Biography

Short Biography

Brooklyn-based composer and multimedia artist-producer Nell Shaw Cohen, a native of San Francisco, CA and Sag Harbor, NY, writes lyrically expressive, visually evocative music for chamber ensembles, orchestra, solo voice, choir, wind ensemble, and rock band. The JACK Quartet, WordSong, and members of The Chelsea Symphony and A Far Cry, among others, have performed her music in museums, concert halls, theaters, and salons. Cohen is 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence for the NYU Symphony, which commissioned and premiered her tone poem Point Reyes from Chimney Rock at the Skirball Center.

Cohen’s multimedia concerts combining visual art with video and music have been featured at the Parrish Art Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and New England Conservatory, where she premiered 19 works on the Tuesday Night New Music series during 2008-12.

Cohen has also filmed in locations from the New Mexico badlands to the Marin Headlands; interviewed scholars on subjects from synesthesia to Charles Ives; and received two Entrepreneurial Grants from NEC and a Challenge Grant from New York University for her multidisciplinary digital media projects.

As a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Scholar, Cohen studies with Herschel Garfein at New York University, where she is currently completing her Master of Music. Cohen studied with Michael Gandolfi at New England Conservatory, where she earned her Bachelor of Music with Honors and was awarded the Presser Scholar Award and Chadwick Medal.

Long Biography

Nell Shaw Cohen, photo by Tom Kochie

Brooklyn-based composer and multimedia artist-producer Nell Shaw Cohen (b. 1988), a native of San Francisco, CA and Sag Harbor, NY, writes lyrically expressive, visually evocative music for chamber ensembles, orchestra, solo voice, choir, wind ensemble, and rock band.

Much of Cohen's work is fueled by her exploration of intersections between music and visual art, leading her to collaborate with art museums and curators. The Course of Empire, Cohen's string quartet inspired by paintings by Thomas Cole, was performed by members of A Far Cry in July 2011 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA at the opening of the national touring exhibit, Painting the American Vision. (Read the article from The Boston Globe about this event.) Cohen's wind quintet Watercolors, inspired by the paintings of Charles Burchfield, was featured by the prestigious Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY as part of the grand opening of the Museum's new facility in November 2012. Watercolors was performed by The Chelsea Quintet for an audience of about 400, an event cited by the Director of the Museum as "one of the best of the opening weekend." Richard Vaudrey and Karlos Rodriguez of The Catalyst Quartet co-premiered Cohen's Horizon for solo cello in the galleries of the Parrish Art Museum on its one-year anniversary last November.

Cohen was awarded her second Entrepreneurial Grant from the New England Conservatory Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department to develop a series of 30+ short educational videos about art and music for her multimedia website and concert companion Beyond the Notes (beyondthenotes.org), which accompanied the Parrish Art Museum concert, the Peabody Essex Museum concert, and a full-length recital of Cohen's "Music Inspired by Art" at New England Conservatory in November 2011. She was previously awarded an Entrepreneurial Grant in summer 2010 to create documentary-meets-music-video inspired by the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape, which received its premiere in November 2010 and has been viewed several thousand times on YouTube. Cohen's forthcoming multimedia project Explore John Muir's Yosemite, set to launch in spring 2014, was awarded the Research/Creative Project Award Challenge Grant from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

As a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Graduate Arts Award, the nation's most generous independent scholarship for graduate studies in the arts, Cohen is pursuing a Master of Music at New York University, where she was named 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence by the NYU Symphony, which commissioned and premiered her tone poem Point Reyes from Chimney Rock at the Skirball Center on March 3, 2014. Cohen currently studies with Grammy Award-winning librettist and composer Herschel Garfein and has pursued additional studies with Missy Mazzoli and Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe. Cohen has received premieres from the NYU Symphony, NYU Percussion Ensemble, and NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble during the 2013-14 season, and will present a workshop performance her one-act monodrama The Coming of Spring, inspired by the writings and paintings of Charles E. Burchfield, on her graduating recital on April 29, 2014.

Cohen received a Bachelor of Music in Composition with Academic Honors from the New England Conservatory of Music in May 2012, where she studied with Michael Gandolfi and John Mallia. NEC awarded Cohen the George Whitefield Chadwick Medal, the highest possible honor for a graduating senior, and named her their 2011-2012 Presser Scholar. She premiered chamber works on 20 concerts during the 2008-2012 seasons of NEC's Tuesday Night New Music concert series and won the NEC Honors Ensemble Composition Competition in 2011.

Cohen has also received the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music (2009) and the Elizabeth Brockman Award (2008). A featured artist of the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation, Cohen has participated in master classes with John Harbison, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Geoffrey Simon.

Before shifting her focus to concert music, Cohen developed proficiency performing and composing progressive rock music (singing and playing guitar, bass, keyboard and drums). In 2006 she produced an original album titled Tempus (under the name Nell James). It received favorable reviews in the U.S. and abroad. For more information on Tempus and other past recordings, visit www.nelljames.com.

Curriculum Vitae / Resume

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