The New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) and Music Director Alasdair Neale have engaged Joel Thompson as the Symphony’s new Composer-in-Residence. His residency began in September 2021 and will continue through June 2023.
Music Director Alasdair Neale says, “The New Haven Symphony has a long and distinguished commitment to playing and commissioning music by living composers. I’m thrilled that Joel Thompson is now part of our New Haven Symphony family as our composer-in-residence and that, as someone living and working in New Haven, he will create new works of art in response to the joys and challenges of the people who make up our community.”
Joel Thompson is a conductor, pianist, and educator, whose works have been performed by such esteemed ensembles as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Master Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, EXIGENCE, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Thompson’s best-known choral work, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, was premiered in November 2015 at the University of Michigan and earned Thompson the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition. Currently a doctoral student at the Yale School of Music, Thompson was also a 2017 post-graduate fellow in Arizona State University’s Ensemble Lab/Projecting All Voices Initiative and a composition fellow at the 2017 Aspen Music Festival and School, where he studied with composers Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis and won the 2017 Hermitage Prize. Thompson taught at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta from 2015 to 2017, and also served as Director of Choral Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at Andrew College from 2013 to 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting, both from Emory University.
Audiences will have the opportunity to hear Thompson’s music performed by the NHSO first on March 18 at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University. The Symphony will perform the east coast premiere of excerpted songs from Thompson’s new opera, The Snowy Day. The Snowy Day was premiered by Houston Grand Opera in December 2021 and is based on the groundbreaking 1962 children’s picture book by author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats. Tap here to learn more about this performance.
In the 2022-23 season, the NHSO plans to premiere two co-commissions by Thompson: breathe/burn…an elegy, which was written in memory of Breonna Taylor, and To Awaken the Sleeper, featuring narrator and orchestra with texts by James Baldwin. Further information about those performances will be announced in the coming months.
Joel Thompson says, “It’s such an honor to be a creative partner with the NHSO under the leadership of Maestro Alasdair Neale and CEO Elaine Carroll, who are guiding the organization toward an even more community-centered, equitable, and thriving artistic future. I am and will always be grateful for the New Haven community and for the opportunity to grow, learn, and make music within it.”
The New Haven Symphony began its award-winning Composer-in-Residence initiative in 2009, with Augusta Read Thomas as the inaugural featured composer. The residencies include the commission of new works as well as additional performances of the composer’s existing repertoire. The composers lead education programs like the Young Composer Program, as well as workshops with public school students. The residencies also include community and audience engagement activities, recording projects, and, for those who are also performers, featured solos with the orchestra. The Symphony’s roster of composers-in-residence has included Christopher Theofanidis, Chris Brubeck, Hannah Lash, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Michael Brown, and, now, Joel Thompson. In total, the NHSO has performed 17 world premieres since the program began. For these residencies, the NHSO has received support and awards from National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, ASCAP, the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the League of American Orchestras, the Alice M. Diston Fund, and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
The NHSO’s Young Composer Project is a two-year composition intensive for advanced high school composition students to study with the Symphony’s composer-in-residence in a small, cohort-style setting. At the end of the program, students will have their work performed and professionally recorded by NHSO musicians at a final, public composition recital. First launched in 2009, it is one of only four programs of its kind in the nationally, and has produced a 100% acceptance rate to college composition programs. A new cohort of six Connecticut students began studying with Joel Thompson this Fall and will graduate in spring 2023.
About the New Haven Symphony Orchestra
The fourth-oldest orchestra in America, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s exceptional and accessible performances and education programs reach more than 40,000 audience members and 20,000 students each year. Innovative programming and a dedication to the commission of new works inspires deeper audience engagement and meaningful artistic and educational collaborations. Through the nationally-acclaimed Harmony Fellowship program, as well as numerous award-winning education and community engagement programs, the Symphony strives to be a leader for racial equity in the arts. To learn more about the NHSO, visit NewHavenSymphony.org.