Discipline: Music Composition

Fred Hersch

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: New York, NY
MacDowell Fellowships: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2019, 2024

Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has been called a "pianist, composer, and conceptualist of rare imaginative power" by The New York Times and has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the world today. He is widely recognized for his ability to create a unique body of original works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire – investing time-tested classics with keen insight, fresh ideas, and extraordinary technique. Hersch's numerous accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition, nine residencies at MacDowell, a fellowship at Bellagio and 15 Grammy nominations -- including two for best instrumental composition. He has appeared on more than 100 recordings, including more than three-dozen albums as bandleader/solo pianist.

Hersch's career as a performer has been greatly enhanced by his composing activities, a vital part of nearly all of his live concerts and recordings. His concert music is published by Edition Peters and he has received numerous commissions from a wide variety of artists, including the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, The Opus 21 Ensemble, The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and others. He created Leaves of Grass, a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for two voices and an instrumental octet; and his 2011 extended composition My Coma Dreams, a 2011 jazz/theater piece for actor/singer, large ensemble and animation/multimedia that was commissioned by Peak Performances at Montclair State University and has been performed in Berlin, San Francisco, and New York. His memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz, was released in 2017 from Random House/Crown Archetype Books; it was named One of 2017's Best Memoirs by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

During his 10 MacDowell Fellowships, Hersch has worked on: his book Explorations and Experiments for the Jazz Pianist and his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz; his CD set Songs Without Words (Nonesuch Records); Nocturne for the Left Hand; a jazz septet for a commission from the Concord (NH) Community Music School, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival for piano ("Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky”); a set of variations on a Bach chorale for solo piano; a full-evening piece for ensemble and vocalists using the words of Walt Whitman and a full-evening multi-media piece "Leaves of Grass"; a staged song cycle, "Hold Still" (a collaboration with Mary Jo Salter); a solo jazz piano album; music for his jazz trio based on his experiences as a Buddhist meditator in the vipassana tradition; and a large-scale piece for concert pianist Igor Levit for a premiere at Carnegie Hall. During his 2024 residency, he composed a set of pieces for his upcoming jazz trio album to be recorded in May 2024 on ECM Records for release in spring 2025.



Fred Hersch worked in the Watson studio.

Built in 1916 in memory of Regina Watson of Chicago, a musician and teacher, this studio was donated by a group of her friends, along with funds for its maintenance. Originally designed to serve as a composers’ studio with room for performance, Watson was used as a recital hall for chamber music for a…

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