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Nell Shaw Cohen in grove of redwood trees

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

Current & Recent HighlightsNell Shaw Cohen, standing in birch trees holding keyboard
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble, commission of It’s a Long Way (2020) for choir. Featured as the title track of Skylark’s album, which was nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Choral Performance.
  • Houston Grand Opera, commission of Turn and Burn, a feminist chamber opera about the Houston rodeo, with librettist Megan Cohen. Recipient of 2020 OPERA America Commissioning Grant for Female Composers.
  • NewMusicShelf, publication of Fallen Star (2017/arr. 2020) for voice and piano, with lyricist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, in forthcoming NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices, Vol. 1 (2022).
  • Juventas New Music EnsembleAmerican Wild Ensemble, Landscape Music, Michigan Technology University Visual & Performing Arts, commission of Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland (2021) for flute, clarinet, horn, percussion, violin, viola, and cello. Inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park.
  • The Brass Project, commission of Spiral Temple (2021) for brass sextet inspired by the paintings of Hilma af Klint.
  • Laura Strickling, commission of Woman Walking (2020) for soprano and piano for The 40@40 Project.
  • Landscape Music (landscapemusic.org), Founder & Director of international network of composers and performers (2015-present).
Past Highlights
  • Boston Choral Ensemble, commission of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, a choral setting of poems for the winter season (Winter 2019).
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble, commission of Transform the World with Beauty, a vocal ensemble work inspired by Victorian artists and writers (Spring 2019).
  • Montage Music Society, commission of Transforming Forest, a piano trio inspired by the land art installations of Andy Goldsworthy (Spring 2019).
  • The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Artist-in-Residence (Spring 2019).
  • University of New Mexico, UNM Opera Theatre, Guest Artist and Workshop Production of opera Mabel’s Call (Fall 2018).
  • Landscape Music: Rivers & Trails, Director of national concert series with 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).
  • Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Artist-in-Residence (Fall 2017).
  • Page 73, Yale Summer Residency and New York Theatre Workshop, Guest Artist in theater workshops (Summer-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 Events

Monday, May 16, 2022 at 7:30pm EDT

New York Opera Alliance, “NYOA Next!”
Christ and Saint Stephens Church, New York, NY
Hear an aria for soprano and piano in a preview of the upcoming workshop of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus: a family holiday opera with libretto by Edward Einhorn, adapted from the book by L. Frank Baum.
Get Tickets

Friday, May 27, 2022 at 6:30pm EDT

American Wild Ensemble, “Lungs of the City”
Fort Tryon Park, Dongan Lawn, New York NY
The co-World Premiere of Nell’s Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park. Part of Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music, a cross-regional concert series of new chamber music celebrating public parks and commemorating the bicentennial Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth.
Register for Free

Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 12:00pm EDT

American Wild Ensemble, “Lungs of the City”
Prospect Park Audubon Center, Brooklyn, NY
The co-World Premiere of Nell’s Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park.
Register for Free

Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 7:00pm EDT

American Wild Ensemble, “Lungs of the City”
CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture, New York, NY
The co-World Premiere of Nell’s Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park.
Invitation-only – More information here

Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 7:30pm EDT

Untitled Theater Company No. 61
The Life and Adventures of Santa
Claus
OPERA America’s National Opera Center, 330 7th Ave, New York, NY
A piano-vocal workshop reading of excerpts from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus: a family holiday opera with libretto by Edward Einhorn, adapted from the book by L. Frank Baum. Paired with an excerpt from Exagoge by Einhorn with composer Avner Finberg.
More information

Saturday, June 4, 2022 at 2:00pm EDT

Juventas New Music Ensemble, “Lungs of the City”
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, MA
Juventas presents the co-World Premiere of Nell’s Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park.

Sunday, October 9, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. EDT

Michigan Technological University Department of Visual and Performing Arts, “Lungs of the City”
Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, 1400 Townsend Dr, Houghton, MI 49931
& Live Online Broadcast
MTU presents the co-World Premiere of Nell’s Breath of the Meadow, Heart of the Woodland inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park. Part of Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music, a cross-regional concert series of new chamber music celebrating public parks and commemorating the bicentennial Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth.

Thursday, November 10, 2022 at 9:40am & 11:30am EST

The Delaware Philharmonic Orchestra, “Nature in Music”
Schuster Center, Dayton, OH
The Delaware Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Reynolds, performs Nell’s The Sphinx and the Milky Way, an orchestral tone poem inspired by the paintings of Charles E. Burchfield, on their Young People’s Concert program of music inspired by nature.
Get Tickets


News

Landscape Music: Episode 27 cover art

Big thanks to Maci Nelson of The Landscape Nerd podcast for an absolutely lovely conversation about intersections between music and landscape architecture, and for the opportunity to share my music and speak about my organization Landscape Music and our collaborative concert series “Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music.” Listen & subscribe here or on your podcast platform of choice.

Le Mystère du Pouvoir Féminin is a fabulous collaborative video piece created by Style412 and The Frick Pittsburgh, and scored with excerpts from my choral piece Transform the World with Beauty performed by Skylark Vocal Ensemble. I’m honored to have my music featured in this beautiful work of film and fashion responding to radical Victorian art.

The video was screened on-site from November 6, 2021 through January 30, 2021 to accompany The Frick Pittsburgh’s special exhibition Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, and is now available for viewing online.


Featured Works

IT’S A LONG WAY (2020)

Featured as the title track of Skylark’s album nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Choral Performance. Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble, this choral setting of a poem by William Stanley Braithwaite was inspired by experiences of 2020. Learn more.


BREATH OF THE MEADOW, HEART OF THE WOODLAND (2021)

Inspired by New York City’s Prospect Park and Central Park, this piece was co-commissioned by American Wild Ensemble, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Landscape Music, and Michigan Technological University Department of Visual and Performing Arts for “Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music”: a cross-regional concert series of new chamber music celebrating public parks and commemorating the bicentennial Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth. Learn more.


TRANSFORM THE WORLD WITH BEAUTY (2019)

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble. A choral setting inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain during the 1840s-1870s. Learn more.


TRANSFORMING FOREST (2018)

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.


MABEL’S CALL (2018)

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.


WALKS AT BRUSH CREEK (2017)

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.


POINT REYES FROM CHIMNEY ROCK (2014)

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.

Header image modified from “Redwood Bark Closeup” by Eric Kilby. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.