2015 Keynote Speaker


(Photo by RR Jones)

Composer and pianist, Sean Friar (b. 1985) grew up in Los Angeles, where his first musical experiences were in rock and blues piano improvisation. While his focus soon shifted toward classical music, his composition has always kept in touch with the energy and communicative directness of those musical roots, now along with an expansive and exploratory classical sensibility that is “powerfully engaging and incredibly fun” (I Care if You Listen) and “refreshingly new and solidly mature… and doesn’t take on airs, but instead takes joy in the process of discovery – in the continual experience of suspense and surprise – that good classical music has always championed.” (Slate Magazine).

He thrives on composing for ensembles both within and outside the realm of traditional concert music, and his recent commissions run the gamut from works for orchestra and string quartet to a junk car percussion concerto and music for laptop orchestra. His music has been performed throughout the world by ensembles including the Los Angeles PhilharmonicBerlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble (Germany), the American Composers Orchestrathe Cabrillo Festival OrchestraAlarm Will SoundArgento EnsembleSo PercussionCrash Ensemble (Ireland), Ensemble Klang (Netherlands), New York Youth SymphonyAlter Ego (Italy), Orkest de Ereprijs (Netherlands),Psappha (UK), Darmstadt Staatsorchester (Germany), ensemble Interface (Germany), Newspeak, Janus, Line C3 Percussion, Quintet of the Americas, Formalist Quartet, Matmos, members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and 4-time Grammy-winning percussionist, Glen Velez. Festivals featuring his music includeAspenBang on a CanBowdoinCabrilloCarlsbadCresc. Biennal für Moderne MusikeGAUDEAMUS MuziekweekInternational Young Composers MeetingKlangspuren International Ensemble Modern AcademyLa Pietra Forum for New MusicNorfolkNuova Consonanza, Nuovi Spazi Musicali,RadialSystemSONiC, and the Venice Biennale.

The youngest winner of the Rome Prize in over 25 years, Friar’s honors include the Aaron Copland Award; a Fromm Foundation CommissionCharles Ives Scholarship; a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant; fourASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer AwardsLee Ettelson AwardFirst Music Award from the New York Youth Symphony; a CAP Grant and a MetLife Creative Connections Grant from New Music USA; Renee B. Fisher Award; as well as awards from eighth blackbird, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, SCI/ASCAP, and the Hawaii Institute of Contemporary Music.

Recordings of his music can be found on New Amsterdam Records (NOW Ensemble, Awake), Innova Recordings (Mariel Roberts, nonextraneous sounds), Darling Records (Darmstadt Staatsorchester, Soli fan tutti), TRANSIT’s self-released TRANSIT EP, and Crescent Phase Records (Madera Quintet, Five at Play.)

Friar is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music, and Lecturer in Composition at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.  He is also a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University (M.F.A. 2009), where he has held the Harold W. Dodds Honorific Fellowship and the Roger Sessions Fellowship. He graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 2007 with B.A.’s in Music and Psychology. His principal teachers have been Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dmitri Tymoczko, Paul Chihara, and Ian Krouse.