Spotlight on Derek Bermel

The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival is privileged to have Derek Bermel (pictured) as one of the guest composers and instructors working with our eight resident composers this year.

Described by the Toronto Star as an “eclectic with wide open ears” and by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as “one of America’s finest young composers”, Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. His works draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel.

From 2006 to 2009 Bermel was Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, and Saint Louis Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri String Quartet, Music from China, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), Figura (Denmark), violinist Midori, electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans, cellist Fred Sherry, and pianists Christopher Taylor and Andy Russo, among others.

Bermel’s awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts, the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lili Boulanger Award, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.

A clarinetist as well as a composer, Bermel performed in 2008 as soloist alongside Wynton Marsalis in his Migration Series, a work commissioned by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and ACO. He also appeared as clarinet soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in conductor/composer John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons, and as soloist in his own concerto Voices at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The Philharmonia Orchestra also produced an all-Bermel concert as part of its Music of Today series at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Other recent highlights include the Pittsburgh Symphony’s premiere of The Good Life for chorus and orchestra, and two premieres at Carnegie Hall: a Koussevitzky Commission for ACO conducted by Maestro Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in the world premiere of Fang Man’s clarinet concerto.

In 2009, Bermel served as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Voices, a disc of his orchestral music on the BMOPsound label, was hailed as “magnificent” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Bermel’s music is published by Peermusic (Americas & Asia) and Faber Music (Europe/Australia).

You can listen to recorded excerpts of a number of Bermel’s compositions on his website. For more on Derek Bermel, read this profile, written before a concert with American Composers Orchestra, and this interview with Composition Today,

In the first embedded video window below, you can see and hear Bermel performing “Voices” at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The second video clip shows a performance of Bermel’s “Tied Shifts” by the new music ensemble eighth blackbird.

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