Bruce Adolphe (b. 1955)
A renowned composer whose music is performed throughout the world, Bruce Adolphe is also the author of several books on music, an innovative educator, and a versatile performer. His multifaceted career in music is obvious from the positions he holds concurrently: resident lecturer and director of family concerts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, founding creative director of The Learning Maestros, and comic keyboard quiz-master of Performance Today's weekly public radio program Piano Puzzlers. In 2008, Bruce Adolphe was named composer-in-residence at the Brain and Creativity Institute in Los Angeles, a new neuroscience research center directed by Antonio and Hanna Damasio.
As a composer, Adolphe has written works for many of the world’s finest artists and organizations, iincluding Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia McNair, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Caramoor Festival, St. Luke’s Orchestra, the New York Chamber Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Brentano String Quartet, the Miami Quartet, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and many others. His many compositions include four operas and several theater pieces, all of which have been produced throughout the United States. He has been composer-in-residence at many festivals and institutions, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Music from Angel Fire, Bravo! Colorado, the Grand Canyon Festival, the Moab Festival, the Virginia Arts Festival, the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., the Perlman Music Program, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Virginia, the O.K. Mozart Festival and SummerFest La Jolla. Adolphe served as the Distinguished Composer-in-Residence at the Mannes College of Music for the 2003-04 term.
Hosted by Performance Today's Fred Child, the weekly Piano Puzzlers show features Adolphe at the piano, playing folk tunes and popular songs in the styles of famous Classical composers for call-in contestants. NPR personalities Robert Siegel, Susan Stamberg, and Nina Totenberg have all been guests on Piano Puzzlers. In a style that is a cross between Car Talk and Wil Shortz’s Puzzles, Bruce Adolphe and Fred Child informally talk about the musical issues raised by Adolphe’s comic compositions. The show’s popularity has led to its inclusion in the listening options for Delta Airlines and the program is now available as a podcast from both American Public Media and iTunes U. Now in its tenth year, Piano Puzzlers is heard in over 200 cities and has over 175,000 podcast subscribers.
Formerly on the faculties of the Juilliard School and New York University
and a Visiting Lecturer at Yale, Adolphe has been the lecturer of the Chamber
Music Society of Lincoln Center since 1992, and has been featured in nationally
broadcast Live from Lincoln Center television programs. In December, 2003,
Adolphe discussed and illustrated aspects of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
from the harpsichord in a live national television broadcast of The Chamber
Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 35th anniversary concert from Tully
Hall. In addition to his lecture series, Inside Chamber Music,
now in its 19th season at Lincoln Center, Adolphe was a featured lecturer
from 2001 to 2005 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where his
series was called A Composer’s View. A much sought-after
speaker and concert host, Adolphe has appeared at most of the major concert
series in the United States, as well as at education conferences, festivals,
and competitions. In 2011, he was a guest faculty member at the Salzburg Global Seminar for a conference on The Transformative Power of Music.
Adolphe has written three books on music: The Mind's Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination; What to Listen for in the World; and Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind: A Composer Explores Mysteries of the Musical Mind. His books are used in college and conservatories throughout the United States, and excerpts have been read as short features on National Public Radio. The recently published Origins of Creativity (Oxford University Press) includes summaries and highlights of lectures by renowned scientists, including Antonio Damasio and Benoit Mandelbrot; artists Dale Chihuly and Francoise Gilot; and Bruce Adolphe, as the spokesperson for creativity in music. A chapter on Bruce Adolphe is included in the book The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak About the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan (Oxford University Press). Adolphe is also included in both the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the Grove Dictionary of Opera, as well as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music.
For the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bruce Adolphe introduced every concert from the stage of Alice Tully Hall for eight seasons, created the lecture series Inside Chamber Music, developed and programmed several new music series, including Double Exposure, created the series Chamber Music Beginnings, which he hosted for several seasons, and created the family concert series Meet the Music!
In addition to education programs and new music events, Adolphe has been involved in the conception and programming of many subscription concerts at CMS, such as the Brahms-Schubert Festival and the Musical Evolutions concerts. Adolphe continues to appear in Tully Hall pre-concert events as the host of Composer Chats, in which he explores issues of composition with guest composers. Adolphe has also toured with artist members of CMS, as concert host and lecturer. He has also appeared as a pianist and conductor with CMS artist members and guest musicians, in performances of his own music and that of other living composers. Since 1993, Adolphe has appeared regularly in nearly every Meet the Music concert, frequently acting as characters ranging from the popular “private ear’ Inspector Pulse to Schubert’s brother Ferdinand to Igor Stravinsky. Adolphe’s many compositions for young listeners have often been premiered on this series before being performed throughout the United States and around the world.
With Julian Fifer, Bruce Adolphe co-founded The Learning Maestros, formerly called PollyRhythm Productions, a company devoted to the creation of arts-infused interdisciplinary educational materials linking music, visual arts, science, history, ethics, the environment and daily life. The Learning Maestros catalog is available through Keiser Classical, a division of Hal Leonard.
Adolphe’s compositions for young people include Marita and Her Heart’s Desire, with a story by Louise Gikow, recorded on Telarc with Itzhak Perlman and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks, recorded with Dr. Ruth Westheimer; The Amazing Adventure of Alvin Allegretto, a comic opera with a libretto by Sara Schlessinger, written for the Metropolitan Opera Guild; Urban Scenes for Kids and String Quartet; The Purple Palace, with a story by Louise Gikow, commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Tyrannosaurus Sue – A Cretaceous Concerto, written for the unveiling of the dinosaur at Chicago’s Field Museum in May of 2000; Tough Turkey in the Big City, with a script by Louise Gikow, commissioned by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Red Dogs and Pink Skies: A Musical Celebration of Paul Gauguin, created in conjunction with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and recorded on the PollyRhythm label; Witches, Wizards, Spells, and Elves: The Magic of Shakespeare, commissioned by The Chicago Chamber Musicians for a collaboration with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Oceanophony, commissioned by The La Jolla Music Society in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography; Time Flies, the musical score for the book by Eric Rohmann; Zephyronia, a science-fiction parable about wind energy and the power of imagination, written with author Louise Gikow, performed by the Imani Winds; and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, based on the award-winning book by Paul Goble, commissioned and premiered by Boston Musica Viva and conductor Richard Pittman.
Adolphe’s works for young people have been performed by over 70 orchestras and ensembles, including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Orlando Symphony, the Louisville Symphony, and the Verdi Orchestra in Milan.
Recent commissions include What Dreams May Come?, a work celebrating Mr. Adolphe’s 50th Birthday in 2005 for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, music director; The Tiger’s Ear: Listening to Abstract Expressionist Paintings, written for the Armstrong Chamber Concerts and featured in performances at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver by the Colorado Chamber Players and at the Light in Winter Festival in Ithaca. In 2009, the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, commissioned Adolphe to compose a work based on the poetry of Italian Renaissance painter Agnolo Bronzino. This work, Dell'arte e delle cipolle: Omaggio al Bronzino (Of Art and Onions: Homage to Bronzino), scored for madrigal choir, viola da gamba, harpsichord, and vibraphone, received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on March 6th, 2010, and its European premiere at the Teatro Goldoni, Florence, on October 8th, 2010.
Adolphe's recent composition Self Comes to Mind (2009), a work written in collaboration with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, was premiered by cellist Yo-Yo Ma on May 3rd, 2009, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Also in May, 2009, a concert of chamber music by Bruce Adolphe was presented at The Kennedy Center and his Violin Concerto was premiered by Eugene Drucker with the Idylwild Academy Orchestra conducted by Peter Askim at the Redcat Theater of Disney Hall, Los Angeles. In March of 2009, Adolphe's one-act opera Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson, with a libretto by Carolivia Herron, was produced by the Washington National Opera and the Washington Performing Arts Society, the first collaboration of these two distinguished organizations. In 2011, Adolphe's cantata Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society was premiered by the University of Michigan School of Music Chamber Choir and musicians, conducted by Jerry Blackstone. The cantata was commissioned to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the University of Michigan School of Social Work and features texts about social justice and civil rights.
Adolphe’s music has been recorded on the Telarc, Naxos, CRI, Delos, Koch, Summit, PollyRhythm and Bridge labels. The Milken Archive’s/Naxos “American Classics” CD of Adolphe’s music inspired by Jewish subjects was one of five recordings that won a Grammy for producer David Frost in 2005. Adolphe’s film scores include the permanent documentary at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.