Still in his early 30's, Derek Bermel has been hailed by colleagues, critics, and audiences across the globe for his creativity and theatricality as a composer of chamber, symphonic, dance, theater, and pop works, and his versatility and virtuosity as a clarinetist, conductor, and jazz and rock musician. He has received many of today's most important awards, including the 2001 Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, a Millennium Prize by Faber Music (UK), and several ASCAP Awards, as well as residencies at the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Tanglewood, Bowdoin, Banff, and Yaddo.
His hands-on experience with music of cultures around the world has become part of the fabric of Bermel's compositional language. He studied ethnomusicology and orchestration in Jerusalem, and later traveled to Bulgaria to study the Thracian folk style, Dublin to study uillean pipes, and Ghana to study the Lobi xylophone. Well-versed in the classical and jazz repertoire on clarinet and piano, he trained at Yale University and the University of Michigan, and later in Amsterdam, studying composition with William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, and Michael Tenzer.
Recent premieres include those by the St. Louis and New Jersey Symphonies, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony, Paul Lustig Dunkel and the Westchester Philharmonic, Aspen Music Festival, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Pacific Symphony. His first disc, of his chamber music, was recently released to much acclaim. His music has also been featured at festivals including De Suite Muziekweek (Amsterdam), Composers Inc. (San Francisco), Imagine (Memphis), Cactus Pear (San Antonio), Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Amsterdam), Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference (Iowa), American Guild of Organists (Washington, Los Angeles), Society for New Music (NY), Bowling Green (Ohio), Focus! (NY), Interlochen (Michigan), Thunderclaps (Den Haag), Tanglewood, and Banff (Alberta).
He is currently working on commissions from the Gilmore Festival, Eighth Blackbird, Fromm Foundation, a Duo Consortium for flute, clarinet, and piano. He is also collaborating on an opera with librettist Wendy S. Walters. He has received commissions from the Fabermusic Millennium Series, American Composers Orchestra, Albany Symphony, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Birmingham Royal Ballet (U.K.), Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players, New York International Fringe Festival, TONK, Jazz Xchange (U.K.), pianist Christopher Taylor, organist William Albright, baritone Timothy Jones, cellist Fred Sherry, and the New York Youth Symphony.
Bermel's clarinet playing has been hailed by the New York Times as "brilliant" and his talent as "truly exceptional." He premiered his own critically acclaimed clarinet concerto, Voices, with the American Composers Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, and revisited it with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the BBC Symphony in the U. K., and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (with John Adams conducting) . He has also premiered dozens of new works for clarinet in appearances as soloist throughout the U.S. and Europe, including recitals in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Detroit, Jerusalem, The Hague, and Paris, and radio broadcasts on the BBC (London), NCRV (Amsterdam), and WQXR (New York). He recently performed Bolcom's Concerto for Clarinet with the Lexington (KY) Philharmonic and the Greensboro (NC) Symphony. Bermel is founding clarinetist of Music from Copland House, the resident ensemble of Copland's longtime New York home, now restored as a creative center for American Music.
Bermel was the recipient of one of three Ford Foundation Conducting Awards, leading the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in his Continental Divide and Edward Miller's Cascades. He recently led the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble in a program including two of his own works, conducted his orchestral work, Dust Dances, at Interlochen Academy and toured with the British dance company Jazz Xchange, conducting and performing in his composition Messengers, a collaboration with choreographer Sheron Wray; he also conducted his score for two Brecht plays, Caucasian Chalk Circle and Drums in the Night at the International Fringe Festival in New York. In Banff, Alberta, he conducted the opera choir in the premiere of his West African Folk Songs.
Derek Bermel is music director and co-artistic director--along with electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans and poet Wendy Walters--for the Dutch-American interdisciplinary ensemble TONK, which he co-founded, and director of Making Score, the composition lab at the New York Youth Symphony. He has served as music director, conductor, and arranger for several jazz choirs, including The Baker's Dozen at Yale University, Parallel Motion at the University of Michigan, Mash'hu K'mo ha'Blues in Jerusalem, and The Toast of Hell's Kitchen in New York City. He studied conducting at the University of Michigan with Donald Schleicher, clarinet with Ben Armato and Fred Ormand. In demand as an educator, he is the recipient of grants from Meet the Composer, The American Symphony Orchestra League, ASCAP, and others to support his work with students. Derek Bermel's music is published by Peerclassical.