Jeremy Beck

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Jeremy Beck
Jeremy Beck composer, in Louisville, Kentucky, 2018.jpg
Beck in 2018

Jeremy Beck (b. 1960) is an American composer who "knows the importance of embracing the past while also going his own way."[1] The critic Mark Sebastian Jordan has said that "Beck was committed to tonality and a recognizable musical vernacular long before that became the hip bandwagon it is today. Indeed, [he is] ... an original voice celebrating music."[2]

Early life and musical education[edit]

Jeremy Joseph Beck was born January 15, 1960, in Painesville, Ohio. His father, Albert William Beck (b. April 4, 1931, in Scranton, Pennsylvania; d. May 16, 2018 in Quincy, Illinois), known as "Al", was a visual artist and poet who taught for many years at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.[3] His mother, Mila Katrine Aho (b. June 24, 1935, Painesville, Ohio; d. March 26, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee), known as "Katrine", was a pianist and organist who taught music privately.[4] Beck's parents married in 1958, but not without some controversy: the Beck family was Jewish[5] and the Aho family was Lutheran.[6] Albert's parents agreed to support the wedding as long as the Ahos knew they were Jewish. Katrine's parents agreed to support the wedding only if Katrine's father – Gustav Axel Aho, also known as "G.A. Aho", a Lutheran minister – performed the ceremony in his own church.[7] Under those conditions, the nuptials took place. The family lived briefly in and around Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to Kansas City for a year, 1967–68, where Al served as Dean of Students at the Kansas City Art Institute.[8] The family then settled in Quincy, Illinois. Beck's parents were divorced in 1977.[9]

Beck's earliest musical studies were with his mother; he then began playing the cello in the 4th grade in Quincy.[10] While in high school, Beck studied music composition and theory privately with Thom Ritter George, an Eastman graduate and conductor of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra.[11] Following his graduation from high school in 1978, Beck moved to New York City, earning a B.S. in Composition from the Mannes College of Music where he studied with David Loeb. He later earned a master's degree in composition from Duke University where he studied with Stephen Jaffe and Thomas Oboe Lee. Following his studies at Duke, Beck completed a second master's degree and a doctoral degree in composition at the Yale School of Music, studying with Jacob Druckman, Martin Bresnick, Lukas Foss, and Allen Forte.[12][13]

Working life[edit]

After graduating from Yale, Beck taught music composition and theory at the University of Northern Iowa, earning tenured there in 1998. Beck took a leave of absence from UNI to teach for a year at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, instead of returning to Iowa, in 1999, Beck accepted a position as an associate professor of music composition and theory at California State University, Fullerton, where he also earned tenure, in 2002.[14][15] During his teaching years, Beck was invited to teach and lecture on American music, music theory, and composition around the world, including in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Ghana.[16]

In 2002, Beck accepted a short-term teaching position at the University of Louisville. Following a change in the administration and the loss of his position, Beck decided to pursue a J.D. degree, graduating from the university's Brandeis School of Law in 2007.[17] In addition to his continuing work in composition, now Beck is also a practicing attorney in Louisville, Kentucky.[18] He blends his music background into his entertainment law practice, with an emphasis on copyright, trademark, and contracts.[19][20]


by moonlight[edit]

Beck has released six CDs of his music on the innova label.[21] About Beck's most recent release, the music critic Jonathan Woolf declared that Beck "[s] convincing music from traditional ways and means that sounds alive and relevant. ... [by moonlight] also shows his positive and tonal approach to composition, one that is happily devoid of arid technical or doctrinaire investigations."[22] Another review declared that Beck's compositions are "Luminous, expressive, and refined [and that these] are some of the words that come to mind as the album's tonal pieces play, "by moonlight" deftly showing Beck cultivating an individual voice while operating within a tradition."[23]

String Quartets[edit]

The critic Donald Rosenberg describes the music on Beck's CD, String Quartets (2013), as "forceful and expressive … concise in structure and generous in tonal language, savouring both the dramatic and the poetic,"[24] while Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle states Beck's music is "appealing and skillfully crafted … [with] lush tonal harmonies."[25] Kosman further observes that "novelty isn't the only thing music can provide, and the moody expressiveness of Beck's writing is its own reward."[26]

IonSound Project[edit]

Beck's 2011 CD, IonSound Project, features the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Pittsburgh.[27][28] His music on this recording has been described as "uplifting, buoyant and ... emotional and sensitive to both the performer and the listener."[29] In addition, critic Andrew Sigler finds Beck's music "rhythmically intricate, and makes nods to the past while sitting squarely in the present. … Though architecturally rigorous, Beck writes clearly and without pretense[.]"[30]

Never Final, Never Gone[edit]

Beck's third innova CD, Never Final, Never Gone (2008), features a variety of chamber and vocal music.[31]

pause and feel and hark[edit]

His second CD, pause and feel and hark, released in May 2006, includes Black Water, a monodrama based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates.[32] Black Water received its Australian concert premiere at the 2012 Adelaide Fringe Festival.[33][34] The stage premiere of this monodrama was produced by the Center for Contemporary Opera at Symphony Space on April 29, 2016 in New York City.[35]


In 2004, Wave – a Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra CD devoted to Beck's music – was released on the Innova label.[36] This recording includes his four-movement Sinfonietta for string orchestra, "a harmonically inventive, thoroughly engaging work."[37] The disc also includes his operatic soliloquy, Death of a Little Girl With Doves, for soprano and orchestra. This "deeply attractive" composition is based on the life and letters of the sculptor Camille Claudel. The recording of this major work was heralded for its "imperious melodic confidence, fluent emotional command and yielding tenderness."[38]


Beck's short comic opera, Review, with a libretto by Patricia Marx,[39] was one of three finalists in the 2010 National Opera Association's New Chamber Opera Competition. It was performed by Oberlin Opera Theater in February, 2014,[40] and twice by Peabody Opera: in October, 2011 in Baltimore,[41] and in Richmond, Virginia, at the College Music Society's annual convention.[42] Review was previously included in the 2009 Opera America and Houston Grand Opera New Works Sampler. Following that successful showcase, Review was then produced by the Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston[43] and later was given its New York premiere by the Center for Contemporary Opera.[44]

Beck's opera The Biddle Boys and Mrs. Soffel was named by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as one of the Top Ten Cultural Events in Pittsburgh for the year 2001.[45]

With a libretto by the composer based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, his monodrama Black Water received its stage premiere on April 29, 2016. Produced by the Center for Contemporary Opera, the sold-out production at Symphony Space's Thalia Theater in New York City featured Laura Bohn, soprano, and Isabella Dawis, piano, with music direction by Lidiya Yankovskaya and stage direction by Eugenia Arsenis.[46]


Beck has earned awards, grants and honors from the American Composers Orchestra, California Arts Council, the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Composers Forum, Kentucky Arts Council, Millay Colony for the Arts, Wellesley Composers Conference, Oregon Bach Festival, and the Iowa Arts Council.[47] In 2021, he was one of four first-place prize winners in The King's Singers New Music Prize competition.[48]


  1. ^ Donald Rosenberg (December 2013). "Sounds of America". Gramophone. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  2. ^ "MusicWeb-International". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Albert William Beck (obituary)". Quincy Herald-Whig. 20 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Mila Katrine Aho (obituary)". The Commercial Appeal. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Joseph E. Beck Papers" (PDF). The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. November 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Rev. Dr. Gustav Axel Aho". Finnish Heritage Museum. 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Mila Katrine Aho (obituary)". The Commercial Appeal. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Albert William Beck (obituary)". Quincy Herald-Whig. 20 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Albert William Beck (obituary)". Quincy Herald-Whig. 20 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  10. ^ "KY: Kentucky Arts Council - Featured Artist Jeremy Beck". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  11. ^ "Composer introduces new work for 60th season finale". Herald-Whig. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  12. ^ "KY: Kentucky Arts Council - Featured Artist Jeremy Beck". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  13. ^ "Composer introduces new work for 60th season finale". Herald-Whig. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  14. ^ PASLES, CHRIS (2001-12-01). "Fullerton Hosts Beck's 'Spark' in Its West Coast Premiere". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  15. ^ "Kentucky Peer Advisory Network : Advisor Profile". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  16. ^ "KY: Kentucky Arts Council - Featured Artist Jeremy Beck". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  17. ^ "Composer introduces new work for 60th season finale". Herald-Whig. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  18. ^ "Ackerson & Yann, PLLC". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  19. ^ Jeremy J. Beck and Libby Van Cleve (5 April 2011). "Speaking of Music and the Counterpoint of Copyright". Duke Law & Technology Review. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  20. ^ Jeremy J. Beck (October–December 2010). "Composing With Eyes Open: A Discussion of Commissions and Contracts" (PDF). American Composers Forum - Sounding Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  21. ^ "innova Recordings - Jeremy Beck". Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  22. ^ Jonathan Woolf (January 2021). "Jeremy BECK (b.1960) By Moonlight". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Jeremy Beck: by moonlight". Textura. May 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  24. ^ Donald Rosenberg (December 2013). "Sounds of America". Gramophone. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  25. ^ Joshua Kosman (24 October 2013). "Album Reviews - Jeremy Beck". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  26. ^ Joshua Kosman (24 October 2013). "Album Reviews - Jeremy Beck". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  27. ^ "Pittsburgh City Paper". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  28. ^ "IonSound Project". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  29. ^ "Audiofile Audition - Classical CD Reviews". Archived from the original on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  30. ^ Andrew Sigler (11 September 2012). "Sounds Heard: Ion Sound Project and the Music of Jeremy Beck". NewMusicBox. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  31. ^ "Never Final, Never Gone". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  32. ^ "pause and feel and hark". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  33. ^ "ABC Classic FM". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  34. ^ Helen Musa (13 March 2012). "Review: black, deep and meaningful". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  35. ^ "Symphony Space- CCO Presents". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  36. ^ "Wave". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  37. ^ Andrew Druckenbrod (9 January 2005). "Recordings:Classical:Jeremy Beck". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  38. ^ Rob Barnett. "Jeremy Beck". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  39. ^ "Beck and Marx's Opera, Review, Premieres at CCO Gala Feb. 19". Playbill Arts. 16 January 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  40. ^ "2014 Winter Term Opera Sneak Peek". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  41. ^ "Opera at Peabody, Season 2010-2011". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  42. ^ "YouTube/JeremyBeckComposer". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  43. ^ "Dallas Modern Music". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  44. ^ "JMU premieres opera". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  45. ^ Andrew Druckenbrod (28 December 2001). "Best Classical of 2001: Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr". Post-Gazette. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  46. ^ "Symphony Space- CCO Presents". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  47. ^ "JEREMY BECK - COMPOSER". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  48. ^ "New Music Prize - The King's Singers". Retrieved 26 January 2021.

External links[edit]