Editor, McLerran Journal
Although I have not yet met him in person, I enjoyed a brief conversation with Mr. Schoenberg about his new percussion concerto. He is easy to talk to and incredibly passionate about his work.
Who is Adam Schoenberg?
Originally from Northampton, MA, Adam Schoenberg (b.1980) has quickly become one of the most-performed contemporary classical composers in the United States. He holds a degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Ohio) and both his Master’s and DMA from The Juilliard School where he studied with esteemed composers, John Corigliano and Robert Beaser. He expressed gratitude at having had the opportunity to study with such influential musicians during his schooling saying, “They really changed the entire landscape for me.” Schoenberg also attributes a large portion of his success and love for music to the influence of his father who was a professional pianist and composer. Music, he shared, “was always part of [his] upbringing,” although he did not decide to pursue it as a career until his sophomore year of college. He is currently an internationally recognized composer and a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two small children. For his contributions to music, Schoenberg has received two Grammy Award-nominations (2018), the MacDowell Fellowship (2009, 2010), the ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2006), the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006), and several other honors. He has also served as Composer-in-Residence with the Fort Worth Symphony (2015-17), the Lexington Philharmonic (2013-14), the Kansas City Symphony (2012-13), the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University (2012), and the Aspen Music Festival and School’s M.O.R.E. Music Program (2010-13).
Follow Professor Schoenberg at his website.
FUN FACT: Professor Schoenberg is surprisingly not related to the famous composer that shares his last name, Arnold Schoenberg, but instead has distant connections to George Gershwin.
“Losing Earth” (2019)
Commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, Schoenberg’s work-in-progress, Losing Earth, is set to premiere as part of a fall concert series in Los Angeles this coming October 17-19th. The percussion concerto will feature Jacob Nissly, principal percussionist for the San Francisco Symphony, in an exciting expedition into the many realms of percussion. While the piece itself is not completed yet, Schoenberg shared that the main purpose will be to showcase the numerous talents of percussionists like Nissly as well as to shed light on the severe ecological changes taking place around us (hence the title, Losing Earth). In these early stages of experimentation, one of the more clever environmental-based proposals is the idea of recycling “regular human objects,” like a water-filled rice bowl for instance, and employing them into the sound production process. The piece will likely contain three or four main sections that each showcase different percussion specialties; jazz and improvisation, traditional orchestral instruments, and what was described as “a wearable Frankentstein marching band set up.” Nissly and Schoenberg have even contemplated such unorthodox practices as having three large percussion setups in front of the ensemble and potentially facing Nissly away from the audience to allow them to fully appreciate what he is seeing and doing. “We want this piece to cover a lot of Terrain,” Schoenberg shared, “and to modernize what percussionists do in the music world.”
Interview completed on June 3, 2019.
Ng, David. (2013). Adam Schoenberg’s Life Gives his Music Some Bounce. Los Angeles Times.
Web. 6 June, 2019. <https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-xpm-2013-sep-08-la-
Schoenberg. (2019). Biography. Adam Schoenberg Official Website. Web. 6 June, 2019.
Mr. Schoenberg headshot provided by Elisa Ferrari. <https://adamschoenberg.com/photos/>