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
  • Houston Grand Opera, HGOco “Song of Houston” commission for Turn and Burn (2020), a feminist rodeo opera, with librettist Megan Cohen. Recipient of OPERA America Commissioning Grant for Female Composers. Premiere Spring 2022.
  • Juventas New Music EnsembleAmerican Wild Ensemble, Landscape Music, and Michigan Technology University Visual & Performing Arts, commission of work for chamber septet inspired by the landscape architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted. Performances Spring through Fall 2022.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble, commission of It’s a Long Way (2020) for SATB choir. Featured as title track of new studio album, released September 2021. Educational recording release January 2021.
  • 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.
  • NewMusicShelf, publication of Fallen Star (2017/arr. 2020) for baritone and piano, with lyricist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, in forthcoming anthology (2021).
  • Landscape Music (landscapemusic.org), Founder & Director of international network of composers and performers (2015-present).
Past Highlights
  • 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 (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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Upcoming Events

Friday, September 24, 2021

Skylark Vocal Ensemble — “It’s a Long Way” Album Release
Skylark releases their new album, “It’s a Long Way,” featuring Nell’s piece as the title track.
Album information

Friday, October 1, 2021 at 7:00pm

Montage Music Society — Music Inspired by Visual Art
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Durango, CO

Montage Music Society performs Transforming Forest.
Event information

Sunday, October 3, 2021 at 10:00am & 11:15am

Musica Viva NY — “It’s a Long Way”
All Souls Unitarian Church, New York, NY
Musica Viva NY performs Nell’s It’s a Long Way as part of their Sunday services. The 11:15 service will be live-streamed for those who wish to join remotely.
Event information

Friday, October 8, 2021 at 7:00pm

Skylark Vocal Ensemble — “It’s a Long Way” Album Concert
Simon Center for the Arts at Falmouth Academy, Falmouth MA
Skylark performs the live World Premiere of Nell’s It’s a Long Way: the title track of their new album.
Event information

Saturday, October 9, 2021 at 7:00pm

Skylark Vocal Ensemble — “It’s a Long Way” Album Concert
Belleville Church, Newburyport, MA
Skylark performs the live World Premiere of Nell’s It’s a Long Way: the title track of their new album.
Event information

Sunday, October 10, 2021 at 3:00pm

Skylark Vocal Ensemble — “It’s a Long Way” Album Concert
First Parish Church in Weston, Weston, MA
Skylark performs the live World Premiere of Nell’s It’s a Long Way: the title track of their new album.
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 forthcoming work for chamber septet inspired by 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

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.