Conversations with Composers

In these conversations, distinguished composers talk about their music, how they compose, and much more. These musicians love what they do and are most eager to share their art with everybody. Let your family and friends know about these conversations, which they can listen to or download anytime. You can also listen to these conversations on our apps.

Mark Abel

From his website: “Composer Mark Abel has been based in California for the past three decades and is known primarily for his collaborations with Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann. A rock musician as a young man, Abel began developing his classical compositional style during a 20+-year career as a newspaper editor in San Francisco. His music began to circulate more widely after he became affiliated in 2012 with the Delos label, which has released five Abel albums including The Cave of Wondrous Voice – the composer’s first foray into instrumental chamber music.” In this podcast, Rob Kennedy chats with Mark about his life and work as a composer.

Photo: Erik Doria

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Delvyn Case

Delvyn Case is a composer, conductor, scholar, performer, concert producer, and educator based in the Boston area. In this podcast, Delvyn speaks with Rob Kennedy about his recording entitled Strange Energy and his work as a teacher and conductor.


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Carson Cooman

From the composer’s website: “Carson Cooman (b. 1982) is an American composer with a catalog of hundreds of works in many forms—from solo instrumental pieces to operas, and from orchestral works to hymn tunes. His music has been performed on all six inhabited continents in venues that range from the stage of Carnegie Hall to the basket of a hot air balloon. Cooman’s music appears on over forty recordings, including more than twenty-five complete CDs on the Naxos, Albany, Artek, Gothic, Divine Art, Métier, Diversions, Convivium, Altarus, MSR Classics, Raven, and Zimbel labels.”

Carson spoke with Rob Kennedy about his life in music and his work as a composer.

Photo: Richard Schaeffer

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George Crumb

Mr. Crumb has a well-deserved reputation as a composer who has always marched to his own drum. He was writing avant-garde music before the term avant-garde was even popular. In this podcast, George talks about the early influences on his musical career and how his compositional style developed.

Photo: Becky Starobin

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Richard Danielpour

25 years in the making, American composer Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua is a 21st-century iteration of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Richard explains that he conflated the story as told in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. While the structure of The Passion of Yeshua is modeled on Bach’s monumental St. Matthew Passion, it speaks to modern audiences with remarkable clarity with its macaronic text of Hebrew and English. Our conversation began with Richard explaining his use of Hebrew and English.

Bach has been the bedrock and northstar of my life for all of these years.

Photo: Timothy Greenfield Sanders

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Tyson Davis

Rob Kennedy speaks with North Carolina composer Tyson Davis who began composing at the age of eight. In 2019 Tyson graduated from the University North Carolina School of the Arts with a concentration in composition. He will continue his studies at The Julliard School in the fall of 2019. Rob Kennedy and Tyson chat about what inspired him to become a composer and his compositional process. You can listen to Tyson’s music on YouTube.

Photo: Tyson Davis/

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Ilan Eshkeri

Ilan Eshkeri composed the film score for The White Crow which charts famed ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him. The score features violin solos by Lisa Batiashvili and Ilan’s own arrangements of ballet compositions by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Krein and Ludwig Minkus. Rob Kennedy and Ilan Eshkeri discuss his process of composing a film score in the 21st-century. You can listen to the score on Spotify.

Photo: Ilan Eshkeri/

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Daniel Gawthrop

From his website: “Daniel Gawthrop has been the recipient of over one hundred commissions to write original music. His published choral and organ works are in the catalogs of Dunstan House, MusicSpoke, Alfred Publishing, Alliance Music and others. His a cappella motet Sing Me to Heaven is among the most frequently performed choral pieces of modern times and has sold more than a half-million copies.”

Photo: Dunstan House

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Ola Gjeilo

From his website: “Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently lives and works as a composer and pianist.” In this podcast, Ola speaks with Rob Kennedy about his solo piano album Night.

Photo: Jessica Griffin

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Adolphus Hailstork

Adolphus Hailstork is one our most distinguished composers and teachers. Professor of Music and Composer in Residence at Old Dominion University in Nofolk, Virginia. Dr. Hailstork earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and a doctorate in composition from Michigan State University. Rob Kennedy speaks with Dr. Hailstork about his career as a composer and teacher.

Photo: Rosa Grace

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Barbara Harbach

From her website: “Dr. Barbara Harbach, Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emerita of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has a large catalog of works, including; symphonies, operas, string orchestra, musicals, works for chamber ensembles, film scores, modern ballet, pieces for organ, harpsichord and piano; choral anthems; and many arrangements for brass and organ of various Baroque works. She is also involved in the research, editing, publication and recording of manuscripts of eighteenth-century keyboard composers, as well as historical and contemporary women composers.” Rob Kennedy speaks with Dr. Harbach about her life and work as an organist, teacher, and composer.


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Jennifer Higdon

From her website: “Jennifer Higdon is one of America’s most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. She is a major figure in contemporary Classical music, receiving the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, a 2010 Grammy for her Percussion Concerto and a 2018 Grammy for her Viola Concerto. Rob Kennedy and Jennifer talk about her Harp Concerto, her opera, Cold Mountain, and much more.

Photo: Jennifer Higdon/J. Henry Fair

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Libby Larsen

From her website: “She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.”

Photo: Libby Larsen/Ann Marsden

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Jonathan David Little

As his website notes about the music of Australian-born composer Jonathan David Little “The evocative music of composer/conductor/scholar Jonathan David Little is notable for its mystical beauty, intensity, richness of material, and intricate craftsmanship.” Rob Kennedy and Dr. Little discuss his poly-choral music featured on his CD Woefully Arrayed. You can listen to the recording on Spotify.

Photo: Jonathan David Little/

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Dan Locklair

North Carolina composer Dan Locklair is Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While he is perhaps best known for his sacred choral works, he also has composed several large works for orchestra. Rob Kennedy and Professor Locklair discuss the new recording of his Symphony No.2 “America”. You can listen to a recording of it and his Organ Concerto on Spotify.

Photo: Dan Locklair/Rick Gibbons

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Francis Pott

From his website: “Critical acclaim, repeated consistently over the past thirty years, testifies to a voice of uncommon eloquence and seriousness of purpose. These qualities have won increasing attention for the dramatic, questing and profoundly spiritual music of Francis Pott, which has been performed and broadcast in forty countries worldwide and widely recorded for commercial CD.” In this podcast with Rob Kennedy, Francis talks about his training, life, and work as a composer.

Photo: Francis Pott/Rumen Mitchinov

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Daniel Powers

From his website: “Daniel Powers is a member of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, in which he is composer-in-residence, assistant principal viola, and librarian.” Dan speaks with Rob Kennedy about his education and work as a composer.

Photo: Daniel Powers/

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Jake Runestad

From his website: “Jake Runestad is an award-winning and frequently-performed composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works that have been featured in thousands of performances worldwide and earned a 2020 GRAMMY award nomination. ”  In this podcast,  Rob Kennedy speaks with Jake about his CD Sing, Wearing The Sky.

Photo: Jake Runestad/Travis Anderson

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John Rutter

John Rutter is one of the world’s most famous composers. In this podcast which originally aired on My Life In Music in February 2018, John talks about his life and work as a composer.

Photo: John Rutter/Nick Rutter

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Sarah Kirkland Snider

From her website: “The Mass was my first large choral commission, and I was thrilled to immerse myself in memories of singing the Mozart, Brahms, and Fauré Requiems, the Palestrina and Byrd Massesthe Bach chorales.” In this podcast, American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider discusses the evolution of Mass for the Endangered, as well as the influences in her life and work as a composer.

Photo: Sarah Kirkland Snider/SKS Mass

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Christopher Tin

Grammy Award-winning composer Christopher Tin gained international recognition and acclaim for Baba Yetu which he composed for the game Civilization I. In this podcast, Rob Kennedy speaks with Christopher about his education and his work as a composer.

Photo: Christopher Tin/Alfredo Chocano

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Joan Tower

New Yorker has called Joan Tower “one of the most successful woman composers of all time.” Her music has been performed worldwide. Joan knows how to make percussion and brass sections sound like a whole orchestra. She seems to possess an unlimited palette of colors and effects. And she uses this sonic palette not just with music she has written for brass and percussion, but with just about every instrument. Joan’s soundscapes are full of energy and almost frenetic activity when they need to be. And at other times, restful and delicate. Welcome to the fascinating musical worlds of one of our greatest living American composers, Joan Tower.

Photo: Joan Tower by Cynthia del Conte

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Gernot Wolfgang

Jonathan Woolf in Musicweb-International writes: “These freewheeling pluralistic compositions cleverly weave the past and the present in a way that reflects well on both. Lineage is a strong component of Wolfgang’s writing, an inheritance that is honoured but flourishes in a new soil, or soils. It’s not a question of abandoning Vienna, more a case of Wolfgang returning to it anew, refreshed and thereby refreshing his own musical vocabulary. With excellent performers on board this is a groove disc that appeals to the heart and to the head.” Rob Kennedy speaks with composer Gernot Wolfgang about his recording Vienna And The West which you can listen to on Spotify.

Photo: Gernot Wolfgang/

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