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 is 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).

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Greet the Winter Solstice with choral music!

Listen to Boston Choral Ensemble’s NEW live recording of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, my choral setting of three poems for the winter season, from their holiday concert on December 11, 2021 (Klo Garoute, conductor).

Commissioned and premiered by Boston Choral Ensemble in 2019 through their 12th Annual Commission Competition, “Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight” features settings of three poems on the theme of winter: “Winter Branches” by Margaret Widdemer, “A Winter Blue Jay” by Sara Teasdale, and “A Winter Ride” by Amy Lowell, all written in the early 20th century by American women. Each of these poets used vivid descriptions of winter phenomena to convey moments of profound connection to the natural world.

Any of the three movements may be programmed separately as standalone works for performance. Read the program note and view the perusal score here.

Upcoming Events

Release Early January 2022

NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices, Vol. 1
Publication including Nell’s Fallen Star (2017/arr. 2020) for voice and piano, written with lyricist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen.
Purchasing information

Saturday, November 13, 2021 — January 30, 2022

Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement
The Frick Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Continuous screenings of video piece Le Mystère du Pouvoir Féminin (The Mystery of Feminine Power), which is scored with excerpts from Nell’s Transform the World with Beauty, to accompany special exhibition Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Event information

Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 8:00pm EDT

Juventas New Music Ensemble — “Lungs of the City”
Multicultural Arts Center, East Cambridge, MA
Live YouTube Broadcast
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. 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.
Event information

More performances in 2022, TBA soon!

Featured Works


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.

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.


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.