Nell Shaw Cohen in grove of redwood trees

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.

2019-2020 & 2020-2021 Season Highlights
  • Nell Shaw Cohen, standing in birch trees holding keyboardHouston Grand Opera, HGOco “Song of Houston” chamber opera commission for Turn and Burn, a feminist rodeo opera, with librettist Megan Cohen (premiere 2021).
  • The Brass Project, commission for brass sextet inspired by the paintings of Hilma af Klint (premiere 2020-21 season).
  • Boston Choral Ensemble, commission for Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, an SATB choral setting of poems for the winter season (premiere December 2019).
  • Toronto Messiaen Ensemble & Canadian Music Centre, selection of Retrace for flute, violin, and cello through international Call for Scores.
  • The Astoria Choir, selection of “My First Camera” from Transform the World with Beauty through Call for Scores for March 2020 concert celebrating International Women’s Day.
  • LandscapeMusic.org, Director of “Earth Year 2020” initiative for international composers’ network.
Recent Highlights
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble, commission for Transform the World with Beauty, an SATB vocal ensemble work inspired by Victorian visual artists (Spring 2019).
  • Montage Music Society, commission for 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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White text on green background reading "Free Music for a Fair Election"Want to support our U.S. democracy while making scores of Nell’s chamber music accessible to more musicians? Please consider contributing to her fundraising campaign, Free Music for a Fair Election!

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.

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