Grammy-nominated composer Missy Mazzoli was recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (The New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York). Mazzoli is the Mead Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her music has been performed all over the world by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, pianist Emanuel Ax, Opera Philadelphia, Scottish Opera, LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, New York City Opera, Chicago Fringe Opera, the Detroit Symphony, the LA Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, JACK Quartet, cellist Maya Beiser, violinist Jennifer Koh, pianist Kathleen Supové, Dublin’s Crash Ensemble, the Sydney Symphony, and many others. In 2018 she made history when she became one of the two first women (along with composer Jeanine Tesori) to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. That year she was also nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Classical Composition” for her work Vespers for Violin, recorded by violinist Olivia De Prato.
Mazzoli has received considerable acclaim for her operatic compositions. Her third opera, Proving Up, written with longtime collaborator Royce Vavrek, was commissioned by Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha, and New York’s Miller Theatre. Based on a short story by Karen Russell, Proving Up offers a surreal and disquieting commentary on the American dream through the story of a Nebraskan family homesteading in the late 19th century. Proving Up premiered to critical acclaim in January 2018 at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, in April 2018 at Opera Omaha, and in September 2018 at Miller Theatre. The Washington Post called it “harrowing…powerful…a true opera of our time”. Mazzoli’s second opera, Breaking the Waves, a collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects in 2016, was described as “among the best 21st-century operas yet” (Opera News), “savage, heartbreaking and thoroughly original” (Wall Street Journal), and “dark and daring” (New York Times). Earlier projects include the critically acclaimed sold-out premiere of Missy’s first opera, Song from the Uproar, in a Beth Morrison production at New York venue The Kitchen in March 2012. The Wall Street Journal called this work “powerful and new” and the New York Times claimed that “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score you felt the joy, risk, and limitless potential of free spirits unbound.” Time Out New York named Song from the Uproar Number 3 on its list of the top ten classical music events of 2012. In October 2012, Missy’s operatic work, SALT, a re-telling of the story of Lot’s Wife written for cellist Maya Beiser and vocalist Helga Davis, premiered as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival and at UNC Chapel Hill, directed by Robert Woodruff. This work, including text by Erin Cressida-Wilson, was deemed “a dynamic amalgamation that unapologetically pushes boundaries” by Time Out New York.
Mazzoli is currently the Mead Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From 2012-2015 she was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Music Theatre-Group, and in 2011/12 was Composer/Educator in residence with the Albany Symphony. Missy was a visiting professor of music at New York University in 2013, and later that year joined the composition faculty at the Mannes College of Music, a division of the New School. From 2007-2011 she was Executive Director of the MATA Festival in New York, and in 2016, Along with composer Ellen Reid and in collaboration with the Kaufman Music Center, Missy founded Luna Composition Lab, a mentorship program and support network for female-identifying composers ages 13-19.
The upcoming season includes performances of her second opera Breaking the Waves at the Edinburgh International Festival, the Adelaide Festival and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a performance of her opera Proving Up at the Aspen Music Festival, the world premiere of a Orpheus Alive, a new ballet score commissioned and premiered by the National Ballet of Canada, the US premiere of her double bass concert Dark with Excessive Bright with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the world premiere of Orpheus Undone, an orchestral work commissioned by the Chicago Symphony, and performances of her work by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Colorado Symphony, and the Opera National Bordeaux, among others. Mazzoli will also curate concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony.
Mazzoli is an active TV and film composer, and recently wrote and performed music for the fictional character Thomas Pembridge on the Amazon TV show Mozart in the Jungle. She also contributed music to the documentaries Detropia and Book of Conrad and the film A Woman, A Part. Missy’s music has been recorded and released on labels including New Amsterdam, Cedille, Bedroom Community, 4AD, and Innova. Artists who have recorded Mazzoli’s music include eighth blackbird (whose Grammy-winning 2012 CD Meanwhile opened with Missy’s work Still Life with Avalanche), Roomful of Teeth, violinist Jennifer Koh, violist Nadia Sirota, NOW Ensemble, Newspeak, pianist Kathleen Supove, the Jasper Quartet, and violinist Joshua Bell, who recorded Missy’s work for the Mozart in the Jungle soundtrack.
Mazzoli is an active pianist and keyboardist and often performs with Victoire, a band she founded in 2008 dedicated to her own compositions. Their debut full-length CD, Cathedral City, was named one of 2010′s best classical albums by Time Out New York, NPR, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, and was followed by the critically acclaimed Vespers for a New Dark Age, a collaboration with percussionist Glenn Kotche. Vespers was released in March 2015 on New Amsterdam Records along with Missy’s own remixes of the work and a remix of her piece A Thousand Tongues by longtime collaborator Lorna Dune. The New York Times called Vespers for a New Dark Age “ravishing and unsettling”, and the album was praised on NPR’s First Listen, All Things Considered, and Pitchfork. In the past decade, they have played in venues all over the world including Carnegie Hall, the M.A.D.E. Festival in Sweden, the C3 Festival in Berlin, and Millennium Park in Chicago. Victoire returned to Carnegie Hall in March of 2015 as part of the “Meredith Monk and Friends” concert, performing Missy’s arrangements of Monk’s work.
Missy is the recipient of a 2019 Grammy nomination, the 2017 Music Critics Association of America Inaugural Award for Best Opera, the 2018 Godard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2015 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, four ASCAP Young Composer Awards, a Fulbright Grant to The Netherlands, the Detroit Symphony’s Elaine Lebenbom Award, and grants from the Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, and the Barlow Endowment. She has been awarded fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Ucross, VCCA, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Hermitage.
Missy attended the Yale School of Music, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, and Boston University. She has studied with (in no particular order) David Lang, Louis Andriessen, Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, Martijn Padding, Richard Ayres, John Harbison, Charles Fussell, Martin Amlin, Marco Stroppa, Ladislav Kubik, Louis DeLise, and Richard Cornell.
Her music is published by G. Schirmer.
Photo by Marylene Mey