songSLAM Songbook, Vol. 1: Composer Biographies
Daniel Santiago Castellanos is a composer, singer, and pianist based in New Jersey. His first performed composition, Eternal Light, was labeled as “serene” and “attractively harmonized” by the New York Times. His most recent piece for mezzo-soprano and piano, Death is nothing at all, won first prize at the 2019 NYC songSLAM competition. Ensembles that have performed his music include the Semiosis Quartet, The Orchestra Now (TŌN), The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and members of the Bard Conservatory Orchestra.
Abigail de Niverville (SOCAN)
Abigail de Niverville is an author, poet, and composer based in Toronto, Ontario. Born in Moncton, New Brunswick, Abigail draws inspiration from her experiences growing up on the East Coast in all her works. She holds a Master of Music from the University of Toronto, studying under Alexander Rapoport. Her debut novel I Knew Him was published by NineStar Press in 2019, and is available through most major book retailers. Recent musical works include October 4th, 1993, a one-woman mini-opera; Letters, for tenor and piano; and Fragments, for clarinet and piano.
Natalie Draper (ASCAP)
Praised for her “individual and strong voice” (Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine), Natalie Draper explores character and evocative sound-worlds in her music. Her works have been performed at a variety of venues, including Roulette Intermedium, UC Davis, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Canadian Opera Company. Her music has received honors and recognition–”Timelapse Variations” (2016) garnered positive reviews from Lydia Woolever in Baltimore Magazine (“dissonant melodies that build into a unified spiral”), Tim Smith in The Baltimore Sun (a “tense, darkly colorful churn”), and Mark Medwin in Fanfare Magazine (“…polyrhythm bolstering gorgeous pantonal harmonies and shards of chromatic counterpoint,” while “…items burst forth, in a way that might make Mahler smile…”). In 2018, she remixed excerpts from “Timelapse Variations” for the background music of a short NASA film featuring the research of glaciologist Joe MacGregor. This video can be viewed in a variety of places, including Smithsonian Magazine. She has held residencies and fellowships at the Ucross Foundation (2010), the Tanglewood Music Center (2015), the I-Park Foundation (2018), and Yaddo (2019). She is an assistant professor in the music theory and composition department at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University.
Whitney George (ASCAP)
Whitney George’s music traverses the affective terrain between tragedy and ecstasy, fragility and strength, bringing together romantically delicate intimacy and the spectacular darkness of the macabre. Her operas, staged multimedia works, and chamber music have had both international and domestic premieres. George is the artistic director and conductor of The Curiosity Cabinet, a chamber orchestra formed in 2009. She holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a master’s degree from Brooklyn College, and is currently a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies, and is on the composition faculty for Face the Music.
Wally Gunn (APRA/AMCOS)
Wally Gunn is a composer whose work makes use of patterns and processes, and sometimes utilizes physical gesture and speech to heighten the theatricality of musical performance, creating music that is expressive and emotionally direct. His work often incorporates the extramusical themes of science and the natural world, as well as explorations of queer identity and experience. Hailing from rural Australia, Wally first played in rock bands, then attended Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, before moving to New York to study with Julia Wolfe at Manhattan School of Music, and then pursue a Ph.D. at Princeton University. Wally writes concert music and collaborates with theater makers and visual artists, and divides his time between New York, NY, USA and Castlemaine, VIC, Australia.
Meg Huskin (ASCAP)
Meg Huskin is a Chicago-based composer, vocalist, and writer. Her work embraces melody and the rhythms of language to tell stories that blur the boundary between modern and traditional themes. Recent performances of her work have taken place at the LunART Festival, Madison New Music Festival, and Chicago’s inaugural songSLAM competition. She was commissioned by Lynx Project to create new work for their 2020 Autism Advocacy Series, a program which seeks to create music using poems written by young people with autism. She believes in the power of music and stories to create a more just and empathetic world, and much of her work aims to address issues of inequality and to magnify voices that have historically been underrepresented in classical music.
Meg graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music where she majored in music composition, voice performance, and creative writing. As part of her senior thesis, she wrote a libretto based on an original story, Fayaway. She has studied with composers Gilda Lyons, Laura Schwendinger, Stephen Dembski, and others. She has participated in New Amsterdam Record’s Composing Workshop, the Wintergreen Composer’s Retreat and the From-Page-to-Stage Emerging Composers program. Her choral work “They Tore Down the Church” won the Mullins Sacred Music Prize in 2016.
Meg remains an active singer, having studied with soprano Mimmi Fulmer. Whenever she can, she supports Chicago’s storefront opera community in ensemble roles, or technical support. As a writer, her articles have been published by I Care if You Listen.com and Lyric Opera of Chicago’s program books.
Brooklyn-based Felix Jarrar is a composer and pianist with “(strong) dramatic instincts” (Lewis Spratlan, 2000 Pulitzer Prizewinner in Music). His works have been praised as “experimental and beautifully composed” (Broadway World) with “lush and memorable melodies” (Operawire). His list of accomplishments includes performances at diverse venues such as Symphony Space, (le) poisson rouge, Feinstein’s/54 below, the BAM! Fisher Hillman Studio, Roulette Intermedium, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. His works have been performed internationally by members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, the Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, and the duo Unassisted Fold. At the forefront of Jarrar’s compositional output are his works for voice. Amongst his approximately 75 works, he has written over 50 art songs, five operas, and a cantata. Jarrar completed his Bachelor of Arts from Marlboro College with Highest Honors in Music Composition with Stanley Charkey and Matan Rubinstein and Piano Performance with Robert Merfeld and Luis Battle. He received his Master of Music degree from Brooklyn College with the Graduate Dean’s Award in Music Composition on the Eleanor Kilcoyne, Cerf Music, and Chancey Memorial Scholarships. He primarily studied with Wang Jie, Tania León, and Jason Eckardt while holding the prestigious graduate fellowship for assisting ConTempo, Ursula Oppens’ contemporary ensemble in the conservatory. He was mentored as a teenager by piano pedagogue Burton Hatheway.
Laurence Jobidon (SOCAN)
Quebecois composer and organist, Laurence Jobidon studied at the Conservatoire de Musique de Québec and further trained in composition with Andrew P. MacDonald. Winner of the 2015 New Generation Orchestra Composition Competition for her piece « Le Harfang et Le Loup » and of the 2018 Prix Trois femmes – Mécénat Musica with Pascale St-Onge, librettist, for their chamber opera « L’hiver attend beaucoup de moi », Laurence has written for a variety of ensembles (solo, vocal, chamber, orchestral…). Her music has notably been performed at Opéra de Montréal, the Canadian Opera Company Noon-Concert Series, the SMCQ and the 28th International Review of Composers.
Isaac Lovdahl (ASCAP)
Isaac Lovdahl is a composer, conductor, educator, and vocalist currently based in Fargo, ND. After graduating with a B.M. in Vocal Music Education from Concordia College (Moorhead) in 2015, he spent four years directing high school, church, and community choirs across Minnesota. He is now pursuing a Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting at North Dakota State University, and working as director of music at Lutheran Church of Christ the King in Moorhead, MN. His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain by high school, community, and professional ensembles and soloists. Lovdahl has sung as a chorus member and featured soloist with The Concordia Choir, The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, Oratory Bach Ensemble (Bach Roots Festival), Vox Nova Chorale, imPulse (MPLS), and Great River Chorale. His music can be found online through Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Graphite Publishing (VocalEssence Music Press), MusicSpoke, and his own website: isaaclovdahl.com. When not composing or busy with another musical engagement, he enjoys riding his bike, reading poetry, watching or playing a good game of basketball, and staying up too late.
Liam Moore (ASCAP)
Liam Moore is a composer, baritone and lover of language. He primarily writes chamber music, choral music and art song.
Liam took an early and earnest interest in music and as a child his parents signed him up for a local youth choir. This did nothing to cut down on the noise around the house, but certainly made his singing more tolerable. The music Liam writes can trace its roots to his mom’s piano playing, his dad’s record collection and countless hours of 16-bit video game music.
In addition to singing and composing, he generally plays stringed instruments well. Liam loves to learn, enjoys traveling and begrudgingly meets the minimum recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
Haley Olson is a composer, pianist and vocalist based in Minnesota. As a composer, she has written works that have been programmed and performed by ensembles and festivals such as the Occasional Symphony, the ECCE Ensemble the Space City New Music Festival, and the Sparks and Wiry Cries songSLAM. Haley holds degrees in composition from St. Olaf College, where she studied with Justin Merritt and Timothy Mahr, and the Peabody Institute, where she studied with Michael Hersch and Du Yun. As a performer, Haley has provided incidental music for improv and theatrical shows in Baltimore and the Twin Cities. She was the Composer-In-Residence for Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore from 2017 through 2019. An educator and advocate for teaching musical skills to students of all ages, she has worked with mentorship projects such as Baltimore’s Junior Bach program and currently directs the children’s choir and theory program at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal church in St. Paul.
Nathan Scalise (BMI)
Nathan Scalise blends the rhythmic drive of rock, direct expression of folk, formal considerations of classical music, and ecstatic emotion of gospel into an accessible and individual compositional voice. Significant musical influences include the piano playing and singing of Nina Simone, and person-specific writing of Duke Ellington, as well as the soundworld of U2 and the song cycles of Schubert. His music has been awarded by NYC SongSLAM (2019 First Prize), Fifteen Minutes of Fame, and Dolce Suono Ensemble (2017 Steven Stucky Young Composers Competition), and performed professionally by artists including Contemporaneous, the Momenta Quartet, the Ajax Quartet, Hub New Music, 3G Percussion, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek (mezzo-soprano), Modern Medieval Trio, Jordan Bowman (soprano), Andrew Fuchs (tenor), Paul Neebe (trumpet), Ithaca New Music Collective, Opera Elect, and Orchestra 2001. He has also received performances by student orchestras, wind ensembles, chamber ensembles, vocal ensembles, and jazz ensembles at Swarthmore College and Binghamton University.
In addition to compositional activities, Nathan performs frequently as a trombonist, pianist/keyboardist, and drummer. He holds an M.M. in Composition from Binghamton University, where he studied composition with Daniel Thomas Davis and trombone with Don Robertson, as well as B.A.s in Music and Economics from Swarthmore College, where he studied composition with Gerald Levinson, trombone with Paul Arbogast, and piano with Hans Lüdemann. Raised in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, when not doing something musical, he is likely to be running, playing basketball, or cheering loudly for Boston sports teams.
Tilen Slakan (SAZAS)
Tilen SLAKAN is a Slovenian composer who started his musical path in the primary music school »Risto Savin« in Zalec where he played trumpet and piano. He continued playing the trumpet in the Artistic Music High School Velenje in the class of David Spec. At that time he also became very interested in composing and he got much help and encouragement from his teacher Slavko Suklar. He decided to continue his studies of trumpet and composition at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana, where he graduated in the class of Stanko Arnold. He finished his Master studies of theoretical-musical pedagogy and composition under Marko Mihevc. At the moment he is studying musical theory and composition for his PhD Degree under the supervision of Andrej Misson.
He regularly works with various orchestras (The Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra, Slovene Philharmonic Symphony orchestra, Woodwinds Orchestra Zarja Šoštanj, Slovenian Police Orchestra, the Academy’s Symphony Orchestra, String Chamber Orchestra “Camerata Laibach”, Fran Korun Koželjski Velenje Symphony Orchestra, Risto Savin Žalec Symphony Orchestra, Brass Band Slovenia, Tambourine Orchestra “Tamburjaši”, etc.), chamber groups (SToP – Slovenian Percussion Project, the Academy’s Brass ensemble, Goodivas String Quartet, Dissonance String Quartet, RojoTango Orchestra, Piano Trio “Trio Liberte”, the Academy’s Trumpet ensemble and Percussion Studio, etc.), choirs (the Academy’s Chamber Choir, Tone Tomšič Academic Choir, Mixed Choir Tabor, Women’s Choir ČarniCe, Chamber Choir Orfej, etc.) and soloists (Stanko Arnold, Petra Vidmar, Nikola Pajanović, Jure Gradišnik, Sanja Zupanič, etc.).
Evan L. Snider (ASCAP)
Throughout his body of work, Evan L. Snyder is unified in his dedication to storytelling. A winner of the 2017 Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Competition, his first opera, A Capacity for Evil, broke with conventional genres, telling a Holmesian detective tale on the operatic stage. The opera premiered fall 2018, with Detroit’s Opera MODO and was enthusiastically received by the run’s sold-out audiences. Evan’s second operatic project, The Clef of the Universe, is a science fiction opera, following a group of archeologist crash-landed on an alien world. An aria excerpted from the new work was previewed at Constellation Chicago, during the 2019 Fresh Inc Festival.
Evan’s interest in novel storytelling carries over to his work outside of opera as well. His musical portrait of a friend, Theme Song for Dan Carty, has received several performances, including as winner of the 2018 Detroit REVIVAL Project, as well as by the Fifth House Ensemble at the 2019 Red Note Festival. He has also received commissions from both Fifth House and the Lansing-based Contempus Initiative, including for his Disappearing Landscapes, a children’s work exploring the impact of humanity on nature, which premiered on the 2018 Lansing Symphony’s Family Series.
Storytelling a more well-trodden road, Evan has composed numerous songs, along with two full-length song cycles. His first cycle, Ulysses, a setting of Tennyson’s dramatic monologue, was premiered in 2018 by Richard Fracker and Elden Little, and has also since been featured at the 2019 Source Song Festival. His second cycle, Dynamic Roads, is a work dealing with themes of moving and aging, which was created in collaboration with poet Peter Faziani. The work premiered May 2019, with bass-baritone Joseph Baunoch.
Dennis Tobenski (ASCAP)
Dennis Tobenski is a composer of acoustic new music, a vocalist, and a strong advocate for new music and the interests of living composers.
Dennis’s Only Air, a 20-minute work for high voice and orchestra memorializing the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives in recent years, was commissioned by the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, and has been performed in a chamber version by The Secret Opera in New York and members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in San Francisco.
In 2016 he released his debut album in collaboration with pianist Marc Peloquin: And He’ll Be Mine, a disc of art songs by living American composers.
He is also the founder of NewMusicShelf, an online marketplace for independently-published composers to sell digital editions of their works. In 2018, he published the first four volumes of the NewMusicShelf Anthologies of New Music: four voice type-specific collections of art songs by living composers from around the world. The series has expanded to include current and upcoming volumes for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, horn, trumpet, tuba, piano, violin, and viola. The newly-launched NewMusicShelf Signature Series will include the Sparks & Wiry Cries songSLAM Songbook, Vol. 1, Jenny Lin’s Etudes Project, Vol. 1, The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook, The Lynx Project Songbook, and Laura Strickling’s 40@40 Art Song Project.
Dennis received his B.Mus. in Vocal Performance and Music Theory & Composition from Illinois State University, and his M.A. in Music Composition from The City College of New York.
His principal teachers have included David Del Tredici, Chester Biscardi, and David Feurzeig. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for Composers Now, and the Board of Directors of New Music Recordings and the KeyedUp MusicProject. Dennis lives in New York City with his husband Darien Scott Shulman and their cat Pistachio.
Jason Weisinger (BMI)
Jason Weisinger is a GRAMMY-nominated multi-disciplinary artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. His music has been performed extensively throughout NYC in venues such as HERE Arts Center, The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, Park Avenue Synagogue, The Duplex, and The DiMenna Center for Classical Music. In addition to composing, Jason has enjoyed success in a wide variety of repertoire as a vocalist. Highlights include a double bill of “Dido and Aeneas” (Sailor) & “Curlew River” (ensemble) with the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a workshop of Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera “Intimate Apparel” (Mr. Marks) with The Metropolitan Opera, and The Boston POPS revue “Simply Sondheim”. He was a finalist in the 2016 Joy in Singing art song competition. As a choral artist, Jason has sung with ensembles such as GRAMMY-winning choir The Crossing, the GRAMMY-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Classical Orchestra, and the Bard SummerScape Festival. Jason frequently serves as music director during the development and performance of many musicals including “The Ninth Hour” (MetLiveArts @ The Cloisters), “RUTH” (The Goodman Theatre), “Fora” (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center), and “The Cherry Orchard” (Jonathan Larson Foundation). Jason has studied and performed at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Advanced Workshop, Tanglewood Music Center, Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, Brevard Music Center, SongFest, New Music on the Point, Rocky Ridge Music Center, University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music, SUNY Fredonia, and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.