Thursday, June 21, 2018
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Meet Gregory Spears, Composer of the Commissioned Composition for the 2018 Competition
Moderator, Robert Sherman
Gregory Spears is a New York-based composer whose music has been called “astonishingly beautiful” (New York Times), “coolly entrancing” (The New Yorker), and “some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory” (The Boston Globe). In recent seasons he has been commissioned by The Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seraphic Fire, The Crossing, BMI and Concert Artists Guild, Vocal Arts DC, New York Polyphony, The New York International Piano Competition, and the JACK Quartet.
His most recent evening-length opera, Fellow Travelers, written in collaboration with Greg Pierce, premiered at Cincinnati Opera in 2016 and will be seen this season at the Prototype Festival (NYC), The Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Minnesota Opera. It was hailed as “one of the most accomplished new operas I have seen in recent years” (Chicago Tribune) and an opera that “seems assured of lasting appeal” (The New York Times). The premiere was featured in The New York Times’ Best in Classical Music for 2016.
Spears’ children’s opera Jason and the Argonauts written with Kathryn Walat also premiered in 2016 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was subsequently performed for over 20,000 school children. An opera about space exploration, O Columbia, written with Royce Vavrek, premiered in 2015 at Houston Grand Opera. Spears’ first opera, Paul’s Case, described as a “masterpiece” and a “gem” (New York Observer) with “ravishing music” (New York Times), was developed by American Opera Projects and premiered by Urban Arias in 2013. It was restaged at the Prototype Festival in New York, and presented in a new production by Pittsburgh Opera in 2014. Paul’s Case will be recorded for commercial release this summer.
Recent commissions include a new vocal work commissioned by New York Polyphony, made possible by a 2016 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program grant, as well as a new work for a consortium of choirs including The Crossing underwritten by the Ann Stookey Fund for New Music. Spears also recently completed the soundtrack for the British feature film Macbeth (Kit Monkman, director), due for release in 2018. Other commissions have come from The Five Boroughs Music Festival, OPERA America, poet Tracy K. Smith, Christopher Williams Dances, the Dalton School Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera (for the The Bricklayer), pianist Marika Bournaki, the Present Music Ensemble, and the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra. He has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Aaron Copland House, the Rauschenberg Residency at Captiva Island, and was a participant in American Opera Projects’ Composers and the Voice program. His music is published by Schott Music and Schott PSNY.
Gregory Spears grew up in Virginia. He attended Eastman School of Music, received a master’s degree at Yale University, and earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University. He studied with Hans Abrahamsen and Per Nørgård while a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.
Broadcaster, writer, teacher, and radio personality, Robert Sherman is probably best known for his work at WQXR, where he has served for more than fifty-eight years as Program Director, Executive Producer, and Senior Consultant. For thirty-six years, he has presided in “The Listening Room,” and continues to present The McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase supported by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation for the station.
Since their inception, he has hosted the Avery Fisher Career Grant Award presentations at Lincoln Center, and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday special from the Harlem School of the Arts. His multiple award-winning folk series “Woody’s Children” is now heard in New York on Public Radio’s WFUV. On the faculties of the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools, Robert Sherman has given seminars at Oberlin, Yale, the Eastman School, the University of Arizona, and the Mannes College of Music, where he is also an artist member of the Board of Governors.
Music critic and columnist for the New York Times for more than twenty-five years, Sherman has written two books with Victor Borge, is the co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music,” and with his brother, Alexander Sherman, compiled a pictorial biography of their mother, the renowned pianist Nadia Reisenberg. He is on the advisory boards of many major cultural organizations, as well as serving them variously as pre-concert lecturer, competition judge, panel moderator, and fund-raising emcee.
As a concert narrator, Robert Sherman has performed with the Canadian Brass, the United States Military Academy (West Point) Band, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and Philharmonia Virtuosi; among his many performances are the world premieres of works written especially for him by Seymour Barab, William Mayer, Issachar Miron, and Soong Fu Yuan.