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Featured Composers

These wonderful American composers allow our musical heritage to live on and continue to develop from our rich and diverse roots.

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Alicia Bachorik Armstrong is composing two new songs for the Of Thee I Sing Women's Suffrage concert. She is a composer who savors beauty as a gift from her Creator and finds the sublime in art, nature, and everyday experiences while attempting to create music that others can enjoy in a similar fashion. Her choral and chamber works have been performed both in the USA and in her second home of the Philippines.

 An early love of reading and theatre has grown into a desire to connect language and storytelling to her compositions. In past years this has been manifested in several choral and vocal works as well as in instrumental works based on poetry, such her song cycle How Do I Love Thee?, featuring texts by American women. She is fond of taking familiar ideas and sounds and tweaking them slightly into something unexpected.

 

In the past three years, her music has been performed by the Charlotte Symphony, Attacca String Quartet, soprano Lindsay Kesselman, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Wind Ensemble and Orchestra. In 2017, she was commissioned by the Wachovia Winds Youth Wind Ensemble to write a new piece celebrating the group’s Moravian heritage.

When she’s not composing, Alicia enjoys making the perfect cup of tea, thrift shopping, watching crime dramas, and being dragged to the gym by her husband Will. She received a master’s degree in composition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2018 where she studied with Lawrence Dillon.

Visit Alicia's website for additional information and audio samples.

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Jessica Buford is composing two new songs for the Of Thee I Sing Women's Suffrage concert. She a composer and author whose dual fascinations with musical and verbal language have competed for attention since she was eight. Her debut novel, In the Minds of Chameleons, fulfilled the 2013 National Novel Writing Month challenge, the 50,000+ word manuscript being penned in 30 days. After receiving a Masters in The Teaching of English as a Second Language and Applied Linguistics at Winston-Salem State University, she resigned to abandoning language in favor of music, only to recognize her true belief- that both sound and word are meant for communication, and that each beautifies the other.

 

She has studied film composition with Two-time Emmy-award winning composer Hummie Mann at the Pacific Northwest Film Composition Summer Intensive and received grants to participate in both this and the Siena Summer Music festival. In addition to written language, she draws inspiration from Jazz, R&B, and Gospel, particularly her roots in southern West Virginia. Beginning by composing for fun while studying English at West Virginia University, she started formal training in composition with her time in the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied with Kenneth Frazelle.   

 

Upon graduation from UNCSA, she relocated to Urbana, Illinois to continue her education in Musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among her research foci are black sacred music and the intersection of verbal and musical language. She continues to study composition with Dr. Carlos Carrillo. She also relishes train rides in which she can watch the august landscapes of her home state. 

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Audrey and Ron have been musical colleagues and good friends for many years, during which time Audrey has had the pleasure of performing and recording Ron's vocal works, especially Songs of Sac Prairie and the  song 'Red Dress,' which has been dedicated to her. 

 

After premiering Songs of Sac Prairie at the Walden West Festival in 2011, a  professional recording of the work with Audrey, Ron, and Metropolitan Opera Bass-Baritone William Powers, along with Ron's additional songs and solo  piano pieces, was supported by both the Sanfilippo Foundation and the Illinois Council for the Arts in 2018.  This recording is currently nominated for the Erst Bacon Award through The American Prize, and will soon be released through the classical label Centaur Records. The orchestral premiere of Songs of Sac Prairie took place in February of 2020.  

 

With a style that is at once undeniably American and uniquely his own, Chicago composer Ronald William Hill is a favorite among performers and audiences alike.  Mr. Hill’s oeuvre includes choral and symphonic works, pieces for solo piano, and art song. The song cycle, Songs of Sac Prairie, is his magnum opus and features poetry by Wisconsin’s most prolific writer, August Derleth. 

Mr. Hill is known for his poignant writing and sensitivity to both the setting of text and the singing voice, thus his work has been championed by established international artists who find his music “stunning, stimulating,” and “a joy to sing.” Performances of his work have been featured by award-winning soloists and ensembles across the United States — particularly at the Walden West Festival in Wisconsin, the Phillips in Washington, D.C., and on WFMT Chicago’s Jewel Box concert series—as well as throughout Europe.  Mr. Hill’s work has also been honored with special recognition and sponsorship by the Illinois Council of the Arts.

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Daniel Knaggs is a composer whose music is commissioned and performed across the globe. In 2019 alone, his music was performed in Japan, Australia, Poland, Israel, Scotland, England, Germany, Italy, and throughout the USA. After living in Mexico, Nicaragua, and France, and having studied six foreign languages, he continues to explore the interplay between music and linguistics while maintaining an international outlook in his work. He loves evoking vivid imagery in his music, as well as focusing his efforts into projects such as his 50-year Ave Maria Project (2005-2054) and his “After” Motets Project. His works are published by Edition Peters, Hal Leonard, Walton, GIA, E. C. Schirmer, Cadenza Music (UK), and Morcelliana (Italy).

Knaggs’ music has received a number of awards in the USA and abroad. His composition To everything a season won the 2019 Noël Minet Prize at the Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition (Germany), and his compositions were awarded first prize in the 2012 David Maria Turoldo Composer Competition (Italy), the 2011 International Musica Sacra Competition (Poland), and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir’s 2010 International Commission Competition (USA). 

Increasingly sought after as a composer, just a few of Knaggs' recent commissioners include the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Wells Cathedral Choir, The Choir of Royal Holloway, Kinetic Ensemble, The Houston Chamber Choir, Houston Children’s Chorus, and the Iowa State Singer. Upcoming commissions include a major new work for the Musica Vera Festival in Toruń, Poland, and a new work for the Wooster Symphony Orchestra.

Knaggs completed his doctorate in music composition (2017) at the Shepherd School of Music (Rice University) and his master’s degree in music composition at Bowling Green State University in 2009, and graduated in 2007 from the University of Michigan with bachelor’s degrees in voice performance and Spanish. His composition teachers include Bright Sheng, Marilyn Shrude, Karim Al-Zand, Pierre Jalbert, and Arthur Gottschalk, and Daniel has taken master-classes with William Bolcom, Chen Yi, David Lang, Stephen Hartke, and Sir James MacMillan. Daniel was a full-time high school Spanish teacher for three years (2009-2012) and is now Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at the College of Wooster, Ohio.

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James J. Morehead is the 3rd-ever Artistic Director of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. He is also the Music Director at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Evanston, Illinois and is a sought-after coach, accompanist, and music director in the city of Chicago. He previously taught at the Theater Conservatory of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he has also served as Adjunct Professor of Music Theory/History and German Diction. James received his MM in Piano Performance and Music Theory from Roosevelt University and his BM from Duquesne University.

As a Music Director, James has worked on the Non-Equity Jeffs Award Ceremony, See What I Wanna See in the Steppenwolf Garage series 2013, and has also done The Wiz (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), Dessa Rose (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), bare (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), Passing Strange (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), AIDA, Jerry Springer- the Opera, Trouble in Tahiti, The Rainbow Connection, the Mikado, The Impresario, Barber of Seville, The Old Maid and the Thief, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Sondheim in the Park, The Wandering Scholar, The Bear, Reagan’s Children, Something Schwartz, The Way We War, Copacabana, Cupid and Psyche, Promises, Promises among many others.

Classically, James has performed at the Auditorium Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Rockefeller Chapel, Chicago’s Gospel Fest 2012, Ravinia, and Harold Washington Theater among many others. He has collaborated and performed with the Juliani Ensemble, the Grande Prairie Choral Arts Singers, Anaphora, Lyric Opera Kids, and ChiArts, He has also appeared as a featured pianist at the Green Mill, Mary’s Attic, the Tavern, Gentry on Halsted, Spin Nightclub, Davenport’s, the 410 Club, the Spot, the Casino, The Rockwell in L.A., and 54 Below in New York City.

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Dr. Patterson recently retired after a long and celebrated tenure as a professor of piano, music history and literature, composition, and elementary music methods.

 

A sought-after composer, Dr. Patterson has written choral works, solo songs, and pieces for saxophone in addition to two one-act operas for Des Moines Metro Opera’s touring ensemble, Opera Iowa: The Tale of Peter Rabbit and A Dream Fulfilled: The Saga of George Washington Carver, which was televised by Iowa Public Television.

 

His song cycle “A Boy’s Will” was released by the classical label Centaur Records. He is also a past recipient of the Iowa Composers Forum and Iowa Choral Directors Association Award as well as the Simpson College Distinguished Award in Research.

Dr. Patterson's volume of 22 Art Songs is available for purchase through the Des Moines Metro Opera with all proceeds going towards the continued support of that organization.

 Composer Rick Sowash lives by his wits: composing, publishing his own sheet music and producing CDs -- fourteen so far -- of his compositions, as well as writing books for children about Ohio which he also publishes. His works are broadcast on many American classical music stations and his books are used in many of Ohio's schools. Rick’s newest book is a comic autobiography entitled The Boy Who Would Be Famous. He is a member of ASCAP, both as a composer and as a publisher.

Rick’s music is featured in several documentary films produced by Ken Burns' company Florentine Films. His Clarinet Quintet was premiered in Paris in 1996 by the celebrated French clarinetist Lucien Aubert, for whom it was specially written. Two of his fifteen trios for clarinet, cello and piano were performed by the Riviera-based trio "les Gavottes" at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 and were later recorded by the same musicians on a CD entitled "Enchantement d'avril."

 

His Concerto for Cello with Strings and Clarinet was premiered in Carnegie Hall in April, 2007. His Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra was given its European premiere in St. Petersburg in June, 2010 and has been recorded by the St. Petersburg Symphony and clarinetist David Drosinos for Marquis Classics. In 2010, Rick composed a series of 40 sacred motets for the Harvard University Choir for use in worship services in the Appleton Chapel on the Harvard campus. In 2011, his North Country Suite was commissioned and premiered by the Heartland Symphony in Brainerd, MN. Most recently, Rick’s music was featured in a new ballet presented by the Cincinnati Ballet, entitled “A Hero’s Prayer.”

Rick lives in Cincinnati with Jo, his wife of 40 years. The couple is blessed by a daughter, poet and teacher Shenandoah Sowash and a son, professional trombonist Chapman Sowash.

To find out more about Rick and his compositions, visit his website. Additionally, to receive weekly emails from Rick which include further insight and recordings of his music, simply email him at rick@sowash.com with the word "yes." He will know what this means and add you to the list. As a recipient of these weekly emails myself, I can assure you, they are wonderful!

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An accomplished composer,Christopher Palestrant's works and arrangements have been performed from NewYork City to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C and throughout the UnitedStates by ensembles including the Samuel Barber String Quartet, the Santa FeDesert Chorale, the Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet, the Albemarle Symphony Orchestra and the Tidewater Winds. He is the recipient of the Third Biennial Michael Hennagin Prize, a prize winner in the Turner Classic Movies Young Film Composers' Competition and the Randolph S. Rothschild prize in composition.His music and writings have been selected for presentation at the CollegeMusic Society national conferences, the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Intercollegiate Music Association, as the Carol Grotnes Belk Visiting Composer to Western Carolina University and for the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China. Chris' compositions include the orchestral works The Wind in His Mane, Caligula and Festival Hebridean.His work also includes numerous chamber pieces, choral music and one-act operas.

 

His primary teachers in composition include Nicholas Maw, Morris Cotel, Tom Benjamin, Jack Gallagher and Adolphus Hailstork, and master classes with John Corigliano, George Rochberg, Samuel Adler and JohnMaxwell Geddes. He earned degrees from The College of Wooster, Ohio (B.A.); New York University (M.A.) and the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University (M.M. and D.M.A.).

 

Chris is a Professor of Music Composition at Elizabeth City State University, where he was honored as a "Teacher of the Year" by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. He has been listed in the Who's Who in America publications annually since 2011. Chris also serves as musicologist on the board of the Feldman Chamber Music Society of Norfolk, Virginia and is a member of the award-winning blues band Uphill, performing regularly throughout the mid-Atlantic

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