Bruce Adolphe (born May 31, 1955) is a U.S. composer and music scholar, the author of several books on music, and pianist. He earned a B.M. and M.M. from Juilliard in 1976. His current positions include Resident Lecturer and Director of Family Concerts of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and founder and creative director of The Learning Maestros, formerly called PollyRhythm Productions. He creates and performs a weekly "Piano Puzzler" segment on the nationally broadcast Performance Today classical music radio program hosted by Fred Child. The Piano Puzzler show was heard on National Public Radio starting in 2002 and is now on American Public Media. It is available as a podcast and from iTunes.
Adolphe has composed music for Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Sylvia McNair, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Brentano String Quartet, the Miami Quartet, the National Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and many other renowned performers and organizations. In 2009, Adolphe's one-act opera Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson with a libretto by Carolivia Herron was premiered at the Atlas Theater in Washington, D.C., by the Washington National Opera and the Washington Performing Arts Society, who commissioned the opera. Also in 2009, Adolphe's Violin Concerto was premiered by violinist Eugene Drucker, a member of the Emerson String Quartet, with the Idyllwild Academy Orchestra conducted by Peter Askim at the Redcat Theater of Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and an evening of Adolphe's chamber music was presented at The Kennedy Center. "Music Is", for children's chorus and youth orchestra, was premiered as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Thurnauer School of Music in June, 2009, with the Young People's Chorus of New York City and the Thurnauer Orchestra. Adolphe's cantata on themes of social justice, civil rights, and freedom around the world — "Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society" — was commissioned to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the School of Social Work of the University of Michigan. It was premiered by the Chamber Chorus and musicians of the university's School of Music, conducted by Jerry Blackstone, in November, 2011.
On May 3, 2009, Yo-Yo Ma played the world premiere of Bruce Adolphe's Self Comes to Mind, a neuroscience-inspired work for solo cello with two percussionists. The percussion parts were performed by John Ferrari and Ayano Kataoka. "Self Comes to Mind" is a collaboration with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who wrote a text in poetic form about the evolution of consciousness for Adolphe specifically for this musical composition. The premiere took place at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and featured live interactive images that responded to the music. The images were based primarily on brain scans created by Hanna Damasio, wife and collaborator of Antonio Damasio. The Damasios are the founders and co-directors of The Brain and Creativity Institute in Los Angeles and have invited Bruce Adolphe to be composer-in-residence there. Previous to his collaboration with Damasio to create Self Comes to Mind, Adolphe composed two other works based on passages in Antonio Damasio's book Descartes' Error: Memories of a Possible Future for piano and string quartet and Body Loops for piano and orchestra.
Adolphe is also known for his repertoire of compositions for young listeners. These works, created primarily for his company The Learning Maestros, are interdisciplinary in nature, combining music with science, literature, history, visual arts, and current topics. These works include Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto, premiered by the Chicago Chamber Musicians in 2000 at the Field Museum of Chicago for the unveiling of the T-rex Sue; Red Dogs and Pink Skies: A Musical Celebration of Paul Gauguin, created in conjunction with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; Witches, Wizards, Spells, and Elves: The Magic of Shakespeare, premiered by Chicago Shakespeare Theater actors and the Chicago Chamber Musicians; Tough Turkey in the Big City, a Thanksgiving comedy with a script by Louise Gikow, featuring a bass trombone as the turkey, premiered at Chamber Music Northwest in Oregon and at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York; and Zephyronia a piece about the power of wind energy, created with writer Louise Gikow for the Imani Winds, who both perform the music (for wind quintet) and act the parts of the characters in the story. All of these works are recorded.
The Learning Maestros is Adolphe's interdisciplinary education company, co-founded and directed with Julian Fifer, an impresario best known as founder and executive director of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Their large repertoire of works, CDs, books, and projects for all ages can be found at www.thelearningmaestros.com. Adolphe's music is recorded on Naxos, CRI, PollyRhythm, New World, Koch, music@menlo archives, Delos, and other labels. His film scores include the permanent documentary shown in the Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
- The Mind's Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination
- What To Listen for in the World
- Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind: A Composer Explores Mysteries of the Musical Mind
- "Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society" (2011) for chorus SATB, wind quintet, 3 percussionists, with texts about social justice, civil rights, and freedom.
- Self Comes to Mind (2009) for cello and two percussionists, with a text by Antonio Damasio and visual images based on brain scans by Hanna Damasio
- Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson, (2009) one-act opera with libretto by Carolivia Herron
- The Tiger's Ear: Listening to Abstract Expressionist Paintings (2004) for flute, oboe, violin, viola, cello, and piano
- Violin Concerto (2005)
- Whispers of Mortality: String Quartet No. 4 (1998)
- Three Secret Stories for violin and piano (2005)
- Couple for cello and piano (1998)
- And All is Always Now for violin and piano
- Wind Across the Sky: Settings of Native American Poetry (2007) for soprano and piano trio
- A Thousand Years of Love (1999) for soprano and piano
- Songs of Life and Love (2005) Settings of poems by Iranian, Palestinian, and Israeli women
- Memories of a Possible Future (1994) for string quartet and piano
- Red Dogs and Pink Skies: A Musical Celebration of Paul Gauguin (2003) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass, percussion (with slides and optional narration)
- Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto (2000) for 13 musicians and narrator
- Witches, Wizards, Spells, and Elves: The Magic of Shakespeare (2005) for actors, and 13 musicians
- Mikhoels the Wise (1982) opera in two acts about Solomon Mikhoels, libretto by Mel Gordon
- Tough Turkey in the Big City (2004) for bass trombone, trumpet, clarinet, violin, piano, percussion and actor
- The False Messiah (1983) opera in two acts, libretto by Mel Gordon
- The Amazing Adventure of Alvin Allegretto (1994) comic opera for children in one act, libretto by Sara Schlessinger
- The Bitter, Sour, Salt Suite for violin solo with narrator, poems by Louise Gikow
- Marita and Her Heart's Desire (1992), fairy tale with a story by Louise Gikow, for 12 instruments and narrator
- Out of the Whirlwind (1990) for mezzo-soprano, tenor, and large wind band; texts by victims and survivors of the Holocaust
- Ladino Songs of Love and Suffering (1985) for soprano, horn, and guitar
- Night Journey for Wind Quintet (1986)