Derek Bermel

Derek Bermel

Composer

• Born 1967

Biography

Composer Derek Bermel has been commissioned by major orchestras and ensembles from across the U.S. and Europe. Bermel draws much of his inspiration from artwork and has traveled the world to study specific musical styles. He is also an accomplished clarinetist, having given several world premieres.

Bermel was born in New York in 1967. He attended Yale University for his bachelor's degree, then the University of Michigan for his master's degree and a doctorate in composition, studying with William Bolcom and William Albright. From there, he studied further in Europe with Louis Andriessen and Henri Dutilleux before beginning a new journey. Interest in diverse musical culture took him first to Jerusalem for ethnomusicology studies with Andre Hajdu, then to Bulgaria, Dublin, Ghana, and Brazil. Bermel has incorporated many of these styles into his compositions, which cover instrumentation from solo piano, varying chamber ensembles, voice, to full orchestra. Among his works are a clarinet concerto, Voices (1997); Ides March (2005), for band; and Dragon Blue (2012), for a Western and Chinese instrument ensemble. He has been commissioned by several major orchestras, including the Pittsburgh, Boston, and Saint Louis Symphonies, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and ensembles such as eighth blackbird, the JACK String Quartet, and the Schoenberg Ensemble.

Shortly after meeting Wynton Marsalis, Bermel was commissioned to write for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Bermel drew inspiration from a childhood trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he encountered Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series exhibit. The result is a concerto for jazz band and orchestra, Migration Series (2006); Bermel and Marsalis have performed this work together following its premiere. In 2019, the Albany Symphony Orchestra and conductor David Alan Miller released the Naxos album Derek Bermel: Migrations, featuring Migration Series, which earned Bermel a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Composition.

As a clarinetist, Bermel premiered his clarinet concerto Voices as well as John Adams' Gnarly Buttons, with the composer leading the ensemble. Other notable musicians he's worked with include Tan Dun, Midori, Stephen Sondheim, the L.A. Philharmonic, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. As the soloist with the BMOP, he earned a Grammy nomination in 2010 for Derek Bermel: Voices. He founded and served as the director of "Making Score," the New York Youth Symphony's young composer's workshop, holds master classes at an array of universities, has held several artist-in-residence positions, and is the artistic director of the American Composers Orchestra.

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