Composer, author, educator, and performer Bruce Adolphe was born in New York. A graduate of The Juilliard School (1976), where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he also studied privately with Milton Babbitt, Vincent Persichetti, and Lawrence Widdoes. Adolphe has composed works for such renowned artists and organizations as Itzhak Perlman, Sylvia McNair, David Shifrin, David Finckel, Wu Han, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Dorian Wind Quintet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the National Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, and the Caramoor Festival. He has been composer-in-residence of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the 92nd Street Y School Concert Series, as well as at festivals around the United States, including SummerFest La Jolla in California, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Perlman Music Program, the Virginia Arts Festival, the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Chamber Music Northwest in Oregon, Music from Angel Fire in New Mexico, Bravo! Colorado, and the Appalachian Festival in North Carolina. Adolphe’s music is also frequently performed abroad—in Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Among his large-scale compositions are several stage works, including four operas—the first of which, The Tell-Tale Heart (1978), is based on the well-known story by Poe. His film scores include an overview documentary on the history of anti-Semitism, which introduces the permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition to the works presented here, his other Judaically related pieces include Rikudim (Dances), which won the Presser Foundation Publishing Award; Troika, based on klezmer clarinet idioms and inflections; and the opera The False Messiah, which is based on the 17th-century incident surrounding Shabtai Zvi, the most famous of the self-proclaimed messiahs of that era. Among Adolphe’s numerous general works are his comic opera, The Amazing Adventures of Alvin Allegretto, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Guild; Whispers of Mortality, for string quartet; Triskelion, for brass quintet; Body Loops, for piano and orchestra; and many others.
Adolphe is also well known as a teacher and lecturer, and he has served as music and education adviser for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He is especially dedicated to children’s music education, and is the co-founder of a firm devoted to devising educational repertoire and materials in a wide range of media for young people. His many compositions for children include Marite and Her Hearts Desire of the Purple Palace; and Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concert, written for the unveiling of the dinosaur at Chicago’s Field Museum—among many other such pieces. He has taught at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (1983–93), Yale University (1984–85), and The Juilliard School (1974–93). Adolphe is the author of several books, including What to Listen for in the World, and The Mind’s Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination. He is also a pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor, and has toured throughout the United States.
By: Neil W. Levin