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Department News

Stephen SpinelliThe Department of Music is pleased to announce that Stephen Spinelli will be the Assistant Director of Choral Music starting July 1, 2015.  Stephen is currently working toward a DMA in Choral Conducting (anticipated in 2016) from Northwestern, and will be relocating to Ithaca from Chicago.

Prior to starting at Northwestern, Stephen served as the director of middle and upper school choirs at Abington Friends School in Philadelphia. He also held positions as the choral director at Philadelphia University, and as assistant conductor to the Pennsylvania Girlchoir.   Additionally, Stephen held visiting faculty appointments as director of women’s choirs at Villanova University, and as the Director of Choral Activities at Moravian College. He is an accompanist for the Bennington Voice Workshops in Bennington, VT, sings with The Crossing in Philadelphia, and serves on the board of Roomful of Teeth.

Please join us in welcoming Stephen Spinelli to Cornell’s Department of Music!

The music video for lecturer Annie Lewandowski’s “When You’re Near” has premiered on the French webzines New Noise and Magic, and the US webzine OZY. Directed by Eben Portnoy and filmed in Los Angeles and Costa Rica, the video accompanies the first track from Powerdove’s 2014/2015 release Arrest. In the OZY premiere, music journalist Kate Crane writes: “Don’t look for emotion in this woman’s voice – but don’t think that means you can walk away unmoved. For Lewandowski, virtuosity, or showy technique, ‘is not where the musical nourishment is.’ Rather it lies in sophisticated, sub-basement rhythms and a wiry tension. It’s in the eaves and rafters of vacant sonic space; the charmingly Midwestern straightness of Lewandowski’s delivery; and in the clanging, rushing din of unlikely tools.”



Commissioned for Cornell’s 150th Anniversary, Professor and Interim Chair Roberto Sierra’s latest work, Cantares, premiered at Carnegie Hall on Sunday April 19th, as part of a program entitled Music U created to celebrate five Ivy League composers.  The program was performed by the American Symphony Orchestra with Leon Botstein conducting and Assistant Professor Robert Isaac directing the Cornell Glee Club and Chorus and was a “huge success for all involved,” said Professor Sierra. Cantares will be performed at Ithaca College’s Ford Hall on Saturday May 2, 2015. For more information on all of the outstanding performances, read the review at Oberon’s Grove.

Third year graduate student Tonia Ko has been chosen as the 2015-2017 Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence. Ko receives a commission to write a work for pianist Daniel Lebhardt, who will premiere the work in his recital debuts in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York in the Rhoda Walker Teagle Concert at Merkin Concert Hall on February 23, 2016 and at the Kennedy Center on March 1, 2016. She will receive a second commission for a work to be premiered in the 2016-17 season in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York and Washington, DC.
The Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence Program began in 1994 as an initiative of the Young Concert Artists, Inc. Alumni Association. It receives support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the William B. Butz Memorial Fund, and the Alumni musicians of Young Concert Artists.
Composers are nominated for the YCA Composer Program by a nationwide committee composed of alumni and current artists of Young Concert Artists, composers and conductors on the program’s National Composer Recommendation Panel, ASCAP, and BMI. Tonia Ko was nominated by composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. A panel of YCA Alumni consider the applicants’ recordings and scores. The final selection is made by a current YCA Artist who will premiere the work on tour and in their New York and Washington, DC debuts the following season.

For more information about Tonia Ko, visit her student profile page and her website.

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First year composition student Can Bilir was selected as a composer for the European Broadcasting Festival MUSMA V (Music Masters on Air). As part of this selection he received a commission for which he produced, Quintet II. This work will be performed in four upcoming Festivals including: Klara Festival, Festival de Wallonie, Culturescapes, and Ankara Music Festival.

Additionally, Can Bilir’s lastest work Quintet III for Oboes was chosen to be part of the 2015 Impuls Academy.

For more information, visit Can Bilir’s website.




It has been a busy year for Eric Nathan (Composition, 2012)! In addition to his duties as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Williams College, he finished recording his debut CD with Joseph Alessi in February, and has just announced that he has accepted a tenure-track position of Assistant Professor at Brown University. Congratulations Eric!


For more information on recent and upcoming performances of Eric’s work, please visit his website.

Sierra-Shepherd Banner

Works by Professor Roberto Sierra and Alum Sean Shepherd were featured as part of Q2 Music’s March 24th webcast Symphomania: 24 Hours with the 21st-Century Orchestra. The producers of the broadcast interviewed leading conductors and critics for their expert opinions to compile the playlist.  Excerpts of these interviews were included in the webcast to introduce and contextualize the selected works. Chosen were Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 2, “Gran Passacaglia” and Shepherd’s Magiya. Q2 Music will repeat the webcast Saturday, March 26th beginning at 12 a.m.

Click here more information about the webcast.

Click here to see the playlist for the webcast.


Charles Peck – Headshot

First year DMA student, Charles Peck, won Symphony in C’s 2014-2015 Young Composers’ Competition.  His winning composition, Metropolitan, was performed by Symphony in C at the Gordon Theater, Rutgers-Camden Theater for the Arts on January 10, 2015, with a subsequent radio broadcast on WRTI.  Introduced in 1996, the competition provides young composers an opportunity to have their work premiered and performed as part of Symphony in C’s season concert series. Symphony in C’s Composer-in-Residence described Peck’s work as having, “fire, depth, and charm,” and added that it was a “stand-out among a particularly strong field of entries.”  Congratulations Charles!

To hear Metropolitan for solo piano, visit Charles Peck’s website.

For more information about the competition, go to Symphony in C.


Professor Xak Bjerken and Senior Lecturer Miri Yampolsky have released a new CD on Open G Records entitled, SCH.  SCH includes two world premiere recordings of music by Professor Roberto Sierra and Professor Emeritus Steven Stucky, as well as, the works by Schumann and Schubert that inspired them.

From the liner notes…
The letters SCH form the core of the listening experience of this recording as we radiate out from Schubert and Schumann to the masterful four-hand reimagining of the past by two living composers, Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra.
Both composers welcome the inspiration of their musical brethren; to quote T.S. Eliot, “What might have been and what has been, point to one end, which is always present.”

For more information, go to: Open G Records.

If you would like to see live performances of SCH, Yampolsky and Bjerken will be featured in the opening season (Fall, 2015) of a new hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Original Music Workshop performing selections from the disc, as well as the Rite of Spring.

For more information, go to:



Kim-Ariana-Knights CD2

Letter from Assistant Professor Ariana Kim announcing the release of The Knights new album and the beginning of a new tour:


Dear Friends and Family,

To my fellow New Yorkers, Happy Blizzard! I hope you are all enjoying a cozy and relaxing snow day.

I am honored and delighted to announce the launch of our seventh album, The Knights’ the ground beneath our feet, which will be released today, January 27th on Warner Classics. It is a compilation of live performances from our last domestic tour, at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.

This record is particularly special to me because I had the joy of performing Steve Reich’s double violin concerto, Duet, on the album alongside my friend and colleague, Guillaume Pirard. We also just learned that NPR has chosen the Reich to be featured on “Songs We Love” later this week — you can check that out here!

the ground beneath our feet also includes two unique world premieres — a concerto for santur and violin written by Colin Jacobsen and Siamak Aghaei and the title track, the ground beneath our feet, written collectively for and by The Knights. J.S. Bach’s oboe and violin concerto and Stravinksy’s Dumbarton Oaks concerto bring the album full circle, and we are all thrilled to share our latest with you.

If you so desire, you can pre-order the album this week on iTunes and Amazon.

Last but not least, we are just about to embark on a domestic tour with the incomparable Béla Fleck featuring his own banjo concerto and other folk- and bluegrass-inspired music. The tour will include stops in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

We kick off the tour right here in NYC with a concert at The Schimmel Center of Pace University on Wednesday evening, January 28th @ 7:30pm.

For more information on all of this Knights-iness, please feel free to visit our website at

Thank you so much for taking the time to see all that’s in this message, and I wish you all the very best in 2015.