About the Composers
John Duffy, considered "one of the great heroes of American music," has composed more than 300 works for symphony orchestra, opera, theater, television and film. He has received many awards for his contributions to music: two Emmys, an ASCAP, New York State Governor's Art Award, (NYC) Mayor's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture, and the American Music Center's Founders' Award for Lifetime Achievement. As founder and president of Meet the Composer, he initiated countless landmark programs to advance American music and to aid American composers.
John Duffy grew up in the Bronx, one of fourteen children of Irish immigrant parents. As a young man, he studied composition with noted composers Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, Luigi Dallapiccola, Solomon Rosowsky, and Herbert Zipper. Duffy's appointment, in his twenties, to the post of music director, composer, and conductor of Shakespeare under the Stars, was the first in a succession of similar posts at the Guthrie Theater, the Long Wharf Theatre, and the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, and for NBC and ABC television in New York City. The culmination was his landmark music for the production of Macbeth at John Houseman's American Shakespeare Festival.
He composed some of his notable theater scores for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of The Ginger Man, Macbird, Mother Courage, Playboy of the Western World, and many Shakespeare plays, including his memorable collaboration with John Houseman. Duffy also has composed distinguished concert music for a variety of commissions, among them: A Time for Remembrance (commissioned by the U.S. Government to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor), Symphony No. 1: Utah (commissioned by the Sierra Club to draw attention to preserving and protecting public lands in southern Utah), Freedom Overture (commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall), Concerto for Stan Getz and Concert Band, and the Emmy Award-winning score for the PBS documentary Heritage and the Jews.
Simon Shaheen is one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers, and composers of his generation. His work incorporates and reflects a legacy of Arabic music, while it forges ahead to new frontiers, embracing many different styles in the process. This unique contribution to the world of arts was recognized in 1994 when Shaheen was honored with the prestigious National Heritage Award at the White House.
A Palestinian, born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee, Shaheen's childhood was steeped in music. His father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a professor of music and a master oud player. He began playing on the oud at the age of five, and a year later studying violin at the Conservatory for Western Classical Music in Jerusalem. After graduating from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem, Shaheen was appointed its instructor of Arab music, performance, and theory. Two years later he moved to New York City to complete his graduate studies in performance at the Manhattan School of Music, and later in performance and music education at Columbia University. For the past six years, Shaheen has focused much of his energies on Qantara. The band, whose name means arch in Arabic, brings to life Shaheen's vision for the unbridled fusion of Arab, jazz, Western classical, and Latin American music, a perfect alchemy for music to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography. In Palestine, Shaheen conducts an annual music workshop designed for gifted children.
About the Artists
Fieldwork is a collective of three widely celebrated young composer-performers: pianist Vijay Iyer, saxophonist Steve Lehman, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Fieldwork’s music reflects each member’s ties to the American jazz tradition, modern composition, African and South Asian musics, underground hip-hop and electronica, and the influential music of Chicago’s AACM. Fieldwork’s intensely collaborative rehearsal process resembles that of a rock band: they use group improvisation to develop and expand their intricate compositions into something larger than the sum of its parts. The result is a dense yet visceral musical world — tightly unified ensemble playing, extroverted and high-impact, but with a mysterious inner logic. Fieldwork's third album, Door, was released in spring 2008 on Pi Recordings to critical acclaim. Over the last 5 years, they have performed numerous U.S. dates, and overseas in Italy, Portugal, Austria, France and Sweden.
Imani Winds, the Grammy nominated quintet, has taken a unique path carving out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, genre-blurring collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. Imani Winds' extensive touring schedule has brought them to most of this country's major concert venues. The group is in the midst of its Legacy Commissioning Project, an ambitious endeavor launching Imani Winds into its second decade of music making. Future commissions include a work by Mohammed Fairouz as well as a highly anticipated work by Philip Glass. They have been recognized with numerous awards including the 2007 ASCAP Award, 2002 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, and the CMA/WQXR Award for their debut and self-released CD Umoja. At the 2001 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Imani Winds was selected as the first-ever Educational Residency Ensemble, in recognition of their tremendous musical abilities and innovative programming. In the summer of 2010 the ensemble launched its annual Chamber Music Institute. 2011 marks the enlargement of the Institute into the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, with concerts free and open to the public.
The Martin Bejerano Trio was formed in 2007, when pianist Martin Bejerano recorded his debut CD as a leader. Martin, a founding member of legendary drummer Roy Haynes’s Grammy nominated “Fountain of Youth” band, had racked up several years of sideman experience performing and recording with top jazz artists including Russell Malone, Christian McBride Band, Lonnie Plaxico, and Ignacio Berroa. In putting together his own group, Martin enlisted drummer Ludwig Afonso and bassist Edward Perez, two highly in-demand players in the New York jazz scene. Afonso was a member of the Grammy award winning group Spyro Gyra, and has also performed/recorded with Sammy Figueroa, Giovanni Hidalgo, Manuel Valera, Yosvanny Terry, and Hector Martignon. Bassist Perez has performed with such notables as Mark Turner, Lionel Loueke, Seamus Blake, and Miguel Zenon, as well as leading his own trio. In 2007, the Bejerano Trio released their debut CD Evolution/Revolution to high critical acclaim, which shot quickly to number nine on the Jazz Airplay charts. Their recent performances include Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz Gallery, SF Jazz Series, and Arturo Sandoval’s Jazz Club. In 2010, the trio won the esteemed New Jazz Works composition and ensemble development grant from Chamber Music America, and continues to turn heads with their brand of modern and compelling contemporary jazz.
Acclaimed as one of America's outstanding ensembles, the Manhattan based Cassatt String Quartet was formed in 1985 with the encouragement of the Juilliard Quartet. The Cassatt initiated and served as the inaugural participants in Juilliard's Young Artists Quartet Program. The Cassatt celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2006 with a series of world premieres and a performance at the Library of Congress on the Library's Stradivarius Collection. With a deep commitment to nurturing young musicians, the Cassatt, in residencies at Princeton, Yale, Syracuse University, University of Buffalo, and the University of Pennsylvania, has devoted itself to coaching, conducting sectionals, and reading student composers' works. Selected by Chamber Music America, they recently served as guest artists for their New Music Institute. Summer finds them in residence at the innovative Seal Bay Festival of Contemporary American Chamber Music and Hartwick College Summer Music Festival. The Cassatt has recorded for the Koch, Naxos, New World, Point, CRI, Tzadik, and Albany labels and is named for the celebrated American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.
Isaiah Sheffer is the Founding Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City, which he helped to start 33 years ago. His duties include directing the hit literary series, Selected Shorts, now in its 27th season, and hosting the public radio series of the same name, heard on public radio stations across the country. Each year he stages a season of Selected Shorts at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. He has been the creator of Symphony Space’s Wall to Wall marathon concerts, most recently Wall to Wall Opera, Wall to Wall Richard Rodgers, Wall to Wall George Balanchine, Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim, and Wall to Wall Broadway: A Century of Musicals. Each June 16th he also directs Symphony Space's annual James Joyce extravaganza, Bloomsday on Broadway. He is currently directing and contributing song lyrics to Symphony Space’s political cabaret, the Thalia Follies.
Signe Mortensen is a classical singer currently living in New York City. She met John while singing his opera Black Water in her hometown of Seattle, WA. After working with John at the John Duffy Composers Institute in Virginia the last 6 years she is proud to work alongside the musicians of We Want Mark Twain. Signe recently turned to her Scandinavian roots performing at the Norwegian Seaman's church in New York with Alt For Norge, a memorial for the Norwegian tragedy in July. Some favorite roles include Pamina (Magic Flute), Micaela (Carmen), Sylva (Gypsy Princess), Anna (Seven Deadly Sins), Musetta (La Boheme), and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel).