Discipline: Music Composition

John Liberatore

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: South Bend, IN
MacDowell Fellowships: 2017, 2020

John Liberatore is a composer, pianist, and one of the world’s few glass harmonica players. Described by critics as “enchanting” and “truly magical” (Boston and New York Classical Review, respectively), his music seeks poignancy through levity, ambiguity through transparency, and complexity within simple textures—“to feel pulled along at varying speeds in multiple directions, but always forward.” (clevelandclassical.com)

Over the past several years, his music has received hundreds of performances in venues around the world. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship from the MacDowell, and other fellowships from Tanglewood, Yaddo, the Brush Creek Arts Foundation, the I-Park Artist’s Enclave, and the Millay Colony. Other notable distinctions include commissions from the Fromm Music Foundation and the American Opera Initiative, two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, and the Brian Israel Prize. Through a 2012 Presser Music Award, he studied in Tokyo with Jo Kondo—a mentorship that made an indelible impression on his music.

In 2015, Liberatore commissioned glass blowers G. Finkenbeiner Inc. for a new glass harmonica, becoming one of the few exponents of this rare instrument in contemporary music. This rare instrument was the subject of his work at MacDowell in March of 2017, where he composed a new song cycle for the glass harmonica with percussionist Daniel Druckman and soprano Jamie Jordan. He has also collaborated as a composer and performer with Roomful of Teeth, the Concert Choir of Old Saint Patrick’s, and as a soloist at the Third Practice Festival.

In 2018, Albany Records released Line Drawings, a portrait album of Liberatore’s chamber music. The album features Liberatore’s recording debut on the glass harmonica (alongside Druckman and Jordan), as well as pieces for The Mivos Quartet, pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough, Bent Frequency, and Duo Damiana. Other recordings of his work are available on Centaur, Innova, and Ravello record labels. At MacDowell in early 2020, he wrote significant parts of his 2023 album, Catch Somewhere (New Focus Recordings).

"I absolutely never would have finished this piece if I didn't start my pandemic journey with so much of the piece written during my residency. So there is a special connection between this album and MacDowell, for which I'm very grateful."

He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (Ph.D., M.M.) and Syracuse University (B.M., summa cum laude). In 2015, he was appointed assistant professor of theory and composition at the University of Notre Dame.


Van Zorn (formerly Kirby)

John Liberatore worked in the Van Zorn (formerly Kirby) studio.

Constructed thanks to a bequest from Sarah L. Kirby, Kirby Studio was the last new building to be erected during Mrs. MacDowell’s leadership (1907-1951). The load-bearing masonry walls were laid by local mason Augustus Beaulieu atop a fieldstone foundation. A 1995 renovation preserved the brick fireplace with wooden mantel and…

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