Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” by The New York Times, and “fluid and arresting … at once dramatic and probing,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.
In 2019, Bielawa became the inaugural Composer-in-Residence and Chief Curator at the new Philip Glass Institute
(PGI) at The New School’s Center of the Performing Arts. The PGI is a landmark partnership between The New School, the Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE), and Bielawa, who has been the vocalist with the Ensemble since 1992.
Bielawa received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, created with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa’s artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. The opera was filmed at locations across the country – Alcatraz Island, a monastery on the Hudson River, an abandoned train station in Oakland, the California Redwoods – and featured over 350 musicians in support of its core cast, including soprano Deborah Voigt, Kronos Quartet, violinist Jennifer Koh, cellist Joshua Roman, Alarm Will Sound, and many others. All twelve episodes were broadcast on KCETLink’s Emmy® award-winning series Artbound, as well as online for free, on-demand streaming. The Los Angeles Times called Vireo an opera, “unlike any you have seen before, in content and in form,” and the San Francisco Classical Voice described it as, “poetic and fantastical, visually stunning and relentlessly abstract.” In February 2019, Vireo is released as a two CD + DVD box set on Orange Mountain Music, featuring all of the music and episodes. It is coming to the stage as VIREO LIVE, a hybrid film-opera experience in 2020.
Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US and abroad. Two of her works received their world premieres at the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL: My Outstretched Hand by The Knights, San Francisco Girls Chorus, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which was recently given a second performance at The Kennedy Center; and Vireo Caprice by violinist Jennifer Koh at National Sawdust. The Seattle Chamber Music Society recently commissioned and premiered Bielawa’s Fictional Migrations, which The Seattle Times called, “sophisticated, propulsive, complex, and often beautiful.” In December 2016, the Orlando Philharmonic performed the world premiere of Bielawa’s Drama/Self Pity for orchestra and in January 2017, The Kennedy Center presented two of her works with Bielawa as soloist as part of their KC Jukebox series. Recent highlights also include Bielawa’s performance of Sanctuary Songs with Jennifer Koh at National Sawdust; Start for piano and chamber orchestra by pianist Andrew Armstrong and the Orchestra of the League of Composers; 50 Measures for Aaron by SOLI Chamber Ensemble; One Atom of Faith by violinist Rebecca Fischer; and The Trojan Women by the String Orchestra of New York City.
Bielawa’s music can be found outside the concert hall as well, with two major works written for performance in public spaces. Chance Encounter, a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan’s Seward Park. Airfield Broadcasts is a 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians, which was premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in May 2013 and at Crissy Field in San Francisco in October 2013.
Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and has also premiered and toured works by John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Michael Gordon. In 1997 she co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Bielawa served as Artistic Director of the acclaimed San Francisco Girls Chorus from 2013-2018 and recently completed her residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California. Her discography includes albums on the Tzadik, TROY, Innova, BMOP/sound, Orange Mountain Music and Sono Luminus labels. In 2016, Bielawa was awarded grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, the MAP Fund, and New Music USA. She was named a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society for 2018.
For more information, please visit www.lisabielawa.net.