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About Performance Today

Commentator Bruce Adolphe

Bruce Adolphe

A composer, author, educator and performer, Bruce Adolphe is the Music and Education Advisor for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, founding creative director of PollyRhythm Productions, and the comic keyboard quiz-master of NPR's Piano Puzzlers.

Co-hosted with Fred Child, Piano Puzzlers features Adolphe at the piano, playing folk tunes and popular songs he's re-written in the styles of famous Classical composers for call-in contestants. In a style that is a cross between Car Talk and Will Short's puzzles for NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, Adolphe and Fred Child informally talk about the musical issues raised by the comic compositions. The show's popularity during the last year has led to its inclusion in the listening options for Delta Airlines.

Formerly on the faculties of the Juilliard School and New York University and a Visiting Lecturer at Yale, Adolphe has been the lecturer of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 1992, and has been featured in nationally broadcast Live from Lincoln Center television programs.

In December, 2003, Adolphe discussed and illustrated aspects of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos from the harpsichord in a live national television broadcast of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's 35th anniversary concert from Tully Hall. In addition to his lecture series, Inside Chamber Music, now in its 12th season at Lincoln Center, Adolphe has been a featured lecturer since 2001 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where his series is called A Composer's View.

A much sought-after speaker and concert host, Adolphe has appeared at most of the major concert series in the United States, as well as at education conferences, festivals, and competitions.

Adolphe has written three books on music: The Mind's Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination; What to Listen for in the World; and Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind: A Composer Explores Mysteries of the Musical Mind. His books are used in college and conservatories throughout the United States, and excerpts have been read as short features on NPR.

The recently published Origins of Creativity, includes summaries and highlights of lectures by renowned scientists, including Antonio Damasio and Benoit Mandelbrot; artists Dale Chihuly and Francoise Gilot; and Adolphe, as the spokesperson for creativity in music. A chapter on Adolphe is included in the book The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak About the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan. Adolphe is also included in both the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the Grove Dictionary of Opera, as well as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music.

As a composer, Adolphe has been written works for many of the world's most renowned artists, including Itzhak Perlman, Sylvia McNair, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Caramoor Festival, St. Luke's Orchestra, the New York Chamber Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Brentano String Quartet, the Miami Quartet, David Finckel and Wu Han, and many others.

His compositions include four operas and several theater pieces, all of which have been produced throughout the United States. He has been composer-in-residence at many festivals and institutions, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Music from Angel Fire, Bravo! Colorado, the Grand Canyon Festival, the Moab Festival, the Virginia Arts Festival, the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., the Perlman Music Program, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Virginia, the O.K. Mozart Festival and SummerFest La Jolla. Adolphe is the Distinguished Composer-in-Residence at the Mannes College of Music for the 2003-04 term.

For the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bruce Adolphe introduced every concert from the stage of Alice Tully Hall for eight seasons, created the lecture series Inside Chamber Music, developed and programmed several new music series, including the current Double Exposure, created the series Chamber Music Beginnings, which he hosted for several seasons, and created the sold-out family concert series Meet the Music!

In addition to education programs and new music events, Adolphe has been involved in the conception and programming of many subscription concerts at CMS, such as the Brahms-Schubert Festival and the Musical Evolutions concerts. Adolphe continues to appear in Tully Hall pre-concert events as the host of Composer Chats, in which he explores issues of composition with guest composers. Adolphe is also the host of Double Exposure.

Adolphe has also toured with artist members of CMS, as concert host and lecturer. He has also appeared as a pianist and conductor with CMS artist members and guest musicians, in performances of his own music and that of other living composers. Since 1993, Adolphe has appeared regularly in nearly every Meet the Music concert, frequently acting as characters ranging from the popular "private ear' Inspector Pulse to Schubert's brother Ferdinand to Igor Stravinsky. Bruce's many compositions for young listeners have often been premiered on this series before being performed throughout the United States and around the world.

With Julian Fifer, Bruce Adolphe co-founded PollyRhythm Productions, a company devoted to the creation of music, books, scripts, and games linking musical concepts to science, art, history, and daily life. The company is named after Adolphe's opera-and-jazz-singing parrot, Polly Rhythm.

Adolphe's compositions for young people include Marita and Her Heart's Desire, recorded on Telarc with Itzhak Perlman and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks, recorded with Dr. Ruth Westheimer; The Amazing Adventure of Alvin Allegretto, a comic opera written for the Metropolitan Opera Guild; Urban Scenes for Kids and String Quartet; The Purple Palace, commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Tyrannosaurus Sue - A Cretaceous Concerto, written for the unveiling of the dinosaur at Chicago's Field Museum in May of 2000; Tough Turkey in the Big City, commissioned by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Carnival of the Creatures, the never anticipated, un-awaited for sequel to you know what; Red Dogs and Pink Skies: A Musical Celebration of Paul Gauguin, created in conjunction with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and recorded on the PollyRhythm label; Witches, Wizards, Spells, and Elves: The Magic of Shakespeare, commissioned by The Chicago Chamber Musicians for a collaboration with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and Oceanophony, with poems by Kate Light, commissioned by The La Jolla Music Society in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. This last work was premiered in August 2003, at the Birch Aquarium of the Scripps Institute.

Adolphe's works for young people have been performed throughout the world by such orchestras and ensembles as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Orlando Symphony, and ensembles and orchestras in Europe and Australia.

Adolphe's music has been recorded on the Telarc, Naxos, CRI, Delos, Koch, Summit and PollyRhythm labels. His film scores include the permanent documentary at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.