2016-2017 Season Composers


Augusta Read Thomas

The music of Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964 in New York) is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful – “it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

In February 2015, music critic Edward Reichel wrote, "Augusta Read Thomas has secured for herself a permanent place in the pantheon of American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. She is without question one of the best and most important composers that this country has today. Her music has substance and depth and a sense of purpose. She has a lot to say and she knows how to say it — and say it in a way that is intelligent yet appealing and sophisticated.”

The New York Times article of March 6, 2015 states that Thomas had the distinction of having her work performed more frequently in 2013-2014 than any other living ASCAP composer, according to statistics from performing rights organization.  Former Chairperson of the American Music Center, she serves on many boards, is a generous citizen in the profession at large, and, according to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American music.” 

A Grammy winner, her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker called her "a true virtuoso composer." Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession. 

As an influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, Aspen Music Festival, now she is the 16th ever University Professor (one of only 7 current University Professors) at the University of Chicago.  She has said, “Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others.” 

Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony from 1997 through 2006, a residency that culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle – one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned orchestral works, but also was central toward establishing the thriving MusicNOW series on which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers.

Recent and upcoming commissions include those from the Boston Symphony, the Utah Symphony, Wigmore Hall in London, JACK quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Tanglewood, the Danish Chamber Players, Notre Dame University, and the Fromm Foundation. She won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize among many other coveted awards.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.



James Kallembach

James Kallembach’s chamber music and choral works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, from San Diego to Chicago to New York. He has received honors from ASCAP, ACDA, American Composers’ Forum, Pacific Chorale, ALEA III in Boston, and VocalEssence, whose Welcome Christmas concert featured his carol, That Yönge Child in a nationally syndicated radio broadcast. His Anne Bradstreet Songs for soprano and cello have been widely performed since their premiere in 2011. James has written extensively for the voice, including a catalogue of dozens of individual choral works, several song cycles, and his St. John Passion for strings, soloists, and choir.

While permeated by a deeper layer of symbolic meaning and musical structure, his music is immediately accessible to audiences and performers alike, often being described as lyrical, beautiful, and moving; challenging, yet well suited to the voice or instrument. As a conductor, James has performed a vast amount of the canonic literature of all periods, including all of the major oratorios of J.S. Bach. His music is in perpetual dialogue with great music of the past, and often centers on the quest for spiritual meaning, such as his large choral works Ave Maria and The Quest of the Holy Grail. Many of his recent and current projects also explore the emotional content and meaning found in American history, such as his Songs on Letters of John and Abigail Adams, the Anne Bradstreet Songs, choral and solo vocal works based on texts in George Halpert’s 1938 New England folksong archive, and his current work on an opera based on the trial of the Puritan Anne Hutchinson. A tireless advocate of new choral works, James has conducted the premiere of works by William Bolcom, Marta Ptaszynska, Sven-David Sandström, Robert Moran, Shulamit Ran, Robert Kyr, and James MacMillan among many others, including emerging composers.

His interpretation of new music has been heralded as “rich and polished” (Chicago Classical Review). Highlights in addition to his conducting activities include serving as artistic director for the Sounds of Faith documentary concert aired on Chicago PBS, lecturing at the Oregon Bach Festival and conducting new works at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium, and articles for Opera News and Choral Journal. James serves as director of choral activities and senior lecturer in music at the University of Chicago, where he conducts three choirs and programs and conducts the Quire and Place concert series at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.


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Jonathan Woody

Jonathan Woody is a versatile musician who works primarily as a performer of early and new music. An accomplished bass-baritone, Jonathan performs regularly with the Grammy®-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and with such ensembles as New York Polyphony, Tafelmusik Barqoue Orchestra, Bach Collegium San Diego, TENET and the Clarion Music Society. Established in the world of new music, Jonathan has premiered works in recent seasons by Ted Hearne, Judd Greenstein, Du Yun, and Zachary Wadsworth, among others. He participated in the 2015-2016 American Opera Projects Composers & the Voice Forum, helping to craft new opera specifically written for his voice.

As a composer, Jonathan draws inspiration from music of the Renaissance and Baroque, as well as contemporary minimalism. He has seen his works performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trident Ensemble and is thrilled to collaborate with Lorelei Ensemble in the upcoming season. Jonathan holds degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park, and McGill University and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.



Shawn Kirchner

Shawn Kirchner is a composer/arranger active in the musical circles of Los Angeles whose choral works are performed throughout the world. In 2012, he was appointed Swan Family Composer in Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. His three-year term was marked by the Disney Hall premieres of Plath Songs (2013), Inscapes (2014), and Songs of Ascent (2015).  His residency was the culmination of an ongoing creative partnership with Master Chorale artistic director Grant Gershon marked by the commissions and/or premieres of Tu voz (2007), Memorare (2009), Heavenly Home (2010), and Behold New Joy (2011). These works have all since entered the wider choral repertory. In 2015, Tu voz was featured in Conspirare’s Grammy-nominated recording “Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings,” and Heavenly Home, praised in the LA Times as “arranged with mastery,” has received numerous performances by leading choirs throughout the country. Kirchner is best known world-wide for his setting of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka, which was featured in a performance by the Nairobi Chamber Choir in the Diamond Jubilee celebration for Her Majesty Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in 2012. His original songwriting ranges in style from jazz and gospel to folk and bluegrass, the latter featured on his CD Meet Me on the Mountain. Kirchner's music is published by Boosey & Hawkes, Oxford University Press, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Shawn Kirchner Publishing (available at www.shawnkirchner.com).

Kirchner has sung with the LA Master Chorale since 2001, performing/recording with the Chorale and the LA Philharmonic in collaborations with leading conductors and composers including Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta, John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Kaija Saariaho, Anders Hillborg, David Lang, and Meredith Monk. Kirchner has also sung on soundtracks for several dozen feature films including Avatar, Frozen, The Lorax, Minions, and the X-men series, and was music director for the 2004 CBS Christmas Special “Enter the Light of Life.”  As a pianist, he is active in recitals, chamber music, jazz, and church music.

Kirchner was raised with his triplet brother and sister in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where his musicianship was shaped through intensive piano study with Joan Smalley and George Katz. His principal creative mentors are the poet/songwriter Steve Kinzie and choral composer/arranger Alice Parker. He earned a BA in Peace Studies from Manchester College and a MA in Choral Conducting from the University of Iowa, studying with William Hatcher, Richard Bloesch, and Donald Jenni.


Jessica Meyer

With playing that is “fierce and lyrical” and works that are “other-worldly” (The Strad) and “evocative” (NY Times), Jessica Meyer is a versatile composer and violist whose passionate musicianship radiates accessibility, generosity, and emotional clarity. Her current solo show and “intriguingly vivid” debut CD, Sounds of Being, is a surround-sound sensory experience of her own compositions for viola and loop pedal where she turns her voice and viola into an orchestra to take the audience on a journey filled with joy, anxiety, closeness, anger, bliss, torment, loneliness, and passion. Performances include iconic NYC Clubs such as Joe’s Pub and SubCulture, to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and across the pond at Sunset Sunside in Paris. Ms. Meyer’s compositions explore the wide palette of emotionally expressive colors available to each instrument while using traditional and extended techniques inspired by her varied experiences as a contemporary and period instrumentalist. Recent commissions include a work for the Nautilus Brass Quintet as the composer in residence at the 2016 Women Composers Festival of Hartford, and soprano Melissa Wimbish for her Carnegie Hall debut. Upcoming commissions include works for cellist Amanda Gookin of the Public String Quartet, pianist Molly Morkoski, and NOVUS NY of Trinity Wall Street under the direction of Julian Wachner.