Composer Biographies

Click any of the links below to access composer biographies. See also the Faculty Biographies page.

Senior Composer-in-ResidenceDonald Crockett

2017 Composers-in-ResidenceSusan Botti, Marc Mellits, Harold Meltzer

Composition FellowsLogan Rutledge, Emily Praetorius, Juan Pablo Contreras

Senior Composer-in-Residence


Los Angeles-based composer and conductor Donald Crockett has received commissions from a wide spectrum of organizations including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Composer-in-Residence, 1991–97), Kronos Quartet, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hilliard Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Xtet, the San Francisco-based chamber chorus, Volti, the California EAR Unit, the Guitar Foundation of America, and the University of Southern California for its 125th anniversary, among many others.

Recent projects include an all-Crockett orchestral disc released in May, 2015 by Boston Modern Orchestra Project on BMOP/sound, commissions from the Harvard Musical Association for violist Kate Vincent and Firebird Ensemble, the Claremont Trio, 21st Century Consort, a chamber opera, The Face, based on a novella in verse by poet David St. John, and a consortium commission from twenty-two college and university wind ensembles for his Dance Concerto for Clarinet/Bass Clarinet and Wind Ensemble.

The recipient in 2013 of an Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for outstanding artistic achievement, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, Donald Crockett has also received grants and prizes from the Barlow Endowment, Bogliasco Foundation, Copland Fund, Copland House, Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA and many others. His music is published by Keiser Classical and Doberman/Yppan and recorded on the Albany, BMOP Sound, CRI, Doberman/Yppan, ECM, Innova, Laurel, New World, Orion and Pro Arte/Fanfare labels.

A frequent guest conductor with new music ensembles nationally, Donald Crockett has been very active over the years as a composer and conductor with the venerable and famed Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles. As conductor of the USC Thornton Symphony's annual New Music for Orchestra series, Donald Crockett has premiered over 125 new orchestral works by outstanding Thornton student composers. His recordings as a conductor can be found on the Albany, CRI, Doberman/Yppan, ECM and New World labels.

Deeply committed to education, Donald Crockett is Professor and Chair of the Composition Program, Director of Thornton Edge new music ensemble and Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs at the USC Thornton School of Music, as well as Senior Composer-in-Residence with the Bennington Chamber Music Conference.


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As composer and performer, Susan Botti's eclectic background and experiences are reflected in her music. Theatre and the visual arts play a formative role in the aesthetic of her work. Her musical explorations have encompassed traditional, improvisational and non-classical composition and singing styles.

Botti is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize; and grants from Meet The Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, The NY Foundation for the Arts, The Greenwall Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, ASCAP, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. She was the third Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow with the Cleveland Orchestra, premiering her works Impetuosity (conducted by Roberto Abbado), and Translucence (conducted by music director, Franz Welser-Möst).

Botti's EchoTempo (for Soprano, Percussion & Orchestra) was commissioned and premiered by Maestro Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic (with Botti and Christopher Lamb as soloists). The European premiere of EchoTempo (with the same soloists under Maestro Gunther Herbig) occurred soon after in the "Music im 21. Jahrhudert" Festival in Saarbrücken, Germany. Other performances of this work include Ms. Botti as soloist with Maestro H.K. Gruber and the NPS Radio Orchestra in Utrecht, Holland, with percussionist Peter Prommel. A commission from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for solo violin and chamber orchestra, Within Darkness, was premiered at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center, with Martha Caplin as violin soloist.

Botti's works for wind ensemble have met with acclaim - including Cosmosis (for wind ensemble, soprano soloist, and women's voices), which was commissioned by a consortium of universities, and premiered at Carnegie Hall, with conductor Michael Haithcock leading the University of Michigan wind ensemble and chorus, with the composer as soloist. Another consortium of university bands (NWECG) commissioned a new work for wind ensemble from Botti, Terra Cruda, which premiered in the 2011-2012 season, recorded by the Hartt Wind Ensemble/Glen Adsit for Naxos. Recently premiered was Botti's Concerto for Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, with Carrie Koffman (saxophone) and Glen Adsit conducting the Hartt Wind Ensemble.

A chamber music project, Gates of Silence, was a 3-part commission from the Blakemore Trio (Vanderbilt University) - works for violin & piano; piano trio; and piano trio plus soprano (Botti). Inspired by Virgil's Aeneid, this work incorporates poetry by National Book Award finalist, Linda Gregerson. This poetry, Dido Refuses to Speak, was awarded a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Gates of Silence was premiered in Nashville, and at Merkin Hall in NYC. A recording of this work with the Botti and the Blakemore Trio was released on Albany Records, with support from the Copland Fund.

Also recently premiered is Cristalli for solo piano. Commissioned by Alice Weston for her Crystal Clues to the Sublime, (a multimedia presentation with animated photography) it was premiered at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum, with a live piano performance by Phillip Bush.

A recording of Botti's vocal chamber music, listen, it's snowing, (New World/CRI) features her operatic soliloquy, Telaio: Desdemona (for soprano, string quartet, harp, piano & percussion). Called "striking emotional music..." (Opera Magazine), this work was commissioned by The American Artists Series of Detroit, and has been performed in New York City, Taipei, Detroit, Santa Fe, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.

In addition to performing her own vocal works, Botti specializes in the performance of contemporary music by composers of diverse styles, including: Gubaidulina, Crumb, Kurtág, Cage, Chihara, Pintscher, Matheson, and Partch, among others. She was featured as a composer and singer on the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series in a concert honoring Steven Stucky's 20th anniversary as the LA Phil's Composer in Residence. Composer/conductor Tan Dun created several major works highlighting her vocal and theatrical talents, including his Orchestral Theatre III: Red Forecast for soprano and orchestra, which she premiered with the BBC Scottish Symphony and performed at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra. Tan Dun also wrote the role of "Water" for her in his internationally renowned opera, Marco Polo (Sony Classical), which she premiered at the Münchener Biennale, and subsequently performed in Europe and Asia, and at the New York City Opera. She can also be heard as vocal soloist in Tan Dun's soundtrack for The Banquet.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Botti's early training included studies in music, art, and theater. She received her Bachelor of Music from the Berklee School of Music; and her Masters in Music Composition from the Manhattan School of Music. Her vocal teachers included Hilda Harris, Drew Minter, Myron McPherson, and Nancy Armstrong. Botti was an Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (from 2000-2006). She is currently a member of the Composition faculty at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC (from 2006), and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Vassar College.


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Composer Marc Mellits is one of the leading American composers of his generation, enjoying hundreds of performances throughout the world every year, making him one of the most performed living composers in the United States.  From Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, to prestigious music festivals in Europe and the US, Mellits' music is a constant mainstay on programs throughout the world.  His unique musical style is an eclectic combination of driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, and colorful orchestrations that all combine to communicate directly with the listener.  Mellits' music is often described as being visceral, making a deep connection with the audience.  "This was music as sensual as it was intelligent; I saw audience members swaying, nodding, making little motions with their hands" (New York Press).  He started composing very early, and was writing piano music long before he started formal piano lessons at age 6.  He went on to study at the Eastman School of Music, Yale School of Music, Cornell University, and Tanglewood.  Mellits often is a miniaturist, composing works that are comprised of short, contrasting movements or sections.  His music is eclectic, all-encompassing, colourful, and always has a sense of forward motion.

Mellits' music has been played by major ensembles across the globe and he has been commissioned by groups such as the Kronos Quartet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Holland), Duo Assad, Bang On A Can All-Stars, Eliot Fisk, Canadian Brass, Nexus Percussion, Debussy Quartet, Real Quiet, New Music Detroit, Four-In-Correspondence (National Symphony Orchestra), Musique En Roue Libre (France), Fiarì Ensemble (Italy), Percussions Claviers de Lyon (France), Third Coast Percussion, Talujon, the Society for New Music, Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and the Albany Symphony's Dog's Of Desire.  Additionally, Mellits' music has been performed, toured, and/or recorded by members of the Detroit Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Minneapolis Symhony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New Millenium Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, and the American Modern Ensemble, among many others.

On film, Mellits has composed numerous scores, including the PBS mini-series "Beyond The Light Switch" which won a 2012 Dupont-Columbia award, the most prestigious award in documentaries.  Mellits also directs and plays keyboards in his own unique ensemble, the Mellits Consort.  He was awarded the prestigious 2004 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award.  On CD, there are over 50 recorded works of Mellits' music that can be found on Black Box, Endeavour Classics, Cantaloupe, CRI/Emergency Music, Santa Fe New Music, Innova, & Dacia Music.  Marc Mellits is an Assistant Proferssor of music at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters, and spends significant time in Romania.


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Harold Meltzer is inspired by a wide variety of stimuli, from architectural spaces to postmodern fairy tales and messages inscribed in fortune cookies. In Fanfare Magazine, Robert Carl commented that he "seems to write pieces of scrupulous craft and exceptional freshness, which makes each seem like an important contribution." The first recording devoted to his music, released in 2010 by Naxos on its American Classics label, was named one of the CDs of the year in The New York Times; soon there will be new recordings on the Bridge Records and BMOP/Sound labels. A busy 2016 includes performances at Tanglewood during Contemporary Music Week and by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, premieres in March by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and by the Boston Chamber Music Society at Sanders Theatre at Harvard, in May by guitarist Eliot Fisk in Connecticut and by pianist Nadia Shpachenko at Piano Spheres in Los Angeles, and in October by tenor Paul Appleby with pianist Natalia Katyukova and by Music from China with the Talujon Percussion Quartet.

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2009 for his sextet Brion, Meltzer has been awarded the Rome Prize, the Barlow Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and both the Arts and Letters Award in Music and the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Commissions in recent years have issued from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Music Foundations, New Music USA, Library of Congress, Boston Chamber Music Society, Concert Artists Guild, and the ASCAP Foundation for the New York Festival of Song. Founder and co-director for fifteen years of the new music ensemble Sequitur, Meltzer lives with his family in the East Village of Manhattan. He studied at Amherst College, the Yale School of Music, Columbia Law School, and King's College, Cambridge, and has taught at Amherst and Vassar. In spare moments he coaches baseball, is learning to speak Mandarin and trying to build glass harmonicas.


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Composition Fellows


Logan Rutledge is a composer of vocal and instrumental music, more recently specializing in minimalistic styles.

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Emily Praetorius is from Ojai, California. She is currently living in New York City and studying at Columbia University.

She earned her MM in composition from Manhattan School of Music and BM in composition and clarinet from University of Redlands.


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Juan Pablo Contreras (b. 1987 in Guadalajara, Mexico) is one of the most prominent young composers of Latin America (Milenio). His music masterfully portrays the Mexican identity and is colorfully orchestrated, emotionally intense, and rhythmically vibrant (El Informador).

Contreras' music has been heard throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin America. His works have been performed by major orchestras such as the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, the Salta Symphony Orchestra, and the Cordoba Symphony Orchestra. His music has also been championed by the Onix Ensamble, the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra, the Ensamble Tamayo, the Formalist Quartet, the SequenzaSUR, and the Inauthentica Ensemble.

Contreras has won awards and grants including the BMI William Schuman Prize, the Arturo Márquez First Composition Contest for Chamber Orchestra, the Brian M. Israel Prize, the Dutch Harp Composition Contest, the EtM Con Edison Composers' Residency, the Nicolas Flagello Award from the Manhattan School of Music, and the Mexican Endowment for the Arts and Culture Young Artist Fellowship. He has served as composer-in-residence at the Turtle Bay Music School and the Concerts on the Slope chamber music series in New York.

Contreras holds degrees in composition from the Manhattan School of Music (M.M.) and the California Institute of the Arts (B.F.A.). His most influential teachers include Nils Vigeland, Daniel Catán, and Richard Danielpour. Contreras' music has been recorded on Epsa Music and Albany Records.


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The Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East, Inc.
Tobias Werner, Music Director
Donald Crockett, Senior Composer-in-Residence
Marilyn Bell, Executive Director

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