Nell Shaw Cohen

Nell Shaw Cohen is a composer, librettist, and multimedia artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She evokes landscapes, visual art, and the lives of mavericks in her lyrical works for the stage, concert hall, and digital media.

  • Houston Grand Opera, HGOco Song of Houston chamber opera commission for Turn and Burn, a “feminist rodeo opera,” with librettist Megan Cohen (Spring 2021).
  • Boston Choral Ensemble commission for Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, an SATB choral setting of poems for the winter season (premiere December 2019).
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble commission for Transform the World with Beauty, an SATB vocal ensemble work inspired by Victorian visual artists (premiere April 2019).
  • Montage Music Society commission for Transforming Forest, a piano trio inspired by the land art installations of Andy Goldsworthy (premiere March 2019).
  • The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Artist-in-Residence (Spring 2019).
  • Founder & Director of Landscape Music Composers Network, LandscapeMusic.org (2015-present).
Recent Engagements
  • University of New Mexico, UNM Opera Theatre, Guest Artist and Workshop Production of opera Mabel’s Call (Fall 2018).
  • Director of Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails national concert series with the Landscape Music Composers Network (Fall 2018).
  • Fort Worth Opera Frontiers showcase, featured excerpts from opera Mabel’s Call (Spring 2018).
  • New Dramatists, five-day workshop of music-theater work Fallen Star with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen (Spring 2018).
  • Page 73 Yale Summer Residency and New York Theatre Workshop, Guest Artist in theater workshops (Summer 2017).
  • Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Artist-in-Residence (Fall 2017).
  • Nautilus Music-Theater, Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists (Spring 2017).
  • American Opera Projects, Composers & the Voice fellowship (2015-17).
Mailing List

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Upcoming Performances & Events

Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 7:30pm

Michigan Technological University
Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI
MTU’s New Music concert “Rock Music! A Celebration of Rocks” includes Revealed in Stone, Nell’s song cycle for tenor and piano inspired by the poetry and sculptures of Michelangelo. Event website. Live-stream the performance at https://www.mtu.edu/vpa/live.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Houston Grand Opera presents workshop of Turn and Burn
Houston, TX

A piano-vocal work-in-progress presentation of Turn and Burn, Nell’s chamber opera commissioned through HGOco’s “Song of Houston” initiative. Further details TBA.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 3:00pm

Boston Choral Ensemble Holiday Concert
Old South Church, Boston, MA
Boston Choral Ensemble’s holiday concert features the World Premiere of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, which the choir commissioned from Nell through their 12th Annual Commission Competition. Event website.

Announcements of performances during Spring 2020 coming soon.

Featured Works


A work for SATB vocal ensemble commissioned by Skylark. Inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain during the 1840s-1870s. Learn more.


A piano trio commissioned by Montage Music Society, inspired by Andy Goldsworthy‘s four land art installations in the Presidio of San Francisco, CA. Learn more.


A chamber opera in one act, set in New Mexico, inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan: an early 20th century writer, philanthropist, and international icon of the avant-garde. Learn more.


A work for solo piano written during an Artist Residency at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Saratoga, Wyoming, and inspired by the landscape of Brush Creek Ranch. Learn more.

REFUGE (2016)

A narrative suite for chamber ensemble following the conservation stories of three wild animals and their habitats in national parks. Composed in commemoration of the centennial of the National Park Service. Learn more.


A monodrama for tenor and chamber ensemble based on the writings and paintings of Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967). Learn more.


An orchestral tone poem inspired by the coastal landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area and a woodblock print by contemporary artist Tom Killion. Learn more.

Visit List of Works for more recordings and projects.