Featured U-M Composers

WILLIAM BOLCOM, an American composer and pianist, joined the faculty of the UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance in 1973, and is now a professor emeritus. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his Twelve New Etudes for piano; won multiple Grammy Awards for his groundbreaking setting of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience; and was presented with the National Medal of Arts by the President of the United States.

A prodigy, Bolcom began composition studies at the age of 11. He went on to study with such famed composers as Darius Milhaud, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Olivier Messiaen, but emerged with his own distinctive voice, embracing an eclecticism of musical styles that evoke American popular music and balance contemporary classical and popular elements. Over the course of his career, Bolcom has written violin sonatas, symphonies—eight for orchestra, one for symphony band—operas, string quartets, concertos, film scores, piano rags, and an extensive catalogue of chamber and vocal works. An accomplished pianist, he has performed and recorded his own work.

“Mr. Bolcom’s music moves with a suave assurance that serves comic and dramatic impulses equally well; he has an extraordinary facility for weaving the harmonic accents of blues and jazz into more formal and complex structures.”—The New York Times

MICHAEL DAUGHERTY, on the faculty of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance since 1991, is one of the most frequently commissioned, programmed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. His music is rich with cultural allusions and bears the stamp of classic modernism, with colliding tonalities and blocks of sound. At the same time, his melodies can be eloquent and stirring. Daugherty has been hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear.”

Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony, inspired by Superman Comics, at Carnegie Hall in 1994. Since that time, Daugherty’s music, reflecting his love of American pop culture—with titles like Jackie O, Dead Elvis, and Niagara Falls—has entered the orchestral, band, and chamber music repertoire and made him, according to the League of American Orchestras, one of the ten most performed living American composers.

“A composer of his time and birthright ... the musical embodiment of Americana and an exuberant master of his craft.” —The Los Angeles Times



Composer KRISTIN KUSTER “writes commandingly for the orchestra,” and her music “has an invitingly tart edge” (The New York Times). Kuster’s music takes inspiration from architectural space, the weather, and mythology. Recent CD releases include Breath Beneath on the PRISM Saxophone Quartet’s New Dynamic Records CD “Breath Beneath,” and Lost Gulch Lookout on the NAXOS CD “Millennium Canons: Looking Forward, Looking Back” by the UGA Wind Ensemble. Her music has received support from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Sons of Norway, American Composers Orchestra, the League of American Orchestras, Meet The Composer, the Jerome Foundation, the American Composers Forum, American Opera Projects, the National Flute Association, and the Argosy Foundation. Born in 1973, Kuster grew up in Boulder, Colorado. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan, where she now serves as Assistant Professor of Composition.

“The unquestionable highlight of the evening, however, was Kristin Kuster’s Myrrha, a lush and visceral work for orchestra and amplified voices …” —Sequenza 21



BRIGHT SHENG, the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, is widely regarded as one of the foremost composers of our time, with stage, orchestral, chamber, and vocal works performed regularly throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Called “a fresh voice in cross-cultural music,” his compositions draw from late 20th century contemporary classical movements as well as the folk music of his native China and the surrounding Silk Road region.

Named a MacArthur Fellow in 2001, Sheng began piano studies with his mother at the age of four. He studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music before moving to New York City in 1982. As a student at Tanglewood, he met Leonard Bernstein, who became his mentor. Among his recent honors: he received a special commission from the White House to create a new work honoring the visiting Chinese premier; he was among the composers chosen by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Committee to write music for the opening ceremony; and he was appointed the first composer-in-residence for the New York City Ballet.

Sheng also maintains an active career as a conductor and concert pianist and frequently serves as music advisor and artistic director to orchestras and festivals.

“Bright Sheng ... has a penchant for treating traditional instruments of the orchestra in non-traditional ways that today’s generation of young musicians find stimulating and challenging. And his rhythmic vocabulary will keep everyone (the audience included) on their toes...” — Sequenza 21

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