Amy Beth Kirsten Joins Music Composition Faculty

Monday, Nov 14, 2022
Juilliard Journal
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Headshot of Amy Beth Kirsten

Juilliard has announced that Amy Beth Kirsten is joining the music composition faculty next fall. Kirsten, who became a visiting faculty member earlier this year, will participate in the admissions process this spring and will begin accepting students into her studio in fall 2023.

“My colleagues and I are delighted to welcome Amy to the composition department!” Melinda Wagner, chair of the department, told the Journal. “Her highly imaginative, inventive music as well as her devotion to teaching the next generation of young composers will most certainly be a great source of inspiration for us all.”

In announcing Kirsten’s appointment, Adam Meyer (MM ’04, viola), Juilliard’s provost, commented on her “versatility as an artist, collaborator, and creator” and anticipated that she “will serve as an inspiring example for our student composers.”

A composer, poet, filmmaker, vocalist, and director, Kirsten envisions her works as “saturated with physical gesture,” she explained in an artist statement posted to her website. Like a choreographer, she visualizes and notates gesture in the music as part of her compositional process. “Every piece I make is an experiment and it’s me, lost in a strange land, becoming fascinated with the discoveries that I make there.”

This year, Kirsten has been teaching a cross-genre class at Juilliard called Théâtre Études. It combines theatrical elements, movement, music, voice, and multimedia to create a new musical performance practice, and the students in the course will present a culminating performance on April 13.

Kirsten is known for her multiyear multimedia theatrical collaborations, and her body of theatrical work spans the past 18 years and considers musicians’ instruments, bodies, and voices as equal vehicles of expression. She has been recognized with awards and fellowships including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020), John S. Guggenheim Foundation (2010), and the Rockefeller Foundation (2009). She has also created collaborative works for her ensemble HOWL, musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, Peak Performances, Eighth Blackbird, and American Composers Orchestra, among many others.

Kirsten’s current project, Jacob in Chains—a commission by Alarm Will Sound—is an evening-length work for actor, 3D-film mezzo-soprano, and chamber orchestra. This present-day Christmas ghost story was inspired by ancient myth and spiritual texts, and it uses as its jumping-off point Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. She has said that it is an answer to her question about what might have happened during the seven years that, according to the story, Marley had been dead before his ghost visited the coldhearted Scrooge.

Kirsten joined the Curtis Institute of Music earlier this year and is director of the artist residency at Longy School of Music of Bard College. She is composer-mentor for the Blueprint Fellowship at Juilliard and has held teaching posts at Oberlin College and Conservatory and the Peabody Institute, where she completed her doctoral studies. She has given guest lectures at Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (U.K.), Yale, Princeton, Curtis, Cornell, and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Teaching is a vital part of my life as a creative artist,” Kirsten said. “It is deeply rewarding to help students cultivate their musical language and technique, meet artistic challenges, and articulate the music that is in their hearts and minds. I have so enjoyed being here in my role as guest faculty these last few months, and I’m incredibly excited to continue that work with my new colleagues.”