Described by the Toronto Star as "an eclectic with wide open ears", Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity and theatricality as a composer and his virtuosity and charisma as a performer. Known for drawing freely from a rich variety of musical genres - including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, and gospel - he filters the sounds of the world through his own musical palette, crafting a singular artistic vision. From the complex Bulgarian melodies in Tied Shifts, to Irish bagpipes coupled by Led Zepplin-inspired riffs in Voices, Bermel infuses his music with the rhythms and inflections of myriad folk traditions while maintaining a sophisticated and distinctive style of orchestration, harmony, and counterpoint.
As a composer of concert music, Bermel currently serves as the 2006-2009 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence of the American Composers Orchestra, curating its ongoing series Orchestra Underground: Composers Out Front. Projects during the 2006-2007 season included the world premiere of The Migration Series for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in conjunction with ACO, and Thracian Echoes, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. His commissions include works for the National, St. Louis,Pacific, and Pittsburgh Symphonies, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, eighth blackbird, WNYC radio, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), pianist Christopher Taylor, and cellist Fred Sherry. His premiere CD of chamber music, Soul Garden, was released last season to critical acclaim. "Soul Garden is a superb album of consistently winning chamber works that demonstrate how a brilliant musical vagabond..."(Sequenza 21).
As clarinetist, he has appeared throughout the U.S. and Europe, including recitals in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Detroit, Jerusalem, The Hague, and Paris, and radio broadcasts on both sides of the Atlantic. He has premiered dozens of new works including his clarinet concerto Voices, which created a sensation at the Carnegie Hall premiere, and which he has since performed with the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, and others. In 2007, he returned to the LA Philharmonic as guest soloist, performing John Adams' Gnarly Buttons with the composer conducting, and he performed Voices with the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. Bermel is also the founding clarinetist of Music from Copland House and co-artistic director of the Dutch-American interdisciplinary ensemble TONK. In addition, he rocks it with his Brooklyn-based band Peace by Piece as bandeader/singer/songwriter.
His upcoming musical Golden Motors - written with librettist/lyricist Wendy S. Walters - will be produced in Spring 2009 by Music Theatre Group. Bermel and Walters have also collaborated on The Good Life, a new work for the Pittsburgh Symphony and Mendelssohn Choir to be premiered by Leonard Slatkin in Oct. 2008. Bermel's many awards include the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Faber Music, and residencies at Tanglewood, Banff, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, Sacatar, Bellagio, and Aspen. As an educator, he is founding director of the New York Youth Symphony's Making Score program for young composers, hosted by ASCAP and the League of American Orchestras, and he has taught masterclasses internationally. His music is published by Peermusic Classical (US) and Faber Music (Europe/Australia). To learn more about Derek Bermel, visit www.derekbermel.com.