Peter Boyer (born February 10, 1970 in Providence, Rhode Island) is an American composer, conductor, orchestrator, and professor of music. He is known primarily for his orchestral works, which have received more than 400 performances, by over 150 orchestras.
Biography and Work
Boyer received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhode Island College. While an undergraduate, USA TODAY newspaper named him to its first All-USA College Academic Team (1990), composed of “the 20 best and brightest” college students in the United States, and he received the Young American Award. He received Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from The Hartt School of the University of Hartford, where he studied composition with Larry Alan Smith and Robert Carl and conducting with Harold Farberman. Boyer then studied privately with composer John Corigliano in New York, before relocating to Los Angeles to attend the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program at the USC Thornton School of Music. There Boyer studied with composers including Elmer Bernstein, David Raksin, Buddy Baker and Christopher Young. On completing his studies in 1996, Boyer was appointed to the faculty of Claremont Graduate University, and in 1999 he was named the first recipient of its Helen M. Smith Chair in Music. In 2003, Boyer established the publishing company Propulsive Music.
Boyer has received a number of significant commissions for his work. Among the many orchestras that have performed Boyer’s works are the Boston Pops Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic, Fort Worth Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Hartford Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, and Bamberg Symphony. In 2001, Boyer conducted the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in his debut commercial recording. On its release, Boyer became one of the youngest composers to have an entire album of his orchestral music recorded with a world-class orchestra and distributed by an international record label (Koch). This recording was widely broadcast and acclaimed: “Peter Boyer makes a most impressive debut on disc as composer and conductor of his own music. At its finest, his music is attractive, finely crafted with a genuine humanity, refreshing for being non-didactic in these times of preachy self-importance.”
In 2003, Boyer conducted London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in a recording of his work Ellis Island: The Dream of America, later working with a distinguished cast of actors in New York City to complete this recording project, which was released on the Naxos record label. The recording received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in the 48th annual Grammy Awards (2006). Ellis Island has become Boyer’s best-known work, with over 160 performances given by more than 70 orchestras, and has been much acclaimed: “Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is a work of rare authenticity and directness.”
In February 2010, the Boston Pops Orchestra and Conductor Keith Lockhart announced that they had commissioned Boyer to compose a work entitled The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, celebrating the legacy of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy as the centerpiece of the orchestra’s 125th anniversary season., In April 2010, the Boston Pops announced the participation of Hollywood actors Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Ed Harris as the narrators for Boyer’s work. The Dream Lives On was premiered at Boston’s Symphony Hall on May 18, 2010. The event received extensive media attention, was attended by many members of the Kennedy family, and was recorded and telecast on Boston’s WCVB-TV., The Boston Globe wrote: “Boyer’s work accomplishes the goals… of amplifying the texts by these three American icons. His writing draws from the traditions of Williams-esque Hollywood film scores, Broadway musicals, and American neo-Romanticism."
Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya appointed Boyer as the Composer-in-Residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for the 2010–11 season. Conductor Gerard Schwarz commissioned Boyer to compose Festivities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Eastern Music Festival in 2011. Boyer was appointed as the 2012-13 Composer-in-Residence for the Pasadena Symphony, which commissioned his Symphony No. 1; he conducted the premiere of that work on April 27, 2013. In June 2013, Boyer conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios for his third recording, including his Symphony No. 1 and four other works. Naxos released this recording in 2014 to positive reviews: "Boyer writes in a fluent, powerful style that fuses conservative American currents with Hollywood-ish size and populist sentiment."
In June 2015, Boyer's Silver Fanfare was chosen to open the Hollywood Bowl season, in a performance by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins, on a gala concert that featured the rock band Journey. In January 2016, the Pacific Symphony announced that Boyer’s Ellis Island would be the centerpiece of its annual American Composers Festival in 2017. In March 2017, Pacific Symphony announced that their performances of Boyer’s Ellis Island would be filmed for PBS’ highly prestigious Great Performances series, to be broadcast in the 2017-18 season. These Ellis Island performances received critical acclaim in the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, which stated, “Boyer writes in an accessible style… which at its best is warm, attractive, emotionally persuasive and expertly crafted.”
In addition to his work for the concert hall, Boyer is active in the film and television music industry. He has composed scores for The History Channel, and has served as an orchestrator for composers such as Michael Giacchino, Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, James Horner, Alan Menken, Mark Isham, Harry Gregson-Williams, Heitor Pereira, Michael Kamen, Graeme Revell, and others, on films from Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Disney, Pixar, Touchstone Pictures, Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, and Relativity Media.
Boyer’s awards include two BMI Student Composer Awards (1994 and 1996), the First Music Carnegie Hall commission of the New York Youth Symphony (1997), the Ithaca College Heckscher Prize in composition (2002), the Alumnus of the Year Award from The Hartt School (2002), an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Rhode Island College (2004), and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Composer's Award (2010).
- Curtain Raiser for concert band (2016-17)
- Rolling River (Sketches on "Shenandoah") for orchestra (2014)
- Symphony No. 1 for orchestra (2012–13)
- Festivities for orchestra (2011)
- The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers for narrators, chorus and orchestra (2009–10)
- American Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (2007–08)
- Dreaming a World for narrator, children’s chorus, mixed chorus, percussion and orchestra (2006)
- And the night shall be filled with music for chorus and piano (2005)
- Silver Fanfare for orchestra (2004)
- On Music’s Wings for soprano, baritone, children’s chorus, mixed chorus and orchestra (2003–04)
- Ellis Island: The Dream of America for actors and orchestra with projected images (2001–02)
- Ghosts of Troy for orchestra (2000)
- New Beginnings for orchestra (2000)
- Three Olympians for string orchestra (2000)
- At the Crossings for four brass quartets and four percussion (1998)
- The Phoenix for orchestra (1997)
- Celebration Overture for orchestra (1997)
- Titanic for orchestra (1995)
- perchance to dream… for soprano and chamber orchestra (1993–94)
- Mosaic for orchestra (1992–93)
- I Can Recall for soprano and piano (1990)
- Pat Ordovensky, “Meet Our Top 20 Scholars,” USA TODAY, January 19, 1990.
- Jon Burlingame, “Undaunted—and With Good Reason,” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2001.
- Lawrence A. Johnson, review, “The Music of Peter Boyer,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, August 30, 2002.
- Associated Press, “Complete list of Grammy Award nominations,” USA TODAY, December 8, 2005.
- Chris Pasles, “Evocative recollections of Ellis Island,” Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2005.
- Dave Itzkoff, “The Boston Pops Plans a Kennedy Tribute,” The New York Times, February 19, 2010.
- Jon Burlingame, “Boyer to Compose Music for Kennedys Project,” Variety, April 30, 2010.
- Dave Itzkoff (April 26, 2010). "For Kennedys Tribute, Torch Is Passed to Three A-Listers". NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2013.
- Staff writer, “Boston Pops Salute to the Kennedys,” The Boston Globe, May 19, 2010.
- “An American Salute: The Pops at 125,” The Internet Movie Database, accessed June 25, 2010.
- Jeremy Eichler, “At Pops, Patriotism and a Salute to Kennedys,” The Boston Globe, May 19, 2010.
- Thomas, Robert. "Peter Boyer named Composer-in-Residence for Pasadena Symphony". ClassAct. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- Lawrence Vittes, review, "Boyer: Symphony No. 1," Gramophone, August 2014.
- Brenton Garen, "Danny DeVito, Journey kick off Hollywood Bowl's 94th season," Westside Today, June 22, 2015.
- Timothy Mangan, "Renée Fleming on tap as Pacific Symphony sets 2016-2017 season," Orange County Register, January 26, 2016.
- Press Release, “Pacific Symphony’s 17th American Composers Festival Celebrates California Composers: John Adams, Peter Boyer and Frank Ticheli,” PacificSymphony.org, March 13, 2017.
- Richard S. Ginell, “‘Ellis Island: The Dream of America’ mixes music and oral histories to tell immigrants’ stories,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2017.
- Paul Hodgins, “Ellis Island reminds us of our immigrant heritage at a crucial time,” Orange County Register, April 8, 2017.
- Propulsive Music: The Music of Peter Boyer official website
- Claremont Graduate University Music Department faculty official website
- Peter Boyer on IMDb
- Peter Boyer page at the American Composers Forum
- Peter Boyer artist page at Naxos
- Peter Boyer at Crossover Media
- “Peter Boyer: Escape to LA: Ken Smith meets Peter Boyer, and finds a young composer with a very bright future,” Gramophone online edition (October 2001)
- “Peter Boyer: From Student Composer to the Top of His Class,” Jon Burlingame, BMI MusicWorld (November 30, 2001)
- “Exiles, Lost and Found,” Porter Anderson, CNN.com (February 9, 2006)
- “The Kennedy Legacy, Set to Music,” David Weininger, The Boston Globe (May 14, 2010)
- “Boston Pops Unveils Musical Tribute to Kennedys,” Bob Salsberg, Associated Press, ABC News (May 18, 2010)
- “Boston Pops Provides Soundtrack for Famous Kennedy Words,” Andrea Shea, WBUR.org (May 19, 2010)
- “Composer Peter Boyer’s Great American Tribute,” Jonathan Marx, BMI MusicWorld (June 18, 2010)
- "Peter Boyer's Cinematic First Symphony," David Hurwitz, Classics Today (June 20, 2014)
- Boyer: Symphony No. 1 (review), Lawrence Vittes, Gramophone (August 2014)
- "Interview with Peter Boyer: The American Dream," Underscores (November 10, 2016)
- “Ellis Island Voices Come Alive at Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival,” Orange County Register (March 31, 2017)