(1967 - )
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", composer and clarinettist 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.
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, Saint Louis, New Jersey, 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, the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paul Boylan Award from the University of Michigan, the Quinto Maganini Award, the Harvey Gaul Prize, the Lily Boulanger Award, the Brian Israel Prize, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and the Cary Trust, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.
Last season Bermel performed 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’s Gnarly Buttons, and as soloist in his own concerto Voices (1997) 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. Highlights during this season include the Pittsburgh Symphony's premiere of The Good Life for chorus and orchestra, Golden Motors, a music-theatre collaboration with librettist/lyricist Wendy S. Walters, and a return to Carnegie Hall for two premieres: a Koussevitzky Commission for ACO (A shout, a whisper and a trace) conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in the world premiere of Fang Man's clarinet concerto. From 2009 Bermel will serve as Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. A CD of his orchestral works “Voices” was released by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in 2009 and nominated for a Grammy Award. An all-Bermel ensemble disc was released by Alarm Will Sound in 2010.
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. His main composition teachers were William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, Henri Dutilleux, André Hajdu, and Michael Tenzer, and he studied 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).