Lisa Bielawa, composer & vocalist
"a dynamic and innovative composer" - The Boston Globe
"the formal sophistication and lyrical richness of Bielawa’s music go deep" - The New Yorker
"prodigious gift for mingling persuasive melodicism with organic experimentation" - Time Out New York
"one of the most brilliant and unforgettable new scores I’ve heard in years" - San Francisco Chronicle
Composer, producer, and vocalist Lisa Bielawa (b. 1968) is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” by The New York Times. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a 2020 OPERA America Grant for Female Composers. She was named a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society for 2018 and was Artist-in-Residence at Kaufman Music Center in New York for the 2020-2021 season. In 1997 Bielawa co-founded the MATA Festival.
In 2022, Bielawa was selected for a residency with the Louisville Orchestra’s Creators Corps. For this new endeavor Bielawa temporarily relocated to Louisville to make new orchestral and community-based work as an active, engaged member of the community.
Lisa Bielawa received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, created with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was filmed in twelve parts at locations across the country and features over 350 musicians. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa’s artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. In February 2019, Vireo was released as a two CD + DVD box set on Orange Mountain Music.
In spring 2022, Bielawa’s violin concerto Sanctuary had its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall by Jennifer Koh and the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), conducted by Marin Alsop. Sanctuary was co-commissioned by the Orlando Philharmonic (which premiered the piece), Carnegie Hall, ACO, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP). Other recent highlights include the world premiere of Voters’ Litany, a commission from the Cathedral Choral Society, which was premiered at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, Missa Primavera, commissioned and recorded by cellist Matt Haimovitz, on his label Oxingale Records, and Brickyard Broadcast –– a virtual reality collaboration commissioned by North Carolina State University.
Bielawa consistently executes work that incorporates community-making as part of her artistic vision. She has created music for public spaces in Lower Manhattan, the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, on the sites of former airfields in Berlin in San Francisco, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the coronavirus lockdown, Bielawa cultivated a virtual community using submitted testimonies and recorded voices from six continents through her project, Broadcast from Home. In 2021, Broadcast from Home was inducted into the Library of Congress as part of its Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection.
Bielawa’s music has been premiered at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, SHIFT Festival, Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, National Cathedral, Rouen Opera, MAXXI Museum in Rome, and Helsinki Music Center, among others. Orchestras that have championed her music include The Knights, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, ROCO in Houston, and the Orlando Philharmonic. Premieres of her work have been commissioned and presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Rider, Seattle Chamber Music Society, Radio France, Yerevan Concert Hall in Armenia, the Venice Architectural Biennale, American Music Week in Salzburg, the INFANT Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, and more.
Born in San Francisco, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University.