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Robert Paterson

New York, NY            

Hailed as a ‘modern day master’ and often the ‘highlight of the program’ (The New York Times), Robert Paterson is praised for his elegance, wit, structural integrity, and a wonderful sense of color. Paterson was named The Composer of The Year from the Classical Recording Foundation with a performance and celebration at Carnegie’s Weill Hall in 2011. His music has been on the Grammy® ballot yearly, and his works were the pick for National Public Radio’s Best Music of 2012.

His works have been played by the Louisville Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Austin Symphony, Vermont Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, New York New Music Ensemble, BargeMusic, California EAR Unit, and Ensemble Aleph in Paris. Recent performances include the world premiere of Ghost Theater, commissioned by the Albany Symphony’s Dogs of Desire.

Season highlights include the New York Premiere of his opera The Whole Truth with a libretto by Mark Campbell, showcased at Opera America and performed in January in New York City. Walt’s America was premiered for orchestra and chorus by the Gulf Coast Symphony, Moon Music by the Claremont Trio, and Graffiti Canons by the Volti choir in San Francisco. His string orchestra work, entitled I See You was performed by an all-star orchestra conducted by Delta David Gier, with the Jack Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, PUBLIQuartet and string players from the American Modern Ensemble in 2015. In Aspen, Shine received its world premiere by the American Brass Quintet and is being performed at Juilliard, Princeton, and on their tours.

As well as writing orchestral works and operas, Paterson is passionate about composing for choir. An album of Paterson’s choral music was recorded by Musica Sacra and Maestro Kent Tritle, released in 2015. Paterson was one of Volti choir of San Francisco’s first Choral Arts Laboratory composers, and won the Cincinnati Camerata Competition for his setting of Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (text by Mary Frye). The panel chose his work for its “expressive choral writing, text painting and imaginatively beautiful textures.”

Having written over eighty works to date, Paterson has received accolades and won awards for his works in virtually every classical genre. His awards include the Copland Award, a three-year Music Alive! grant from the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA, the American Composers Forum, the Utah Arts Festival Commission Competition, Cincinnati Camerata Composition Competitions, two ASCAP Young Composer Awards, and fellowships include Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Aspen Music Festival, the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences and the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Born in 1970, Paterson was raised in Buffalo, New York, the son of a sculptor and a painter. Although his first love was percussion, he soon discovered a passion for composition, writing his first piece at age thirteen. In the late 1980s, Paterson pioneered the development of a six-mallet marimba technique. He presented the world’s first all six-mallet marimba recital at the Eastman School of Music in 1993, and released the first-ever album of six mallet music, Six Mallet Marimba in 2012 (AMR) to a sold out crowd at the Rubin Museum in Chelsea, NY. In 2005, Paterson founded the American Modern Ensemble (AME), which spotlights American music via lively thematic programming. He serves as artistic director for AME as well as house composer, frequently contributing new pieces to the ensemble, and he directs the affiliated record label, American Modern Recordings (AMR), which is distributed by NAXOS.

He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (BM), Indiana University (MM), and Cornell University (DMA). Paterson has given master classes at numerous colleges and universities, most recently at the Curtis Institute of Music, Aspen Music School & Festival, the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, New York University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He resides in New York City with his wife, Victoria, and son, Dylan, and summers in Maine, where he is the director of the composition program at the Atlantic Music Festival.

[March, 2016]

The Whole Truth – Robert Paterson and Mark Campbell

The Whole Truth is a short comic opera for three singers—soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone—that uses very limited production elements in its storytelling and has been written to be performed in intimate to medium-sized venues. Libretto by Mark Campbell, based on the short story of the same name by Stephen McCauley.

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Graffiti Canons for A Cappella Choir (World Premiere) – Robert Paterson

Graffiti Canons, I appropriate positive aphoristic sayings, sentences and phrases found in graffiti from various parts of the world. My goal is to create a musical tapestry that flows from one thought to the next and spans time and place, using canonic technique and chorale-like transitions. Commissioned by the Volti Choir of San Francisco, Robert Geary, conductor.

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I See You (ICU) for String Orchestra (World Premiere) – Robert Paterson

I See You is inspired by a week I spent at my father’s side in a hospital. Having never spent much time in hospitals, I was unaccustomed to hearing the myriad of sounds, particularly in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where my father lay incapacitated, in critical condition. The work consists of strings mixed with sounds from a hospital. Performed by an all-star string ensemble: JACK Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, PubliQuartet and American Modern Ensemble.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles May 24 2017 | By Robert Paterson
In the Name of “Research”

We wanted to use sexuality as the “in”: a topic that might intrigue a wider audience, maybe even get someone to attend their first opera. Getting people in the door...

Articles April 1 2004 | By Robert Paterson
Writing for Percussion: Mallets and Related Technical Issues

Part of the art of playing bar percussion instruments is learning which mallets to choose for a given situation. Since mallets are constantly being invented, altered and discontinued, this is...