Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

Derek Bermel


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.

Currently serving as Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study and Creative Advisor to the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Bermel has received commissions from the Boston, Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, New Jersey, Albany and Pacific symphonies; the Los Angeles and Westchester philharmonics; the New York Youth Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; WNYC Radio; the Guarneri String Quartet; violinist Midori 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, and many others.

In recent seasons, 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’ 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. Highlights during last season included a return to Carnegie Hall for two premieres with ACO: a Koussevitzky Commission conducted by Maestro Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in the world premiere of Fang Man’s clarinet concerto. The recent CD of his orchestral works on BMOP/Sound was nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and a new CD of his large ensemble works is due to be released in 2011 by Alarm Will Sound.

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 he regularly leads masterclasses at universities, conservatories and concert venues worldwide.

Bermel holds BA and DMA 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).

A self-described lover of learning, Bermel’s hobbies include soccer, biking, running, learning languages, writing and singing songs and raps, cooking, acting, writing pensive essays and silly poems, reading, and conversing with animals.

Derek Bermel

photo Azzurra Primavera

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