The Pasadena Symphony’s commitment to the future of classical music is on display with its annual Composer’s Showcase, featuring works by both emerging and established contemporary composers at each concert. Meet our composers…these superstars are shaping the future of classical music.
Composer of the Grammy-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Mason Bates is imaginatively transforming the way Classical music is created and experienced as a composer, DJ and curator. As the first composer-in-residence appointed by the Kennedy Center, he presented a diverse array of artists on his series KC Jukebox using immersive production and stagecraft. Championed by legendary conductors from Riccardo Muti and Michael Tilson Thomas to Marin Alsop, Bates has also composed for feature film including Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts.
Highly informed by his work as a DJ, his curatorial approach integrates adventurous music, ambient information, and social platforms in a fluid and immersive way. Bates developed Mercury Soul, a show combining DJing and Classical music, working under the name DJ Masonic to packed crowds with clubs and orchestras around the country. A diverse artist exploring the ways Classical music integrates into contemporary cultures, he serves on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Patrick Harlin’s music is permeated by classical, jazz, and electronic music traditions, all underpinned with a love and respect for the great outdoors. His works have been performed by the St. Louis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, the Rochester and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestras, Collegium Cincinnati, and Calidore String Quartet, among others. Patrick was recently chosen as the inaugural composer in residence with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra (2019-2022).
Patrick’s interdisciplinary research in soundscape ecology—a field that aims to better understand ecosystems through sound—has taken him to imperiled regions around the world, including the Amazon rainforest and the Book Cliffs of Utah. His baseline recordings for ecological impact studies are also the fodder for artistic inspiration. These pieces draw parallels between the sounds of the natural world and those of the concert hall, seeking to bring awareness to the importance of sound in our environment. Patrick’s work in this field has been supported by a Graham Sustainability Institute Doctoral Fellowship, Theodore Presser Award, and a University of Michigan Predoctoral Fellowship, resulting in an ongoing body of works called The Wilderness Anthology. Patrick was raised in Seattle, WA, and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Michigan.
Jessica Hunt (b. 1987) has been commissioned by major orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra (Climb), the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (The Eagle Tree), Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, and many others. She has served as the Boontling Community Fellow at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music and as the Young Composer in Residence with the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, and was awarded a Regents Fellowship at the University of Michigan, where she completed her doctoral studies in 2019.
In her work as a composer, Hunt’s primary goal is to seek emotional resonance in the rhetorical dialogue between herself, the audience, and the performer by creating eclectic works that explore the aural and syntactical intersections between theatre, narrative, sound, truth and fiction. As such, she has a particular focus on works engaging with the interpretation of text and identity, ranging from her opera-in-progress Thurso’s Landing based on the lengthy narrative poem by Robinson Jeffers, to recently-premiered Climb, which explores Hunt’s physical experiences with disability and chronic illness.
Hunt serves as an Assistant Professor of Music Theory at The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University.
Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and her works are frequently performed around the world. She interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of contemporary American sound.
Her works have been described by the Washington Post as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life.” Highlights of her growing body of work include Five Slave Songs (2018), Records from a Vanishing City (2016), Caught by the Wind (2016), and Banner (2014), written to mark the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a Graduate Fellow in Music Composition at Princeton University.
Shawn E. Okpebholo is a Grammy®-nominated, award-winning composer whose music has been described as “devastatingly beautiful” and “fresh and new and fearless” (The Washington Post). Honors include The Academy of Arts and Letters Walter Hinrichsen Award, 2022 Winner of Barlow Endowment for Music Composition and First Place Winner of the 2020 American Prize in Composition. Okpebholo’s music has been performed by orchestras throughout the world and he is currently in residence with the Chicago Opera Theater (2021-2023 seasons), culminating with an opera commission with librettist Mark Campbell.
Okpebholo’s music has been featured on PBS Newshour, and radio broadcasts nationwide including NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s Morning Edition and SiriusXM’s Living American series. NPR selected his art song The Rainas as one of the 100 Best Songs of 2021; only a few classical works to make the ranking.
Okpebholo’s compositional and research interests have been a gateway for ethnomusicological fieldwork in both East and West Africa. He has studied the music of the Esan people in southern Nigeria, the Akambe people in the Machakos region of Kenya, and South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, resulting in in two chamber works, two symphonic works, transcriptions, and academic lectures. He is currently Jonathan Blanchard Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College-Conservatory of Music (IL).
Chinese composer Si-ang Chen is an associate professor of composition at the Xinghai Conservatory of music. He graduated from the Central Conservatory of music, where he studied under the guidance of Professor Tang Jianping. In his compositions, Chen emphasizes the use of timbre, and the exploration of various compositional approaches. His works have been performed by orchestras worldwide, and has been awarded many prizes.