Lisa Bielawa

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Lisa Carol Bielawa (born in San Francisco, California, September 30, 1968[1]) is a composer and vocalist. She is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition and spent a year composing as a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Bielawa was born in San Francisco. Her father is composer and retired San Francisco State music professor Herbert Bielawa.[4][5] Having been raised in a musical environment, she has been musically active since early childhood, learning piano, voice, and violin in addition to writing music. Bielawa's beginnings as a composer were unintentional, "I'd write cabaret songs and pieces for the San Francisco Girls Chorus, but it never felt entirely serious."[6] She continued to perform and write music, but studied English at Yale for her undergraduate degree, after receiving which, resumed her career in music.


She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers.[7] She counts Glass among her compositional influences.[8]

Bielawa is currently the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.[9]


Ms. Bielawa’s chamber music has been performed in New York at Judson Memorial Church, The Brooklyn Museum, and Symphony Space. She curated the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s Club Concerts. Other performances include Chance Encounters, a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights at the Whitney Museum of American Art; unfinish’d, sent by the Yerevan Ensemble of Soloists in Armenia; and "Topos Nostalgia" from Chance Encounters with Ms. Bielawa as the soprano in Salzburg. World premieres in 2009 included Portrait-Elegy, written for pianist Bruce Levingston, in New York; The Project of Collecting Clouds at Seattle Town Hall by cellist Joshua Roman and chamber ensemble; and in medias res, a concerto for orchestra commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the culmination of Ms. Bielawa’s three-year residency with that orchestra.


Writing for the Boston Globe, David Weininger notes that her "Hypermelodia" (for chamber orchestra, big band, and jazz quartet) is structured like a hypertext novel: during the piece two of the performers choose which section to play next.[10] It was commissioned for and premiered at the 37th Annual Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young on April 12, 2015 at the Rivers School Conservatory.[11]

A complete list of compositions is available on her official web site.[12]


Recordings include "Hildegurls: Electric Ordo Virtutum" (Innova 712, 2009); "A Handful of World" (Tzadik 8039, 2007); "First Takes" (Albany Records TROY941, 2007); and "In medias res" (BMOP/sound, 2010).[13]


  • 1995 BRIO award[14]
  • 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition


  1. ^ "Bielawa, Lisa". Library of Congress. 2014-08-09. Retrieved 2015-04-07. Bielawa, Lisa Carol ... born San Francisco California, September 30, 1968 
  2. ^ "Lisa Bielawa". WQXR: New York Public Radio. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  3. ^ "Lisa Bielawa". Groves Music Online. 2014-08-08. Retrieved 2015-03-01.  - Subscription required
  4. ^ San Francisco Classical Voice, Feb 10, 2009
  5. ^ "Lisa Bielawa's Excellent Adventure". San Francisco Classical Voice. 2013-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  6. ^ Joshua Kosman (2010-03-04). "Other Minds Festival: Lisa Bielawa". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  7. ^ Phil Muse (2010-08-08). "CD Reviews - Lisa Bielawa - In Media Res / Roam / Double Violin Concerto / Synopses 1-15". Sequenza 21. Retrieved 2015-03-01. She founded in 1997 the MATA Festival to promote the work of new composers, and began concentrating on her own compositions. 
  8. ^ Lisa Bielawa (2012-09-08). "Early Days with the Philip Glass Ensemble". WQXR: New York Public Radio. Retrieved 2015-03-01. Although I do think that, if one knows what to listen for, the ‘influence’ is certainly there 
  9. ^ Janos Gereben (2013-02-19). "S.F. Girls Chorus Alumna Returns as Artistic Director". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  10. ^ Weininger, David (2015-04-09). "Composer Bielawa welcomes performers’ input in her music". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-04-15. Hypermelodia, for chamber orchestra, big band, and jazz quartet of piano, bass, and two percussionists, will have its world premiere on Sunday. ...structuring the piece like a hypertext novel. It alternates sections for the chamber orchestra and those for the big band, with the jazz group functioning as the glue. The bassist and one percussionist act as the “clickers,” who choose which section to go to next. 
  11. ^ Lisa Bielawa (2015-04-12). "Hypermelodia (World Premiere)". The Rivers School Conservatory. Retrieved 2015-04-29.  - Bielawa comes on stage to congratulate the performers during applause at the end.
  12. ^ "Works". Lisa Bielawa. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  13. ^ "Discography". Lisa Bielawa. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  14. ^ "REGIONAL REPORT STERN GIVES CITY'S PARKS A GROUNDBREAK". NY Daily News. 1995-06-01. Retrieved 2015-03-01. ...and Lisa Bielawa won for musical composition. 

External links[edit]