"Composer Derek Bermel may not be a household name yet, but if there is any justice in the music world, he soon will be."
-- Michael Cameron, Chicago Tribune
"Bermel's music is intricate, witty, clear-spoken, tender and extraordinarily beautiful."
--Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
"Every note counts."
--Anthony Tommasini, New York Times
FULL COMPOSITIONAL BIOGRAPHY
Described by the Toronto Star as an "eclectic with wide open ears", Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. Bermel's works draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. Hands-on experience with music of cultures around the world has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.
Bermel has worked with a diverse array of musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Midori, John Adams, Paquito D'Rivera, Philip Glass, James Galway, Gustavo Dudamel, Luciana Souza, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and Stephen Sondheim. In recent seasons Bermel performed as clarinet soloist alongside Marsalis in his own Migration Series, a work commissioned by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and ACO. He also appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Adams' Gnarly Buttons, and in his own concerto Voices at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The Philharmonia Orchestra in also produced an all-Bermel concert as part of its Music of Today series at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Other highlights of recent seasons include Mar de Setembro with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony's premiere of The Good Life for chorus, soloists, and orchestra, Golden Motors, a music-theatre collaboration with librettist/lyricist Wendy S. Walters, and return engagements at Carnegie Hall for the premiere of A shout, a whisper, and a trace, a Koussevitzky Commission for ACO conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in both the Copland Concerto and the world premiere of Fang Man's clarinet concerto, conducted by George Manahan. His recent orchestral CD on BMOP/Sound was nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and a new CD of his large ensemble works is due to be released in November 2012 by Alarm Will Sound on Cantaloupe Records.
Currently serving as Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study and Creative Adviser to the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Bermel has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Boston, Saint Louis, New Jersey, Albany, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles and Westchester Philharmonics, the New York Youth Symphony, 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. His many awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts, the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, and the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, as well as the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the University of Michigan, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.
Bermel has collaborated with artists in a wide variety of genres, including playwright Will Eno, filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson, installation artist Shimon Attie, landscape architect Andy Cao, choreographer Sheron Wray, performance artist Kim Jones, composer/sound designer David Reid, poets Wendy S. Walters, Mark Halliday and Naomi Shihab Nye, and Albert Bermel. As an educator, he founded the groundbreaking Making Score program for young composers at the New York Youth Symphony, and regularly leads masterclasses at universities, conservatories, and concert venues worldwide.
Bermel holds B.A. and D.M.A. degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan. He studied composition with William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, Henri Dutilleux, André Hajdu, and Michael Tenzer, and clarinet with Ben Armato and Keith Wilson. He also studied ethnomusicology and orchestration in Jerusalem with André Hajdu, later traveling to Bulgaria to study Thracian folk style with Nikola Iliev, to Brazil to learn caxixi with Julio Góes, and to Ghana to study Lobi xylophone with Ngmen Baaru. His music is published by Peermusic (North/South America & Asia) and Faber Music (Europe & Australia).