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 Sauntering Songs (World Premiere April 2023): a concert-length cantata for vocal soloists and chamber choir, with flute, guitar, piano, and cello.
  • Houston Grand Opera, commission of Turn and Burn (2020), a feminist chamber opera about the Houston rodeo, with librettist Megan Cohen. Recipient of an OPERA America Commissioning Grant for Women Composers.
  • 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.
  • NewMusicShelf, publication of Fallen Star (2017/arr. 2020) for voice and piano, with lyricist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, in 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 Foresta piano trio inspired by the land art installations of Andy Goldsworthy (Spring 2019).
  • The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Artist-in-Residence (2016, 2017, and 2019).
  • University of New Mexico, UNM Opera Theatre, Guest Artist and Workshop Production of opera Mabel’s Call (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 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

Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 3:00pm EDT

Bowdoin Chamber Choir – “Winter Branches”
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
The Bowdoin Chamber Choir performs “Winter Branches” from Nell’s Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight.
Event Information & Live-Stream Link

Sunday, July 16, 2023 at 11:00am EDt

Juventas New Music Ensemble
Community Day at the Clark
The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
Juventas New Music Ensemble performs a program of works by Nell Shaw Cohen related to themes from The Clark’s special exhibitions.
Event Information

More Upcoming Events

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.