, which premiered the Netherlands; performances and recordings with the JACK quartet and Music from Copland House ensemble; and his Migration Series with the Princeton Chamber Symphony and Juilliard Jazz Orchestra.