Composer Joel Phillip Friedman’s natural creative impulse is to work across genres, and to compose music that is equally informed by his classical training and his engagement with the vernacular. His varied portfolio includes work for small and large ensembles, musical theater, opera, dance, film, jazz, and rock. Joel’s work is characterized by rhythmic energy, a fine balance between expressive power and playful wit, a sense of dramatic narrative, and melodic and harmonic inventiveness. New collaborations, teaching activities and projects continually refresh Joel’s thinking and writing.
Joel’s music has been performed by gifted musicians and ensembles including: Paul Neubauer, Teng Li, Derek Smith, and Andrew Gonzalez, viola; Susan Narucki, soprano; pianists Alan Feinberg, Stephen Gosling, and Evelyne Luest; cellists Joshua Roman and Fred Sherry; Jason Alexander, actor/singer; conductors Barbara Day Turner, Jorge Mester, Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez; Speculum Musicae, the National Orchestral Association, the New York Chamber Ensemble, the New Orchestra of Washington, and the San José Chamber Orchestra. And it has been heard in venues from Carnegie Hall (his Viola Concerto – praised by the New Yorker as “beautiful and intelligent”) and the Kennedy Center, Bargemusic, National Sawdust, Joe’s Pub and the 92nd St. Y, to theaters Off-Broadway and the London West End (Personals, which he co-authored), to film festivals (his film score for a full-length supernatural thriller, Red Ice featured at SF IndieFest and the Chicago Horror film festivals).
Current projects spotlight the range of Joel’s work: commissions from the duo Soliloquy, violinist Ariel Horowitz and violist Lauren Siess, and with choreographer Paul Emerson (Arias with Dance Glitch); mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Horner-Kwaitak and viol da gambist Elizabeth Weinfield (Continuance); the string orchestra piece Movable Home for a consortium of San Jose Chamber Orchestra/Takoma Ensemble/SONYC; Meditations: Ubi caritas – Locus iste for mixed choir in 3 sections and solo cello, which has been commissioned Frederick Binkholder and the Georgetown University Chamber Singers; and both the 2013 Irving M. Klein International String Competition and the 2018 Johansen International Competition. Works-in-progress include Fallings, an experimental chamber music theater piece (Seth Friedman, libretto); The Emily Songs his electro-acoustic rock settings of Emily Dickinson’s poetry; and a new work for pianist Edvinas Minkstimas. His orchestration of Elastic Band, commissioned by the New Orchestra of Washington, was just premiered and is forthcoming on the Acis label.
He has received awards and fellowships from ASCAP, Montalvo Arts Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Society of Composers, the New Music Orchestral Project, John Duffy Composers Institute, Meet the Composer, the American College Theater Festival, and nominations from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards.
Mirroring his diverse compositional projects, Joel teaches a range of university courses in composition, theory/analysis, and history, and has originated courses on The Beatles, History of Rock and Jazz, and Musical Theater. Joel was Visiting Associate Professor at Georgetown University, currently teaches composition at Catholic University, and has been on faculty at Swarthmore College, as well as Notre Dame de Namur, Santa Clara, Stanford (Continuing Studies), and Seton Hall Universities. He is a sought after speaker on music, hosting Classical Saturdays for the Baltimore Symphony/Levine Music and panel discussions/talks throughout the D.C. area. He will be returning to give his popular “Beatles Intensive Weekend” (Revolution: Songwriting of The Beatles) at Stanford University this December. Joel received his Mus. B and MM from Boston University, and his DMA from Columbia University, where he was a President’s Fellow and Mellon Scholar. His works are available on the Jay, Crystal, Acis, and Americus labels, and published by Samuel French and Grey Bird Music. Joel now lives in Washington DC with his wife Jenny Bilfield, their daughter Hallie, parrots extraordinaire Percy and Heathcliff, and Sugar Lucille (Dog Of Wonder).