Composers

Ahmed Alabaca is an African American composer, conductor, songwriter, pianist, and community facilitator creating power and possibility, through music, for himself and the diverse communities he is a part of. Raised in San Bernardino CA, in a low-income community, Alabaca knows the value of hard work and perseverance in the face of systemic and interpersonal challenges. Alabaca’s vision is “a new renaissance” for underrepresented composers, which centers on the works of people of color and creates opportunities for them to perform, record, and archive their work.

 

Alabaca received his B.A. in Music from Hunter College in New York, and attended advanced classes in film scoring at Juilliard and UCLA extensions. While in New York, Alabaca also scored three new plays and one new musical, including Eaten Voices which won Best of Festival at the 2012 Thespis Theatre Festival and a cash prize of $5,000.

 

In 2014 Alabaca moved to Los Angeles CA where he has scored several web series, television shows, and short films including: I Too Am America, written and directed by Shehkshem Ebron; Emmy award winning web series Giants, featured on Issa Rae’s Youtube channel, written and directed by James Bland and produced by Jussie Smollett of the show Empire; and Empire, created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong for Fox. Alabaca received a 2017 Indie Series Award nomination for Best Song in a series for his work on Giants.

 

Alabaca has also received commissions for his concert works from presenters across the country including: the Colour of Music Festival with the world premiere of the work Across the Calm Waters of Heaven (2016); the world premiere of Ascension for Solo Clarinet and String Orchestra with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra (2018); and the world premiere of Las Mariposas at the Voiced Project in Chicago (2018). With countless arrangements from negro spirituals to showtunes, Alabaca is currently working on two new commissions: a Violin Sonata for Anyango Yarbo Davenport and a French Horn Sonata for David Dickerson.

 

Alabaca is a Guest Conductor for the DC Strings, a classical music collective bringing accessible classical music to Washington DC; Artistic Director of The New Alchemists, an artist collective building power and possibility for diverse communities through theatre, film, and music; and Assistant Conductor of the South East Symphony, a group focused on equity and artistry within classical music. Alabaca is also the pianist, co-writer, and co-founder of The Humble Boys, a band that focuses on how music can heal, uplift, and encourage individuals to live their most fulfilled lives. soundcloud.com/ahmed-alabaca

 

Sarah Wallin Huff is a lecturer and professor of music at California Polytechnic University of Pomona. She received her M.A. in Music Composition at Claremont Graduate University in 2008, and she was the Professor of Composition and Advanced Theory (as well as conductor of the Chamber Ensemble) at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita from 2012 to 2016.

 

Wallin Huff has been a performer on the violin, viola, and 6-string electric violin since 1990. She plays with diverse ensembles and performs as a soloist for a variety of events and concerts, as well as performing on various recording projects, large and small. Her original compositions have been performed throughout the States and abroad, including the Exeter Phoenix Auditorium in Devon, England and Zipper Hall in Los Angeles. Her work has been called “a stunning collection of gorgeous, orchestral selections…that are, at times, vividly haunting but always entirely engrossing” (Barbra Dillon); “…incredible depth and creative complexity” (Wesley Derbyshire); “Her music is quite complex and unusual and yet…very easy to absorb and appreciate” (Baby Sue); and “Sarah’s music has a classy, understated sound, yet it is baroque and ornate…A true masterpiece, with so many nuances” (ArtistRack). Her compositions range from solo works to chamber ensembles, orchestral concert pieces, and electronic work, as well as work for film and video games. While her sonic output crosses a variety of moods and styles, a common thread linking them all is what she calls “stream-of-consciousness composition,” in which every piece is built upon an enigmatic, underlying framework, from which the work fluidly evolves. sarahwallinhuff.com

photo: Tim Yao

Composer Noam Faingold’s music has been described as "...lyrical…," "...exhilarating…," and "...a tour-de-force of Jazz melded with Classical..." by sources as varied as The New York Times, The BBC, Downbeat Magazine, and The Tulsa World among others. His crossover ensemble Burning City Orchestra’s debut album was described as "21st century acoustic electric art music” (Rich Fisher, Public Radio Tulsa).

 

Through a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Fellowship, Faingold was able to study with Justin Dello Joio and Ezequiel Viñao at New York University and Silvina Milstein and George Benjamin at King's College London, where he received his Ph.D. in Music Composition. He received additional fellowships through the Salzburg Global Seminar, The Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Atlantic Music Festival, and has served as Visiting Artist in Composition at The University of Tulsa, Artistic Director of the OK Electric Festival of electroacoustic music, and Composer-in-Residence of Oklahoma State University Cellofest.

 

Creative activities include commissions from TEDx, The International Double Reed Society and New York Philharmonic oboist Rob Botti, Andrés Franco and Tulsa Signature Symphony, The Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, new music ensembles Sound Energy (Boston) and TRANSIT New Music, Congregation B'nai Emunah’s 100th anniversary, and violinist Dennis Kim, among others. Additional performance highlights include the Jönköping Sinfonietta (Jönköping, Sweden), the chamber music series of ProQuartet (Paris) and the Tampere Philharmonic (Tampere, Finland), and the Aspen and Bowdoin festivals. His music can be heard on WQXR’s new music podcast Q2, and albums by Mainly Two violin duo (Turquoise Coconut) and cellist Tess Remy-Schumacher (XOLO). Collaborative projects include being the arranger/orchestrator for Baritone Lester Lynch and the San Francisco Opera Choir’s Gospel/Classical album “On My Journey” (Pentatone), Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra’s take on Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies, and working with poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s family on an orchestral elegy in Yevtushenko’s memory.

 

As an educator, Faingold has focused on program and curriculum building to provide access to music composition mentorship. He created the current curricula at Tulsa Community College, the Barthelmes Conservatory pre-college program at the bART Center for Music (where he also served as Director of the Conservatory), and The University of Tulsa’s week-long Composition Seminar for high school students. He works extensively with arts organizations like the Mid-America Arts Alliance’s “Artist Inc.” artist mentorship program and the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association. His work includes arts advocacy through composition, public speaking, and education.

 

For more info, please visit noamfaingold.com

 

photo: Sean Capshaw

 

 

Raisa Orshansky commenced her formal musical training at Vitebsk College of Music, where she specialized in folk instruments. She went on to graduate studies at Minsk Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, where she studied orchestra conducting.

 

Since moving to Canada, Orshansky has dedicated herself exclusively to music: performing on tsymbaly within Original Impressions DUO, composing, teaching music to children, and conducting.

In 2012 Orshansky published her first book of children’s poetry. Titled “Pesenka-Chudesenka” (Miracle Song) it is a compilation of whimsical short poems written for Russian-speaking preschoolers.

 

Working as a youth klezmer band conductor, Orshansky arranged Jewish folk songs for the band’s repertoire. Her band took an active part in various musical venues within Greater Toronto Area such as at the Many Faces of Markham, Israel and Yiddish Festivals.

 

Orshansky is a member of SOCAN Canada. She has recorded and produced two albums: Original Impression, encapsulating her ten compositions and a single with Midnight in Toronto.

 

In February 2019 Orshansky travelled to the Czech Republic to record her symphonic poem Spring Fantasy with Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

Orshansky’s “Sunrise Samba” for Concert Band was selected by the Royal Canadian Artillery Band as a part of its Spring Concert repertoire.

Craig Morris has composed music since the age of 11. He studied composition with Shirley Bloom, Kevin Scott, and Joelle Wallach and also studied violin, piano and voice. He played violin with the Bronx Symphony Orchestra for over 40 years and presently plays with the Ridgewood Symphony. He has sung professionally as a cantor for over 30 years. His music has been performed by the Bronx Symphony Orchestra, the CETA Orchestra of New York, the North Jersey Symphony, the Fifth International Music Festival of Buenos Aires, the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, the Chamber Music Society of Formosa, the Amasi Trio, the Gregg Smith Singers, and the Nyack College Chorale. His compositions include three piano sonatas, piano suites, orchestral suites, a clarinet concerto, a cello rhapsody for cello and orchestra, a concert duet for soprano and tenor, choral compositions, and a sacred service for the Sabbath (published in the Journal of Synagogue Music). “Arise My Love” and  “The Rubaiyat” were chosen as finalists in the 2010 Meistersingers Choral Competition. Nine choral works were recorded by the Composer’s Choir in Hamden CT.  His album DREAMS consisting of chamber music for piano, violin, and cello was released by PARMA Recordings in 2011 to critical acclaim. His music has been hailed as “extremely intelligent, complex and powerful” by Daniel Shaw, artistic director of the Composer’s Choir, and “beautiful, lively and moving” by Jennifer Whiting, conductor of the DeKalb Festival Chorus. Gapplegate Classical Reviews commented “There are times when music may not be ultra-advanced categorically yet be so captivating that one doesn’t care. The composer Craig Madden Morris and his chamber music on the album DREAMS (Ravello 7813) gives us such a time. There is lyricism, formal heft, beautifully played parts and an idiomatic craftsmanship/inspiration that makes it all a joy to hear.” His orchestral overture, “Lullaby” was selected as a winner in the international Ablaze Records Orchestral Masters Competition and was released on December 1, 2013 as part of an album recorded by the Brno Philharmonic with conductor Mikel Toms. It has been described as follows: “fetchingly beautiful, redolent of Bernstein and Copland, and driven with a sure melodic and harmonic hand, this deeply American score paints a lovely and melodic world that is very effectively orchestrated and affectively captivating despite its brevity.” His Benjamin Overture for concert band was recently recorded by the West Point Band with conductor Lt. Col. Jim Keene, and was premiered by the SUNY Orange Symphonic Band with conductor Kevin Scott on December 14, 2013. His violin concerto was premiered by the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra on October 18, 2014, with soloist Francisc Restesan and music director Paul John Stanbery, and recorded by PARMA Recordings for release in February 2016. He was commissioned by the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra to compose a companion piece to the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar, which was premiered in May 2017.

 

Morris is a child psychiatrist and an assistant professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. A native New Yorker, he has lived in New City NY for many years with his wife, Nancy. Their children and grandchildren live in Massachusetts.

 craigmaddenmorris.wixsite.com/craigmaddenmorris

Scott Brickman's passions are athletics, education, genealogy, and music. Born in 1963 in Oak Park IL, to parents of Latvian and Polish heritage, he grew up in Chicago, where he played baseball on a variety of clubs. He has run competitive races in both the United States and Canada. Brickman holds music degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Brandeis University. Since 1997 he has taught at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, where he is currently Professor of Music and Education. His albums WINTER AND CONSTRUCTION, DEAR DARWIN, and 96 STRINGS AND TWO WHISTLES are available on the Ravello label of PARMA Recordings. The Kiev Philharmonic, L'viv Chamber Orchestra, and Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra have performed and/or recorded his orchestral music. A recording of a new orchestral work with the Zagreb Festival Orchestra is planned for 2020.

Audun G. Vassdal is a Norwegian composer currently located in Los Angeles. Vassdal started playing instruments at an early age, and his obsession with understanding how music and instruments works led him to pursue music further. He is primarily a pianist, and attended a high school with a music education. This is where he discovered his passion for composition, and decided that being a composer would be his life goal. Being fascinated by many forms of music, he has pursued an education in both classical music and film music, as well as other genres.

 

He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oslo, where he studied a variety of different genres of music while mainly focusing on classical composition. Later he went on to complete a master’s degree in Composition for Screen at the Royal College of Music in London. Having a father who worked in the Norwegian film industry, it felt to him like a natural step to take, having grown up on film sets and production studios.

 

His music often combines techniques and tonal languages from several types of music, often leading to interesting and atypical approaches. His style of composition is mainly influenced by early 20th-century music. He combines techniques from impressionism, expressionism, neoclassicism, jazz, and folk music, among other genres. His goal as a composer is to find interesting parts of all types of music and try to combine them in different ways.

 

Having worked for many years in the Oslo Concert House and directly for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Vassdal is heavily influenced by orchestral music, and has spent a lot of time studying orchestration through work, education, and privately. This has made his orchestration style quite unique and often very experimental, utilizing odd combinations and techniques to try to create interesting colors. This and the use of extended harmonies and harmonic progressions is quite typical of Vassdal’s style and is found throughout his body of work.

 

Currently, Vassdal works with both music for visual media and classical music, often letting the genres overlap and trying to create new approaches to both. His music has been nominated for several awards, and he has composed music for ensembles and projects that have been performed and screened all over the world.

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