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Bill Vanaver

Rosendale, NY         

Bill Vanaver (composer, folklorist, performer, teacher) plays and composes for a multitude of ethnic instruments from all over the world, as well as for orchestra. Bill was known to audiences for his outstanding instrumental work, and sense of humor.


Bill Vanaver, has been composing, arranging, performing and teaching for over 35 years. He has recorded on the Vanguard, Elektra, Nonesuch, Folkways, Philo, and MMC labels. Having studied and traveled with master ethnic musicians throughout the world, he possesses a repertoire of more than 500 songs. He has composed and produced music for films, dance and theatre productions, including The Clearwaterwith Pete Seeger, the award winning and often televised film, Babyswim, (Bullfrog Prod’s) Gorky’s Barbarians for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, A Thousand Nights and a Night for Andre Gregory’s Manhattan Project, and two multimedia productions for National Geographic Films. He has also composed and/or choreographed for several plays by the theatre department of SUNY New Paltz, including Blood Wedding, Trojan Women, Hecuba, and Zorba the Greek. His most recent film scores are the Catskill Mountain House and the World Around (Gold Remi ~ Houston Int’l Film Festival), and Sweet Violets, both for Willow Mixed Media.


 Among his recent honors are the Lifetime Acheivement Award from the Folk Music Society of New York, the Tof Miriam Award, from the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot, to Bill and his wife, Livia, for their contributions to the Jewish cultural life in New York State. He recently presented a lecture, “What is Jewish Music?” for the Louis Resnick Series at New York State University, in New Paltz. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, and was the first American to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study music abroad (demotic music in Greece). In 1996, He received a grant from the American Music Center towards his symphonic work, P’nai El., for the prestigious MMC label. In 2008, Bill was awarded the Eisteddfod Award by the New York Folk Music Society. P’nai El had its premiere performance in 1997 by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic., along with the Vanaver Caravan dancers.


 In 1971, Bill Vanaver met choreographer/dancer Livia Drapkin, and together they founded The Vanaver Caravan Dance and Music Company, which has gained the Vanavers worldwide recognition for their exciting combinations of ethnic and modern styles. The orchestral piece, P’nai El, was premiered with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic on November 15, 1996, with choreography by Livia Drapkin Vanaver, during which the Vanaver Caravan dancers actually danced onstage with the orchestra. The Vanaver Caravan is now touring two shows, Pastures of Plenty, which is based on the music and life of Woody Guthrie, and toured in Europe Summers ‘99 and ‘07, and EarthBeat! ~ a World Dance & Music Journey, which had its world premiere at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August, 2010. !


For eight years, Bill was a professor of World Dance & Music at Bard College in New York State, He has also taught this course at Skidmore College, and has lectured at Cornell University, and at Bennington College. In 2012 he premiered 2 symphonic works, The Ballad of Polly Vaughn, and The Earth Will Have its Own with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, along with the Vanaver Caravan dancers.

The Earth Will Have its Own

“The Earth Will Have its Own” is a symphonic work which I based on a Georgian legend, and in which the musical elements are drawn from the vocal & instrumental styles of the Caucasus, most notably those of Georgia. The music includes a chamber orchestra, a male chorus, and a solo Georgian panduri (“guitar” in the score).
It premiered on March 31 with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, NY, inc. dancers of the Vanaver Caravan, Georgian dancer Levan Chamiashvili, and narrated by actress Lisa Channer.