Lauren Bernofsky has written over eighty works, including solo, chamber, and choral music, as well as larger-scale works for orchestra, film, and ballet. With performances spanning the world, her music has been described as “fantastic,” “delightful,” “evocative and witty,” “brilliant,” and destined to “become standard repertoire.” She holds a master’s degree in composition from the New England Conservatory and a doctorate in composition from Boston University, and she has taught as a professor at the Peabody Institute. Her main composition teachers have been Bert Braud, Robert Carl, and Lukas Foss. Bernofsky strives to capture the unique expressive potential of each instrument, an approach that has made her work popular with musicians looking for new works to showcase their abilities. Her philosophy of composition is simple: music should be a joy both to play and to hear. Her music has been performed across the United States as well as in England, Wales, Canada, Germany, Spain, Norway, Iceland, Korea, New Zealand, and Australia. She is published by The FJH Music Company, Frank E. Warren Music Service, Dorn Publications, Hal Leonard, Grand Mesa, Alfred, and Boosey & Hawkes. Lauren Bernofsky’s music can be heard on the Polarfonia and Albany labels. She lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband, Christoph Irmscher, and their children, Nicholas and Julia. Biography courtesy of laurenbernofsky.com
As both a composer and a singer, Susan Botti’s eclectic background and experiences are reflected in her music. Whether in an orchestral or chamber setting, theatrical influences play a vital part in her musical expression. Awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize in Music Composition, Botti was in residence at the American Academy in Rome from 2005-2006. She was the 3rd Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow with the Cleveland Orchestra from 2003-2005. The orchestra premiered her work, Impetuosity (conducted by Roberto Abbado); and a new work, Translucence, was commissioned and premiered (conducted by music director, Franz Welser-Möst). Botti’s EchoTempo (for Soprano, Percussion & Orchestra) was commissioned and premiered by Maestro Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic (with Botti and Christopher Lamb as soloists). The European premiere of EchoTempo (with the same soloists under Maestro Gunther Herbig) occurred soon after in the “Music im 21. Jahrhudert” festival in Saarbrùcken, Germany. Other performances of this work include Ms. Botti as soloist with Maestro H.K. Gruber and the NPS Radio Orchestra in Utrecht, Holland, with percussionist Peter Prommel. A recent chamber music project, Gates of Silence, was a 3-part commission from the Blakemore Trio (Vanderbilt University) Ð works for violin & piano; piano trio; and piano trio plus soprano (Botti). Inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, this work incorporates poetry by National Book Award finalist, Linda Gregerson. This poetry, Dido Refuses to Speak, was awarded a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Gates of Silence was premiered in Nashville, and at Merkin Hall in NYC. A commission from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for solo violin and chamber orchestra, Within Darkness, was premiered at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center, with Martha Caplin as violin soloist. Botti’s Cosmosis (for wind ensemble, soprano soloist, and women’s voices) was commissioned by a consortium of universities, and premiered at Carnegie Hall, with conductor Michael Haithcock leading the University of Michigan wind ensemble and chorus, and the composer as soloist. Another consortium of university bands (NWECG) commissioned a new work for wind ensemble from Botti, Terra Cruda, which premiered in the 2011-2012 season, and which will be recorded by the Hartt Wind Ensemble for Naxos. A CD of Botti’s vocal chamber music, listen, it’s snowing, (New World/CRI) features her operatic soliloquy, Telaio: Desdemona (for soprano, string quartet, harp, piano & percussion). Called “striking emotional music…” (Opera Magazine), this work was commissioned by The American Artists Series of Detroit, and has been performed in New York City, Taipei, Detroit, Santa Fe, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. In addition to performing her own vocal works, Botti specializes in the performance of contemporary music by composers of diverse styles, including: Gubaidulina, Crumb, Kurtág, Cage, Chihara, Pintscher, Matheson, and Partch, among others. She was featured as a composer and singer on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series in a concert honoring Steven Stucky’s 20th anniversary as the LA Phil’s Composer in Residence. Composer/conductor Tan Dun created several major works highlighting her vocal and theatrical talents, including his Red Forecast for soprano and orchestra, which she premiered with the BBC Scottish Symphony and performed at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra. Tan Dun also wrote the role of “Water” for her in his internationally renowned opera, Marco Polo (Sony Classical), which she premiered at the Münchener Biennale, and subsequently performed in Europe and Asia, and at the New York City Opera. She can also be heard as vocal soloist in Tan Dun’s soundtrack for The Banquet. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Botti’s early training included studies in music, art, and theater. She received her Bachelor of Music from the Berklee School of Music; and her Masters in Music Composition from the Manhattan School of Music. Her vocal teachers included Hilda Harris, Drew Minter, Myron McPherson, and Nancy Armstrong. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and grants from Meet The Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, The NY Foundation for the Arts, The Greenwall Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, ASCAP, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. Botti was an Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (from 2000-2006). She is currently a member of the Composition faculty at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC (from 2006). Biography courtesy of susanbotti.com
Britten was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the son of a dentist and a talented amateur musician. He began composing prolifically as a child, and in 1927 began private lessons with Frank Bridge. He also studied, less happily, at the Royal College of Music under John Ireland and others. His first composition to attract wide attention was the choral variations A Boy was Born, written in 1934 for the BBC Singers. The following year he met W. H. Auden with whom he collaborated on the song-cycle Our Hunting Fathers, radical both in politics and musical treatment, and other works. More lastingly important was his meeting in 1936 with the tenor Peter Pears, who was to become his life partner and musical collaborator. In early 1939 the two of them followed Auden to America. Here Britten composed his first opera to Auden’s libretto and the first of many song-cycles for Pears; the period was otherwise remarkable for a number of orchestral works, including concertos for piano and violin, and the Sinfonia da Requiem. Britten and Pears returned to England in 1942, Britten completing the choral works Hymn to Saint Cecilia (his last collaboration with Auden) and A Ceremony of Carols during the long sea voyage. He had already begun work on his opera Peter Grimes, and its premiere at Sadler’s Wells in 1945 was his greatest success so far. Britten was however encountering opposition from sectors of the English musical establishment, and gradually withdrew from the London scene, founding the English Opera Group in 1947 and the Aldeburgh Festival the following year, partly (though not solely) to showcase his own works. Grimes marked the start of a series of English operas, of which Billy Budd (1951) and The Turn of the Screw (1954) were particularly admired. The role of Miles in the last named was created by the twelve-year-old David Hemmings with whom Britten, always drawn to young boys, became infatuated. The use of the boy’s voice as a symbol at once of innocence and temptation is a recurring motif in Britten’s music. Another influence was the music of the East, an interest fostered by a tour with Pears in 1957, when Britten was much struck by the music of the Balinese gamelan and by Japanese Noh plays. The fruits of this tour include the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas (1957) and the series of semi-operatic ‘Parables for Church Performance’: Curlew River (1964), The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966) and The Prodigal Son (1968). The greatest success of Britten’s career was, however, the musically more conventional War Requiem, written for the opening of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1962. In the last decade or so of his life Britten suffered from increasing ill-health and his late works are increasingly sparse in texture. They include the opera Death in Venice (1973), the Suite on English Folk Tunes ‘A Time There Was’ (1975) and the dramatic cantata Phaedra (1976), written for Janet Baker. Britten died of heart failure at his house in Aldeburgh, shortly after being made a life peer in 1976. One of Britten’s best known works is the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1946), which was composed to accompany Instruments of the Orchestra, an educational film produced by the British government. It has the subtitle Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, and takes a melody from Henry Purcell’s Abdelazar as its central theme. Britten gives individual variations to each of the instruments in the orchestra, starting with the woodwind, then the string instruments, the brass instruments and finally the percussion. Britten then brings the whole orchestra together again in a fugue before restating the theme to close the work. In the original film there was a spoken commentary, but this is often omitted in concert performances and recordings. Britten was also an accomplished pianist, and sometimes performed at the piano in chamber music or accompanying lieder. However, apart from the Piano Concerto (1938) and the Diversions for piano and orchestra (written for Paul Wittgenstein in 1940), he wrote very little music for the instrument, and in a 1963 interview for the BBC said that he thought of it as ‘a background instrument’. One of Britten’s solo works that has an indisputably central place in the repertoire of its instrument is his Nocturnal after John Dowland for guitar (1964). This work is typically spare in his late style, and shows the depth of his life-long admiration for Elizabethan lute songs. The theme of the work, John Dowland’s Come, Heavy Sleep, emerges in complete form at the close of eight variations, each variation based on some feature, frequently transient or ornamental, of the song or its lute accompaniment. Britten’s status as one of the greatest English composers of the 20th century is now secure among professional critics. In the 1930s he made a conscious effort to set himself apart from the English musical mainstream, which he regarded as complacent, insular and amateurish. Many critics of the time, in return, distrusted his facility, cosmopolitanism and admiration for composers, such as Mahler, Berg and Stravinsky, not considered appropriate models for a young English musician. Even today, criticism of his music is apt to become entangled with consideration of his personality, politics and sexuality. The publication of Humphrey Carpenter’s biography in 1992, with its revelations of Britten’s often fraught personal, professional and sexual relationships, has ensured that he will remain a controversial figure. For many musicians, however, his flawless technique, broad musical and human sympathies and ability to treat the most traditional of musical forms with freshness and originality places him near the head of composers of his generation. Biography courtesy of 8notes.com
Willian Bronk was an American poet, born 17 February 1918, died 22 February 1999. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and spent most of his life in his home in Hudson Falls, Washington County, New York. In 1981, when the University of New Hampshire began collecting Bronk, he had had ten books of poetry and three books of essays published by small presses, but he was still relatively unknown outside of the small world of the intelligentsia. Hugh Miller, a book seller in New Haven, Connecticut made the following statement about Bronk’s literary reputation: “Bronk’s first two books, LIGHT AND DARK (1956), published by Cid Corman’s Origin Press and THE WORLD, THE WORLDLESS (1964), published by New Directions, did not bring him a wide reputation. He mentions in one letter that he received only one warm response to LIGHT AND DARK, though that was from Charles Olson. Otherwise, the response was a disappointment to him. This and his own inclination toward solitariness have hampered the development of his reputation as a poet of national stature. He recounts at times in the letters a number of his dealings with publishers who proposed and then abandoned projects for bringing out books of Bronk’s work. It is only in the last ten years or so as Jim Weil’s Elizabeth Press has continuously published Bronk’s books that the nature and importance of his work has begun to be recognized. With the publication of his COLLECTED POEMS, the recognition of Bronk’s work will continue to grow.” Miller’s prediction was fulfilled in 1982 when Bronk won the American Book Award for Life Supports. In 1991 the poet was presented the Lannan Literary Award for poetry. In 1976 Cid Corman wrote a book analyzing Bronk’s poetry titled “William Bronk, An Essay”. Numerous articles have been written on Bronk, for such publications as The New York Times Book Review, Southwest Review, The Saturday Review and The Michigan Quarterly Review. Some quotes from some of Bronk’s reviewers will give a flavor of how he is received and respected by the literary community. In the “Times Literary Supplement” from 1971 Charles Tomlinson writes that William Bronk, “published LIGHT AND DARK with Origin Press in 1956, and since then has confirmed Corman’s and Creeley’s recognition of him as a very pure writer.” Mr. Tomlinson adds that William Bronk, is “one of the finest poets now writing in English.” Paul Auster in The Saturday Review said of Life Supports his work of collected poems, “William Bronk’s poetry stands as an eloquent and often beautiful attack on all our assumptions, a provocation, a monument to the questioning mind. It is a work that demands to be read.” The Southwest Review of Life Supports adds, “If Aristotle or Bernard Loengan wrote meditative verse, it would sound like William Bronk, only not as good. He is brilliant…he’s the metaphysical Eliot asked for, mind and guts one thing.” Sagetrieb, Talisman and Grossteste Review have each produced a special issue in Bronk’s name. William Bronk was born on February 17, 1918 at a house on Lower Main Street in Fort Edward, New York. He had an older brother Sherman who died young and two older sisters, Jane and Betty. William attended Dartmouth College, arriving there at the age of 16, and after graduation spent one semester at Harvard. Bronk served in World War II first as a draftee but later, after attending OCS, as an officer. He was discharged from the Army in October 1945 and started teaching English at Union College, Schenectady, NY. He left Union in June of 1946 and returned to Hudson Falls. There, during the later half of 1946, he completed work on The Brother in Elysium. In January 1947 Bronk took over management of the Bronk Coal and Lumber Company which he had inherited when his father died unexpectedly in 1941. It is not enough to say he was a genius, as surely he was. There is so much more. Some flavor of the man as a personality is gained when you consider that he has never had a drivers license, and has only driven a vehicle once, an Army Reconnaissance vehicle at an Army post in Virginia during World War II. Yet he was rarely in need of travel beyond where he could walk or ride his bike, and then taxi or bus or train sufficed. Bronk’s long time friend and lover, Laura B. Greenlaw of Fort Edward, NY, (who upon her death in April 1996, left many original Bronk works and letters to the University of New Hampshire) for many years was the driver for the pair. Bronk and Greenlaw had known each other since 1930. He went off to college and then the war, she married and he never did. After the death of her husband, Bronk and Greenlaw became lovers and remained so until Greenlaw’s death, but being the independent souls, they always maintained separate homes. He was an excellent cook and wine lover, had traveled extensively throughout Europe, South and Central America. His travels led him to Machu Picchu and then over the Andes to the Amazon in the 1950’s. His experiences from traveling, especially into South America, come out frequently in his poems and prose. He lived in a large Victorian house where he cooked on a coal stove. Artists and sculptors decorated his home and garden with their original works of art. His range of friends stretched over many literary, academic and scientific fields, and from twenty year olds to eighty year olds. He treated all people with gentleness, dignity and respect, and he loved a good conversation or piece of gossip. He assisted many a young person to get started in life with a helping hand, a needed loan or sage advice. He attended one semester of graduate school at Harvard and “decided I couldn’t take any more of that.” He taught English at Union College briefly and enjoyed it a great deal, but he knew he would need a graduate degree to go on with it. After his father died in 1941, he decided to return to the family business temporarily. He ended up staying more than 30 years. “I never planned it, but it worked out very well for me,” he said. He believed that if he had stayed in teaching, he never would have written anything worthwhile. He said he put so much energy into the teaching, that at the end of the day, nothing was left. On the other hand, he felt his years in the family business Bronk Coal and Lumber Co., worked out well for him, leaving him the creative energy to write and giving him the financial security to write what he wanted. “I never had to calculate the effect,” he said. He wrote without asking himself if the work would sell. “I could write what I wanted to write without worrying about all that.” He retired from the business in 1978. Bronk said that the poems were created in his mind as he went through the business of the day. When one was ready, he put it on paper, working in longhand rather than at a typewriter. As his manuscripts attest, he seldom rewrote, or even modified, a poem once written on paper. Biography courtesy of Famous Poets and Poems.com
Chandler Carter’s works — which include over 50 songs, choral, chamber and orchestral works and three operas — have been performed throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe by numerous distinguished recitalists and ensembles. He has received several awards and honors, including two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and prizes for his Mass, Symphony for Winds and Canticle I for tenor and orchestra. Carter is one of a select few composers to have two operas — Strange Fruit in 2003 and No Easy Walk to Freedom in 2009 — selected by New York City Opera for their annual VOX showcase of new works. The staged premiere of Strange Fruit in 2007 was hailed by critics as a “stunner of an opening performance” for Long Leaf’s inaugural summer festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Critics also applauded No Easy Walk to Freedom, as a “compelling musical recounting” of Nelson Mandela’s life that reveals the composer’s “true genius and courage.” The concert premiere of this opera in 2000 was featured at the Hofstra Cultural Center’s international conference “Contemporary Opera at the Millennium,” for which Carter served as co-director. No Easy Walk to Freedom received its fully-staged premiere at The Riverside Church in New York City in 2001. Carter is composing another staged-work, Mercury Falling for tenor and dancer, to be premiered at the 2009 Long Leaf Opera summer Festival.
Carter’s chamber music ranges from conventional ensembles to novel instrumental combinations and has been performed by numerous groups, including the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Quintet of the Americas , the Latin American Wind Quintet, Holzbläser, Galatea, the Hofstra String Quartet and Downtown Music Productions. Professional orchestras, including the Denver Chamber Orchestra and the Westchester Philharmonic, as well as student and community orchestras have programmed his music. His original choral music and choral arrangements are performed regularly by notable choruses, including the Riverside Choir in New York City. Chandler Carter is an associate professor of music at Hofstra University. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the City University of New York, where he studied with Thea Musgrave and David Del Tredici and received the 1995 Barry Brook award for best music dissertation. Carter also holds master’s degrees in composition and vocal performance from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina. He lives in New York City. Biography courtesy of chandlercarter.com
New York composer Jonathan David has eight world premieres scheduled during the 2011-12 season, five of these commissions: The Tightened String, a 9/11 memorial work for NYC’s Central City Chorus (Dec. 2011); a Stabat Mater for Carroll University (WI) (April 2012; Italian tour in May); Little Drops of Water for the Marble Collegiate Church Cherub Choir (May 2012); Gitchee Gumee, for baritone Daniel Neer and harp (April 2012) and Azrael, a song for Jay Barksdale to honor the 10th anniversary of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Foundation (Oct. 2011; UK premiere in June 2012). Cantaria, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Asheville premiered A Shepherd’s Nativity in December, 2011. The Young Men’s Chorus of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy will debut Ask Me No More in May 2012. David’s large-scale setting, The Hounds of Spring, will be premiered in May at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge by C4 and members of the amplified chamber music band, Fireworks Ensemble. The 2010-11 season featured premieres by the Juilliard Pre-College Chorus, Mountainside Master Chorale (CA), Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley, and the Shoreline Community Chorale (finalist in the “Celebrating Connecticut’s Composers” competition). Jonathan’s choral music has also been performed by the Princeton Singers, the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, the New York Treble Singers (commission) and the Thanks-Giving Foundation (commission) et al. He has served as Composer-in-Residence for The Greenwich Village Singers, Music Director for the chamber chorus, Howl!, and is a founding member of the pioneering new music group, C4, The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective.His music has received awards from ASCAP, the Americas Vocal Ensemble, and the Global Network of Conservatories. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Jonathan studied with John Bavicchi and Don McDonnell at the Berklee College of Music. He is published by Oxford University Press. His music is also available through his website, www.jonathandavidmusic.com. (April, 2012)
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in Missouri on September 26, 1888. He lived in St. Louis during the first eighteen years of his life and attended Harvard University. In 1910, he left the United States for the Sorbonne, having earned both undergraduate and masters degrees and having contributed several poems to the Harvard Advocate. After a year in Paris, he returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in philosophy, but returned to Europe and settled in England in 1914. The following year, he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and began working in London, first as a teacher, and later for Lloyd’s Bank. It was in London that Eliot came under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, who recognized his poetic genius at once, and assisted in the publication of his work in a number of magazines, most notably “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917, and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. With the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot’s reputation began to grow to nearly mythic proportions; by 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world. As a poet, he transmuted his affinity for the English metaphysical poets of the 17th century (most notably John Donne) and the 19th century French symbolist poets (including Baudelaire and Laforgue) into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems in many respects articulated the disillusionment of a younger post-World-War-I generation with the values and conventions—both literary and social—of the Victorian era. As a critic also, he had an enormous impact on contemporary literary taste, propounding views that, after his conversion to orthodox Christianity in the late thirties, were increasingly based in social and religious conservatism. His major later poems include Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943); his books of literary and social criticism include The Sacred Wood (1920), The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), After Strange Gods (1934), and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940). Eliot was also an important playwright, whose verse dramas include Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party. He became a British citizen in 1927; long associated with the publishing house of Faber & Faber, he published many younger poets, and eventually became director of the firm. After a notoriously unhappy first marriage, Eliot separated from his first wife in 1933, and was remarried, to Valerie Fletcher, in 1956. T. S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, and died in London in 1965. Biography courtesy of Poets.org
Born in 1977 to a left-handed amateur ragtime pianist and a self-avowed member of the “tone-deaf choir,” Scott Gendel was surely destined for a musical career. He first showed interest in music when at age 5 his father discovered him picking out commercial jingles by ear at the family piano. Scott quickly began piano lessons, but almost as quickly gave them up to play little league baseball, which sadly conflicted with the hours of the local piano school. But Scott kept playing the piano even without lessons, and soon wanted to spread his wings and try out some other musical activities. After being told “no” on the drums question (too many drummers already, said the band director), and having to give up on the alto saxophone (Scott’s short stature, alas, kept him from reaching all the keys), Scott settled for a while on the clarinet (which, according to his band director, was kind of like a saxophone but smaller). Scott continued to play the piano and clarinet almost incessantly through high school and into college, and played every other instrument he could get his hands on as well. But despite that love, as he began studies at Bard College, he intended to become a biologist (holding on to music as just a hobby). Scott in fact attended that school on a prestigious science scholarship. Soon into his studies, however, Scott was overtaken by his deep abiding love of music, and while he still received his BA in Biology, it became very clear that music was where he belonged. Along the way, Scott became infatuated with opera, art song, choral music, and the absolute beauty of the human voice. He finished up his education by writing and producing his first opera, “A Song That’s True,” and hasn’t stopped writing since. Currently, Scott is living as a self-employed musician in Southwest Virginia, where he works as a freelance composer and arranger, as well as a freelance vocal coach and accompanist for local singers and regional opera companies around the country. In May of 2005, Scott received his DMA in composition from UW-Madison, with a minor in opera accompanying and vocal coaching. While he was working on that degree, he held the position of Associate Lecturer in composition at the UW, where he designed and taught undergraduate composition courses, as well as working with individual students. In 2006, Scott won first prize in the ASCAP / Lotte Lehmann Foundation Song Cycle Competition. That award gave him a large song cycle commission from ASCAP and the Lehmann Foundation, performance of that commissioned work in three major American cities by the Joy in Singing Foundation, and publication of the work by E.C. Schirmer. In addition to exposure he has received from that competition, Scott is emerging as a composer on the national scene. His music has been programmed by New Music New York, The Madison Youth Choirs and Madison Symphony Orchestra, The New York Singing Teachers Association, soprano Claudia Waite, the 60×60 Project, and other groups. There are currently three CD recording projects, all intended for commercial release, involving Scott’s compositions, including an entire CD of his choral works. “Patterns” has been recorded on the Albany label by Mimmi Fulmer and Leone Buyse with the composer at the piano, and selections from “Forgotten Light” appear on an upcoming Naxos release by Julia Faulkner and Martha Fischer. Scott’s composition teachers have included Stephen Dembski, Daron Hagen, and Joan Tower. His music has been performed by such artists as the Riverside Opera Ensemble, soprano Julia Faulkner, and The American Symphony Orchestra; and he has been commissioned by the Joy in Singing, the Madison Children’s Choir, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Edgewood Community Orchestra, Dr. Bruce Gladstone and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and others. Scott’s compositions have a wide-ranging scope, but he remains particularly fond of vocal music, having written 10 song cycles, 8 large-scale individual songs and duets, 3 pieces for voices and orchestra, 12 choral works, a 45-minute mass for choir and chamber ensemble, and 2 operas. When he’s not writing or playing music, he enjoys as many moments as he can find with his lovely wife Kelly and two daughters, Lotte and Twyla. Biography courtesy of scottgendel.com
Seamus Heaney was born in April 1939, the eldest member of a family which would eventually contain nine children. His father owned and worked a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry in Northern Ireland, but the father’s real commitment was to cattle-dealing. There was something very congenial to Patrick Heaney about the cattle-dealer’s way of life to which he was introduced by the uncles who had cared for him after the early death of his own parents. The poet’s mother came from a family called McCann whose connections were more with the modern world than with the traditional rural economy; her uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill and an aunt had worked “in service” to the mill owners’ family. The poet has commented on the fact that his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; indeed, he considers this to have been a significant tension in his background, something which corresponds to another inner tension also inherited from his parents, namely that between speech and silence. His father was notably sparing of talk and his mother notably ready to speak out, a circumstance which Seamus Heaney believes to have been fundamental to the “quarrel with himself” out of which his poetry arises. Heaney grew up as a country boy and attended the local primary school. As a very young child, he watched American soldiers on manoeuvres in the local fields, in preparation for the Normandy invasion of 1944. They were stationed at an aerodrome which had been built a mile or so from his home and once again Heaney has taken this image of himself as a consciousness poised between “history and ignorance” as representative of the nature of his poetic life and development. Even though his family left the farm where he was reared (it was called Mossbawn) in 1953, and even though his life since then has been a series of moves farther and farther away from his birthplace, the departures have been more geographical than psychological: rural County Derry is the “country of the mind” where much of Heaney’s poetry is still grounded. When he was twelve years of age, Seamus Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College, a Catholic boarding school situated in the city of Derry, forty miles away from the home farm, and this first departure from Mossbawn was the decisive one. It would be followed in years to come by a transfer to Belfast where he lived between 1957 and 1972, and by another move from Belfast to the Irish Republic where Heaney has made his home, and then, since 1982, by regular, annual periods of teaching in America. All of these subsequent shifts and developments were dependent, however, upon that original journey from Mossbawn which the poet has described as a removal from “the earth of farm labour to the heaven of education.” It is not surprising, then, that this move has turned out to be a recurrent theme in his work, from “Digging”, the first poem in his first book, through the much more orchestrated treatment of it in “Alphabets”(The Haw Lantern, 1987), to its most recent appearance in “A Sofa in the Forties” which was published this year in The Spirit Level. At St. Columb’s College, Heaney was taught Latin and Irish, and these languages, together with the Anglo-Saxon which he would study while a student of Queen’s University, Belfast, were determining factors in many of the developments and retrenchments which have marked his progress as a poet. The first verses he wrote when he was a young teacher in Belfast in the early 1960s and many of the best known poems in North, his important volume published in 1975, are linguistically tuned to the Anglo-Saxon note in English. His poetic line was much more resolutely stressed and packed during this period than it would be in the eighties and nineties when the “Mediterranean” elements in the literary and linguistic heritage of English became more pronounced. Station Island (1984) reveals Dante, for example, as a crucial influence, and echoes of Virgil – as well as a translation from Book VI of The Aeneid – are to be found in Seeing Things (1991). Heaney’s early study of Irish bore fruit in the translation of the Middle Irish story of Suibhne Gealt in Sweeney Astray (1982) and in several other translations and echoes and allusions: the Gaelic heritage has always has been part of his larger keyboard of reference and remains culturally and politically central to the poet and his work. Heaney’s poems first came to public attention in the mid-1960s when he was active as one of a group of poets who were subsequently recognized as constituting something of a “Northern School” within Irish writing. Although Heaney is stylistically and temperamentally different from such writers as Michael Longley and Derek Mahon (his contemporaries), and Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and Ciaran Carson (members of a younger Northern Irish generation), he does share with all of them the fate of having be en born into a society deeply divided along religious and political lines, one which was doomed moreover to suffer a quarter-century of violence, polarization and inner distrust. This had the effect not only of darkening the mood of Heaney’s work in the 1970s, but also of giving him a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry’s responsibilities and prerogatives in the world, since poetry is poised between a need for creative freedom within itself and a pressure to express the sense of social obligation felt by the poet as citizen. The essays in Heaney’s three main prose collections, but especially those in The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995), bear witness to the seriousness which this question assumed for him as he was coming into his own as a writer. These concerns also lie behind Heaney’s involvement for a decade and a half with Field Day, a theatre company founded in 1980 by the playwright Brian Friel and the actor Stephen Real. Here, he was also associated with the poets Seamus Deane and Tom Paulin, and the singer David Hammond in a project which sought to bring the artistic and intellectual focus of its members into productive relation with the crisis that was ongoing in Irish political life. Through a series of plays and pamphlets (culminating in Heaney’s case in his version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes which the company produced and toured in 1990 under the title, The Cure at Troy), Field Day contributed greatly to the vigour of the cultural debate which flourished throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Ireland. Heaney’s beginnings as a poet coincided with his meeting the woman whom he was to marry and who was to be the mother of his three children. Marie Devlin, like her husband, came from a large family, several of whom are themselves writers and artists, including the poet’s wife who has recently published an important collection of retellings of the classic Irish myths and legends (Over Nine Waves, 1994). Marie Heaney has been central to the poet’s life, both professionally and imaginatively, appearing directly and indirectly in individual poems from all periods of his oeuvre right down to the most recent, and making it possible for him to travel annually to Harvard by staying on in Dublin as custodian of the growing family and the family home. The Heaneys had spent a very liberating year abroad in 1970/71 when Seamus was a visiting lecturer at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. It was the sense of self-challenge and new scope which he experienced in the American context that encouraged him to resign his lectureship at Queen’s University (1966-72) not long after he returned to Ireland, and to move to a cottage in County Wicklow in order to work full time as a poet and free-lance writer. A few years later, the family moved to Dublin and Seamus worked as a lecturer in Carysfort College, a teacher training college, where he functioned as Head of the English Department until 1982, when his present arrangement with Harvard University came into existence. This allows the poet to spend eight months at home without teaching in exchange for one semester’s work at Harvard. In 1984, Heaney was named Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, one of the university’s most prestigious offices. In 1989, he was elected for a five-year period to be Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, a post which requires the incumbent to deliver three public lectures every year but which does not require him to reside in Oxford. In the course of his career, Seamus Heaney has always contributed to the promotion of artistic and educational causes, both in Ireland and abroad. While a young lecturer at Queen’s University, he was active in the publication of pamphlets of poetry by the rising generation and took over the running of an influential poetry workshop which had been established there by the English poet, Philip Hobsbaum, when Hobsbaum left Belfast in 1966. He also served for five years on The Arts Council in the Republic of Ireland (1973-1978) and over the years has acted as judge and lecturer for countless poetry competitions and literary conferences, establishing a special relationship with the annual W.B. Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. In recent years, he has been the recipient of several honorary degrees; he is a member of Aosdana, the Irish academy of artists and writers, and a Foreign Member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1996, subsequent to his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, he was made a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. Biography courtesy of Nobelprize.org
In 1947, Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent, and as managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star. He began writing poetry in 1973, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado Springs in 1975. His first book of poems, Dedications & Other Darkhorses, was published in 1977, followed by Lost in the Bonewheel Factory in 1979. During this time, he earned his MA and MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University and the University of California, Irvine, respectively. Komunyakaa first received wide recognition following the 1984 publication of Copacetic, a collection of poems built from colloquial speech which demonstrated his incorporation of jazz influences. He followed the book with two others: I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; and Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize and has been cited by poets such as William Matthews and Robert Hass as being among the best writing on the war in Vietnam. Since then, he has published several books of poems, including The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011); Warhorses (2008); Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part 1; Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999 (2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1994), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; and Magic City (1992). Komunyakaa’s prose is collected in Blues Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries (University of Michigan Press, 2000). He also co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology (with J. A. Sascha Feinstein, 1991), co-translated The Insomnia of Fire by Nguyen Quang Thieu (with Martha Collins, 1995), and served as guest editor for The Best of American Poetry 2003. He has also written dramatic works, including Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), and Slip Knot, a libretto in collaboration with Composer T. J. Anderson and commissioned by Northwestern University. About his work, the poet Toi Derricotte wrote for the Kenyon Review, “He takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing ugly subjects of our American life. His voice, whether it embodies the specific experiences of a black man, a soldier in Vietnam, or a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana, is universal. It shows us in ever deeper ways what it is to be human.” Komunyakaa is the recipient of the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His other honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999. He has taught at University of New Orleans, Indiana University, as a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. He lives in New York City where he is currently Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program. Biography courtesy of Poets.org
Robinson McClellan (b.1976) is a composer, teacher, scholar, and concert presenter. Audiences have heard his music via commissioners, performers and venues including the Albany, Ft. Worth, and Knox-Galesburg Symphonies, the Museum of Biblical Art (NYC), Amsterdam’s Gaudeamus Competition, the Monteverdi Kamerkoor Utrecht, Nektarios Antoniou’s Greek Byzantine Choir, Yale Schola Cantorum, the Hudson Opera House, Moira Smiley and VOCO, Trio Eos, and many others. He has received residencies and awards from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP, and Vassar College. His choral music is published in NCCO’s choral music series, Music by Heart, a hymnal, and Feniarco’s Choraliter, an Italian choral anthology. As a composer and scholar Robin has spent the past ten years immersed in piobaireachd (‘peeb-rock’), a rarely heard bagpiping tradition rooted in 17th-century Gaelic Scotland. His compositions often borrow musical ideas from piobaireachd, and his research into its unique rhythmic idiom was published in a 2009 scholarly anthology in Ashgate’s Popular and Folk Music Series, and has also been cited in the scholarly journal Ethnomusicology. He has written on pipe music as a reviewer for The Voice, and has played the Highland bagpipe since 2004. Robin is founder and director of El Salto, a unique forum for contemporary music heard in a context of broad-minded religious/humanist inquiry, hosted by the New York Society for Ethical Culture. His article about El Salto appeared in the journal Liturgy in 2008. He is also Composer in Residence for ActorCor, a NYC-based choir dedicated to bridging religious divides. Robin has taught composition at Hunter College and is on the music faculty at Rutgers University, Manhattan College, Wagner College, St. Francis College, and the Lucy Moses School; between them he teaches composition, music theory, music history, and world music to fifth graders, teenagers, college students, and adults. He is spearheading ComposerCraft, a new composition intensive for young composers at the Special Music School. He earned his doctorate in composition (DMA) at the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. He previously studied music at Vassar College, and his teachers have been Ingram Marshall, Ezra Laderman, Annea Lockwood, Richard Wilson, Martin Bresnick, and Aaron Jay Kernis. Robin does freelance work for Noteflight, an online music notation program, and is the Music Librarian at the Kaufman Center, and he worked on the team that created the Morgan Library’s Music Manuscripts Online. He has worked for the S.E.M. Ensemble, G. Schirmer/AMP, and has sung in a variety of professional choral ensembles. He has done music copying work for several major publishers and created the music examples for two scholarly books. He is also a compulsive amateur photographer and has had photos published twice in magazines. Biography courtesy of robinsonmcclellan.com
Scott Russell Sanders
Sanders was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1945. His father came from a family of cotton farmers in Mississippi, his mother from an immigrant doctor’s family in Chicago. He spent his early childhood in Tennessee and his school years in Ohio. He studied physics and English at Brown University, graduating in 1967. With the aid of a Marshall Scholarship, he pursued graduate work at Cambridge University, where he completed his Ph.D. in English in 1971. From 1971 until his retirement in 2009, he taught at Indiana University, from 1995 onward as Distinguished Professor of English. Among his more than twenty books are novels, collections of stories, and works of personal nonfiction, including Staying Put, Writing from the Center, and Hunting for Hope. His latest books are A Private History of Awe, a coming-of-age memoir, love story, and spiritual testament, and A Conservationist Manifesto, his vision of a shift from a culture of consumption to a culture of caretaking. His selected essays, drawn from three decades of writing, will be published in a volume entitled Earth Works in January 2012 by Indiana University Press. Sanders has received the Lannan Literary Award, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Great Lakes Book Award, the Kenyon Review Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, and the Indiana Humanities Award, among other honors, and has received support for his writing from the Lilly Endowment, the Indiana Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature named him the 2009 winner of the Mark Twain Award; in 2010 he was named the National Winner of the Glick Indiana Authors Award; and in 2011 the Fellowship of Southern Writers presented him with the Cecil Woods, Jr. Award in Nonfiction. He is currently at work on a novel, a collection of short stories, and a book about the meaning of wealth. His writing examines the human place in nature, the pursuit of social justice, the relation between culture and geography, and the search for a spiritual path. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, have reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of Indiana’s White River Valley.
Eleonor Sandresky writes music that The New York Times’ Allan Kozinn describes as “lovely…enigmatic,” that TimeOut NY hails as encompassing “ever-varying qualities of touch, register and intensity,” and The Village Voice calls “witty, liberating.” Her work ranges over music for virtuoso soloists and large ensembles, cabaret, art songs, and evening-length collaborations. Her music was featured in the short film, Fault, which opened at Cannes in May 2004 (www.faultthemovie.com.) MTV periodically broadcasts My Goddess, her cabaret song for Sequitur, released on Koch International in 2006. Her solo piano CD, A Sleeper’s Notebook, appeared in the fall of 2005, as did her work for string orchestra, Meditation, which was released as a part of the Masterworks of the New Era series, recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic. Recent premieres include The Fall of America, with texts by Blake, featuring George Steel and the Vox Vocal Ensemble, and On the Lip of Insanity, a virtuoso contrabass solo, which was premiered in Wroclaw, Poland. Upcoming performances include: Voyelles, commissioned by Mary Nessinger and Jeanne Golan, tours and recording as a part of Innocence Lost: The Debussy Berg project; Manifest: and Furthermore, to be premiered at the Flea Theater May 7, 2007 with Ethel and Alexandra Montano. Sandresky’s music has been featured at major venues on three continents, from the Philadelphia Fringe Festival to the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth, Australia. She has been awarded grants by New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, American Music Center, the Jerome Foundation and ASCAP. She has been a resident composer at The MacDowell Colony and at the festival in Hvar, Croatia. She is also a pre-eminent new music pianist, with performances and premieres of new works by composers ranging from Steve Reich, Egberto Gismonti, and Don Byron, to Guy Klucevsek, Eve Beglarian, and David Lang, She has recorded for CRI, Nonesuch, New World Records, Mode Records, and Orange Mountain Music, and has played concerts throughout the world. Working at the forefront of avant-garde concert-as-theater, Sandresky has added a new dimension, as a Choreographic Pianist with her evening-length composition, A Sleeper’s Notebook. In it she explores her deep interest in how motion translates to emotion through sound. According to Steve Smith of TimeOut NY, “A Sleeper’s Notebook maps in vivid detail a nocturnal terrain in constant flux.” As a music director, she has led ensembles in a variety of theatrical settings, from dance performances with Susan Marshall to conducting to film with the Philip Glass Ensemble, of which she was a member from 1991 – 2004. She holds two master’s degrees: in composition from Yale School of Music, studying with Martin Bresnick, Jacob Druckman, and Anthony Davis; and in piano performance from the Eastman School of Music studying with Rebecca Penneys. She also trained at the Banff Centre for the Arts. For more information please visit www.esandresky.com. Biography courtesy of esandresky.com
For all his fame and celebration, William Shakespeare remains a mysterious figure with regards to personal history. There are just two primary sources for information on the Bard: his works, and various legal and church documents that have survived from Elizabethan times. Naturally, there are many gaps in this body of information, which tells us little about Shakespeare the man. William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, allegedly on April 23, 1564. Church records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564. Young William was born of John Shakespeare, a glover and leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a landed local heiress. William, according to the church register, was the third of eight children in the Shakespeare household—three of whom died in childhood. John Shakespeare had a remarkable run of success as a merchant, alderman, and high bailiff of Stratford, during William’s early childhood. His fortunes declined, however, in the late 1570s. There is great conjecture about Shakespeare’s childhood years, especially regarding his education. Scholars surmise that Shakespeare attended the grammar school in Stratford. While there are no records extant to prove this claim, Shakespeare’s knowledge of Latin and Classical Greek would tend to support this theory. In addition, Shakespeare’s first biographer, Nicholas Rowe, wrote that John Shakespeare had placed William “for some time in a free school.” John Shakespeare, as a Stratford official, would have been granted a waiver of tuition for his son. As the records do not exist, we do not know how long William may have attended the school, but the literary quality of his works suggests a solid educational foundation. What is certain is that William Shakespeare never proceeded to university schooling, which has contributed to the debate about the authorship of his works. The next documented event in Shakespeare’s life is his marriage to Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. William was 18 at the time, and Anne was 26—and pregnant. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. The couple later had twins, Hamnet and Judith, born February 2, 1585 and christened at Holy Trinity. Hamnet died in childhood at the age of 11, on August 11, 1596. For the seven years following the birth of his twins, William Shakespeare disappears from all records, finally turning up again in London some time in 1592. This period, known as the “Lost Years,” has sparked as much controversy about Shakespeare’s life as any period. Rowe notes that young Shakespeare was quite fond of poaching, and may have had to flee Stratford after an incident with Sir Thomas Lucy, whose deer and rabbits he allegedly poached. There is also rumor of Shakespeare working as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire for a time, though this is circumstantial at best. It is estimated that Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright. Evidently Shakespeare garnered some envy early on, as related by the critical attack of Robert Greene, a London playwright, in 1592: “…an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.” Greene’s bombast notwithstanding, Shakespeare must have shown considerable promise. By 1594, he was not only acting and writing for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (called the King’s Men after the ascension of James I in 1603), but was a managing partner in the operation as well. With Will Kempe, a master comedian, and Richard Burbage, a leading tragic actor of the day, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men became a favorite London troupe, patronized by royalty and made popular by the theatre-going public. Shakespeare’s accomplishments are apparent when studied against other playwrights of this age. His company was the most successful in London in his day. He had plays published and sold in octavo editions, or “penny-copies” to the more literate of his audiences. Never before had a playwright enjoyed sufficient acclaim to see his works published and sold as popular literature in the midst of his career. In addition, Shakespeare’s ownership share in both the theatrical company and the Globe itself made him as much an entrepeneur as artist. While Shakespeare might not be accounted wealthy by London standards, his success allowed him to purchase New House and retire in comfort to Stratford in 1611. William Shakespeare wrote his will in 1611, bequeathing his properties to his daughter Susanna (married in 1607 to Dr. John Hall). To his surviving daughter Judith, he left £300, and to his wife Anne left “my second best bed.” William Shakespeare allegedly died on his birthday, April 23, 1616. This is probably more of a romantic myth than reality, but Shakespeare was interred at Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 25. In 1623, two working companions of Shakespeare from the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, John Heminges and Henry Condell, printed the First Folio edition of his collected plays, of which half were previously unpublished. William Shakespeare’s legacy is a body of work that will never again be equaled in Western civilization. His words have endured for 400 years, and still reach across the centuries as powerfully as ever. Even in death, he leaves a final piece of verse as his epitaph:
Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Biography courtesy of bardweb.net
Martha Sullivan’s music has been praised as “vibrant” and “a singer’s favorite.” She has earned commissions from such leading voices in American choral music as the Dale Warland Singers and the Gregg Smith Singers (with whom she was a resident composer, 2002–2008), as well as the Esoterics (Seattle, WA), Bella Voce (Reno, NV), Chicago A Cappella, the New York Treble Singers, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, and Vocativ (Zürich, Switzerland). Numerous ensembles have performed her work, including such New York fixtures as Voices of Ascension, Cerddorion, and Equal Voices, as well as ensembles countrywide, such as San Francisco’s Volti, Minneapolis’ The Singers, and the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. Her work has been championed by Stephen Tharp, the international organ recitalist, and recorded by The Esoterics, Chicago A Cappella, and mezzo-soprano Virginia Dupuy. Her work appears in the book Singing for Dummies. She has received several Meet the Composer grants for her work with Gregg Smith, as well as recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work with the Esoterics; she was the 2009 Bronze Medalist in the Sorel Medallion competition for women composers, and she won the Dale Warland Singers’ Choral Ventures competition in its final year (2003). Biography courtesy of marthasullivanmusic.com
May Swenson was born Anna Thilda May Swenson on May 28, 1913 in Logan, Utah. Her parents were Swedish immigrants, and her father was a professor of mechanical engineering at Utah State University. English was her second language, her family having spoken mostly Swedish in their home. Influenced early on by Edgar Allan Poe, she kept journals as a young girl, in which she wrote in multiple genres. She attended Utah State University, Logan, and received a bachelor’s degree in 1934. She spent another year in Utah working as a reporter, but in 1935 relocated to New York, where she remained for most of her adult life. In New York City, she worked in various jobs while writing and publishing her poetry, including employment as a stenographer, ghostwriter, secretary, manuscript reader, and, in 1959, she became the editor of New Directions Press. Since her first collection of poems, Another Animal, was published by Scribner in 1954, Swenson’s work has been admired for its adventurous word play and erotic exuberance. Her poems have been compared to those of poets E. E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein, as well as Elizabeth Bishop, with whom she was engaged in regular, often frequent correspondence from 1950 until Bishop’s death in 1979. Swenson’s other collections of poems include A Cage of Spines (1958); To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963); Half Sun Half Sleep (1967); Iconographs (1970); New & Selected Things Taking Place (1978); and In Other Words (1987). Posthumous collections of her work include The Love Poems (1991); Nature: Poems Old and New (1994); and May Out West (1996). She is also the author of three collections of poems for younger readers, including Poems to Solve (1966) and More Poems to Solve (1968); a collection of essays, The Contemporary Poet as Artist and Critic (1964); and a one-act play titled The Floor, which was produced in New York in the 1960s. As translator, she published Windows and Stones: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (1972), which received a medal of excellence from the International Poetry Forum. She left New Directions Press in 1966, having decided to devote herself fully to her own writing. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she served as poet-in-residence at several universities in the United States and Canada, including Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. She then moved to Sea Cliff, New York, where she lived for the remainder of her life. About her work, the poet Grace Schulman said, “Questions are the wellspring of May Swenson’s art… In her speculations and her close observations, she fulfills Marianne Moore’s formula for the working artist: ‘Curiosity, observation, and a great deal of joy in the thing.’” Swenson’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur Foundations, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts grant. She received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Bollingen Prize from Yale University, and an Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1967, she received a Distinguished Service Gold Medal from Utah State University, and in 1987 an honorary doctor of letters. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death. She died in Oceanview, Delaware, in 1989, and is buried in the city where she was born. Four months before her death, Swenson wrote: “The best poetry has its roots in the subconscious to a great degree. Youth, naivety, reliance on instinct more than learning and method, a sense of freedom and play, even trust in randomness, is necessary to the making of a poem.” Biography courtesty of Poets.org
Jason Robert Taylor
Jason Robert Taylor was born in 1975 in Wilmington, DE and received a Masters of Music Degree in Composition at the Peabody Conservatory. His main teachers included Nicholas Maw, Chris Theofanidis, and Larry Lipkis and addditional studies with Bruno Amato, and Thomas Benjamin at Peabody, Dan Coleman in NYC, and George Tsontakis at the Aspen Music School. Jason was awarded 2nd prize in the Virginia Carty deLillo Composition Competition. His music has been performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC’s Christ and St.Stephen’s Church; Esglesia de Santa Cristina d’Aro, in Girona, Spain; Pennsylvania; The Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Japan, Aspen, Colorado,and Germany. His October Dream for guitar quartet is published by homadream in Tokyo, a recording thereof was included in the May/June 2008 edition of the GuitarDream magazine. Recently, Cord Aria a German based guitar and flute duo have put out a recording which includes Jason’s piece Winter Light. They have performed the piece all over Germany and in the summer of 2007 they did a tour of Brazil with it as part of their repertoire. His work for two guitars “Getting Here” will be published in an upcoming edition of the GuitarDream publication. Biography courtesy of jasonrtaylor.com