Composer Biographies

We are committed to playing music that reflects our communities and ourselves, women and 'not dead yet' men, as well as more classic fare.  To that end, our repertoire probably consists of some composers you don't know.  We'd like to introduce you to them.

Charlie Barnett
An accomplished and popular American composer, Charlie Barnett is the winner of numerous awards for his film scores, including the Rome International Film Festival’s Jerry Goldsmith Award. Barnett also writes music for television; his credits include Saturday Night Live, Weeds, Royal Pains, and Archer. Barnett’s lively orchestral and chamber works are performed both nationally and internationally. Notable collaborations include a spoken-word piece written and performed with Dr. Maya Angelou. As a producer, Barnett has recorded scores of pop and jazz albums for labels including Def Jam and Elektra. And as a performer, he plays guitar and piano for Chaise Lounge, an eclectic jazz band that frequently appears on the national college-radio charts with his original compositions.

Lou Harrison
Lou Harrison’s highly acclaimed work juxtaposes and synthesizes musical dialects from virtually every corner of the world.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Harrison grew up in the culturally diverse San Francisco Bay Area. There he was influenced by Cantonese Opera, Gregorian chants and the music of California's Spanish and Mexican cultures. Harrison also developed an interest in Indonesian Gamelan music through early recordings.

As a young man, Lou Harrison worked as a dancer and a dance accompanist. His early compostions included a large body of percussion music, combining Western, Asian, African and Latin American rhythmic influences with homemake 'junk' instruments. During this period, Harrison worked closely with John Cage and began studies in Los Angeles with Arnold Schoenberg.

A move to New York in the mid-forties brought Lou Harrison to the Herald Tribune as music critic. Here Harrison helped to bring wider attention to the work of Charles Ives, and is considered largely responsible for Ives' receiving the Pulitzer Prize. The young composer and critic also embarked on a study of early European music during this period. In the late forties, Harrison taught at the legendary Black Mountain College. By the early fifties, he moved back to California, where he has lived ever since.

Residence on the West Coast intensified Harrison's involvement in a synthesis of musical cultures bordering on the Pacific, reflected in such works as "Pacifica Rondo" and "Lo Koro Sutro" for chorus and gamelan. He maintained an interest in dance, theater and the craft of instrument building and was an accomplished puppeteer who wrote musical pieces for puppet theater.

Lou Harrison travelled extensively, adding to the global resonance his artistry, performing and studying with the musical masters of varied cultures, and presenting his work to enthusiastic audiences everywhere. He died on February 2, 2003, en route to a festival in his honor at Ohio State University.

Mark O'Connor
A product of America's rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music, Mark O'Connor's creative journey began at the feet of a pair of musical giants. The first was the folk fiddler and innovator who created the modern era of American fiddling, Benny Thomasson; the second, French jazz violinist, considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of the violin, St├ęphane Grappelli. Along the way, between these marvelous musical extremes, Mark O'Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from the multitude of musical styles and genres he studied. Now he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American Classical music, and a vision of an entirely American school of string playing. As The Los Angeles Times recently noted, he has "crossed over so many boundaries, that his style is purely personal."

Russell Peck
Russell Peck's orchestral compositions have received thousands of performances by hundreds of orchestras throughout the world. An Albany Records compact disk of four of the composer's orchestral works (TROY 040) features recordings by the London Symphony. Other recordings are on Koch International and Channel Crossings (Netherlands). His Peace Overture was among the first serious contemporary American orchestral works played in the People's Republic of China (Shanghai Symphony), and one of the very few to be played in Africa (Cairo Symphony).

In 2000-2001 a consortium of 39 American orchestras commissioned Mr. Peck's Timpani Concerto Harmonic Rhythm. The premiere performances began with the Louisville Orchestra and proceeded with orchestras throughout the United States, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Among the honors Mr. Peck received are the Koussevitsky Prize, two Ford Foundation Fellowships, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and several states' arts councils, ASCAP awards, and commissions from major symphony orchestras. Artist residencies included the Gaudeamus Contemporary Music Festival in the Netherlands and a two year appointment as composer-in-residence for the city of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Symphony. Mr. Peck also served on the faculty of Northern Illinois University, Eastman School of Music, and the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Russell Peck (born Detroit, Michigan, 1945; died Greensboro, North Carolina, 2009) was an honors graduate of the University of Michigan (1966), where he also received Master and Doctoral degrees in composition (1967 and 1972). His composition teachers included Clark Eastham, Leslie Bassett, Ross Lee Finney, Gunther Schuller, and George Rochberg - the latter two through Margaret Crofts Fellowships at Tanglewood Music Center.

Beyond his compositional career, Peck worked tirelessly throughout his life to end world hunger.

Alex Shapiro
Alex Shapiro composes acoustic and electroacoustic pieces known for their lyricism and drama. Published by Activist Music, her music is heard daily in concerts and broadcasts across the U.S. and internationally, and can be found on over twenty commercially released CDs from record labels around the world. Educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music as a student of Ursula Mamlok and John Corigliano, Ms. Shapiro's honors and awards include those from The American Music Center, ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, Mu Phi Epsilon, Meet the Composer, The California Arts Council and The MacDowell Colony.

An enthusiastic leader in the new music community, Alex is a strong advocate for other artists through her speaking appearances, published articles and volunteerism. She is the elected Symphonic and Concert music representative on the ASCAP Board of Directors, co-chairs ASCAP's Symphonic & Concert Committee, and chairs the Media Council for New Music USA. Ms. Shapiro is the past President of the Board of Directors of the American Composers Forum of Los Angeles, and has also served as on the boards of national music organizations including The American Music Center, The MacDowell Colony, The College Music Society, NACUSA, and The Society of Composers & Lyricists. Raised in Manhattan and later a longtime resident of Malibu, California, Alex now lives on Washington State's remote San Juan Island. When she's not composing she can be found communing with the sea life, as seen on her music and photo-filled blog, and her website,

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