American Composers Orchestra Names Derek Bermel Artistic Director
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announced last night at its Spring Benefit at Tribeca Rooftop that composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel will be the orchestra's new Artistic Director, commencing with the 2013-14 season. Bermel has been ACO's Creative Advisor since 2009, and succeeds composer Robert Beaser who has been ACO's Artistic Director since 2000 and was ACO's Artistic Advisor from 1993. Bermel joins Music Director George Manahan, who has just renewed his contract with ACO for an unprecedented five years, in leading the ensemble in its mission to be a catalyst for the creation of new orchestral music.
ACO Board Co-Chair Astrid Baumgardner said of Bermel's appointment, "Multi-talented composer, clarinetist, and artistic leader Derek Bermel is one of the beacons of today's music scene. With his creativity, intelligence and charm, the orchestra is poised to scale new heights and make an important contribution to the contemporary music scene." Board Co-ChairAnnette McEvoy added, "Derek has the talent, know-how, and creativity to present compelling contemporary music for our dynamic audience, and I am thrilled that he will be leading us into the future."
Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. In addition to his new appointment with ACO, he will continue to serve as Director of Copland House's Cultivate! Program for emerging composers. Bermel, an "eclectic with wide open ears" (Toronto Star), is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer. Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.
Bermel first came to ACO's attention in 1994 as a participant in the Whitaker Emerging Composers Readings (now the Underwood New Music Readings) with his piece Dust Dances. ACO has since commissioned and premiered Bermel's work on numerous occasions, including his first professional orchestral commission and Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with Voices, a clarinet concerto. ACO also commissioned and premiered A Shout, A Whisper, and a Trace (2009); Elixir (2006); and The Migration Series with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which premiered to sold-out audiences in 2006. Bermel was ACO's Music Alive Composer-in-Residence from 2006-2009, joining ACO's board and becoming the orchestra's Creative Advisor in 2009. In his role as Creative Advisor, Bermel excelled at programming ACO's Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall and ACO's citywide new music festival SONiC, Sounds of a New Century, in 2011, which featured 21st century music by 120 emerging composers. Bermel has also been active in several of ACO's composer development initiatives including serving as a mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings and EarShot programs, and serving as an artist-faculty member for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute.
Music Director George Manahan, who joined ACO in 2010, said of his five-year renewal with the orchestra, "Nothing could make me happier than to be continuing as Music Director of ACO. For me the work is filled with constant discovery and enjoyment. In no other conducting job do I get to explore so much new work. It certainly keeps me on my toes! And the ACO musicians are phenomenal. Nowhere else have I experienced the level of collaboration, commitment and experience that our players bring to new music. I can't wait to see what surprises next season brings."