Shenandoah Conservatory’s Director of Composition and Coordinator of New Music David T. Little, Ph.D., recently signed an exclusive publishing agreement with Boosey & Hawkes, one of the world’s leading classical music publishing companies. He is now listed on the same roster of classical composers such as Bernstein, Stravinsky, Bartók, Andriessen, Mackey, Monk and more. Little’s complete collection of works is now available through Boosey & Hawkes.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of David’s work,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Dean Michael Stepniak, Ed.D., “not only with our students and in our community in his capacity as director of composition and coordinator of new music, but in his creative work as one of this country’s most skilled and visionary new composers.”
Little spearheaded Shenandoah Conservatory’s newest series, Shenandoah New Music. The initiative brings the best artists from the world of contemporary art music to Winchester, Virginia. Expanding the Capital Region’s already-vibrant new music throughout northern Virginia, Shenandoah New Music features approximately 30 performances annually in five venues, featuring guest artists ranging from new music legends to young guns, and including regular performances by the EDGE Ensemble. Since its launch in 2012, Shenandoah New Music has hosted some of today’s leading and innovative composers, including Louis Andriessen, Ken Thomson, Todd Reynolds, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composers Kevin Puts and Jennifer Higdon (later this season).
David T. Little is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker) with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His “sharp, elegantly bristling” music (New York magazine) is potent and dramatic, drawing as much upon his experience as a punk/metal drummer as his classical pedigree. In his work he often undertakes political and existential themes, most recently gaining attention for success writing for larger forces.
The Wall Street Journal called Little’s first full-length opera “Dog Days” “one of the most exciting new operas of recent years,” and The New York Times cited it as one of two highlights of the season, stating that the work “proved beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future.” John Rockwell, writing for Opera magazine wrote, “This is [Little’s] first full-length opera; it will not be his last.” Fort Worth Opera and Los Angeles Opera will present “Dog Days” in 2015.
Likewise, Little’s multi-media music theatre work, “Soldier Songs,” based on interviews with veterans of five wars, received its New York City premiere on the inaugural PROTOTYPE Festival and was later presented by the Holland Festival. George Loomis, for Musical America, said, “[Little] has earned acclaim for the imaginative way he draws on his varied musical interests to produce arresting and coherent works. One might have expected some sort of stylistic hybrid, but Little’s music falls comfortably within the modern-day ‘classical’ idiom, his allusions to pop adding rhythmic verve and melodic appeal.” Seth Colter Walls, for eMusic, concluded that the piece was “thrillingly done.”
The Baltimore Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, New World Symphony and Albany Symphony have commissioned pieces from Little. In 2012, Alan Pierson led the world premiere of “Am I Born,” a 30-minute oratorio incorporating shape-note hymnody, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Brooklyn Youth Chorus and soprano Mellissa Hughes. The Los Angeles Philharmonic included Little’s “haunted topography” in its 2013 Brooklyn Festival, performed by DIY chamber orchestra, wild Up. Marin Alsop has conducted two premieres from Little including the world premiere of “CHARM,” a 10-minute orchestral piece that nods to Baltimore’s streets and neighborhoods via its “Charm City” nickname. Speaking in The Baltimore Sun, Alsop said, “David is a real talent whose work has deservedly gained wide-spread recognition in recent years.”
Several of David’s works are currently on tour. A recording of “Haunt of Last Nightfall” was released last season on the bustling independent classical label, New Amsterdam Records, with a tour by Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion. As part of its 40th anniversary season, Kronos Quartet commissioned and premiered “AGENCY,” and is planning tours in upcoming seasons. Meanwhile “cello goddess” Maya Beiser commissioned “Hellhound” for her “All Vows” and “Uncovered” tours.
Upcoming projects include new works for the London Sinfonietta, Newspeak, violinist Todd Reynolds and Third Coast Percussion; a new multi-media theater work, “Artaud in the Black Lodge” with legendary Outrider poet Anne Waldman; and a new opera with Royce Vavrek, “JFK,” commissioned by the Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater. The Wall Street Journal has called the pair “one of the most exciting composer-librettist teams working in opera today.” Little was mostly recently awarded a commission from The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater as part of their new works program.
Little is the founding artistic director and drummer for the amplified chamber ensemble Newspeak. Hailed as “potent” (TheRestIsNoise.com), “innovative” (New York magazine), and “fierce” (Time Out New York), Newspeak explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and the rock traditions. Newspeak released its first CD of commissioned works in November 2010, to critical acclaim. “You could call this punk classical,” Lucid Culture proclaimed, noting that the disc is “fearlessly aware, insightfully political (and) resolutely defiant.” They have been featured at the Park Avenue Armory, on the Ecstatic Music Festival, on the 25th anniversary Bang On A Can Marathon and will make their international debut at the 2014 Holland Festival.
Little’s music has been performed throughout the world—including in Dresden, London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA and Cabrillo Festivals—by such performers as the London Sinfonietta, Alarm Will Sound, eighth blackbird, So Percussion, wild Up, ensemble courage, Dither, NOW Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, the New World Symphony, Beth Morrison Projects, Peak Performances, American Opera Projects, the New York City Opera, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop.
He has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI and ASCAP, and has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet, Maya Beiser, the Baltimore Symphony, the Albany Symphony, the New World Symphony, the Kennedy Center’s Fortas Chamber Music Concerts, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the University of Michigan and Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts program at the Bard Conservatory, among others.
He holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001) and The University of Michigan (2002) and earned his doctorate from Princeton University (2011), where his research explored the intersection of music and politics. His primary teachers have included Osvaldo Golijov, Steven Mackey, Paul Lansky, William Bolcom and Michael Daugherty. He has taught music in New York City schools and shelters through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, served as the inaugural digital composer-in-residence for the UK-based DilettanteMusic.com. He is a founder of the New Music Bake Sale, fostering contemporary classical community annually in Brooklyn. From 2010-2012, he served as the executive director of New York’s MATA Festival. Since 2012, he has served as the director of composition and coordinator of new music at Shenandoah Conservatory. He is currently composer-in-residence with Opera Philadelphia.