Myra Melford

Myra Melford

Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: Music Composition

Competition: US & Canada

Bay Area–based pianist and composer Myra Melford, winner of the 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music, is an esteemed veteran of the international creative music community and an Associate Professor of contemporary improvised music at the University of California, Berkeley.

Over the course of two decades and more than thirty recordings, she has developed a signature sound that skillfully combines early influences such as classical music and the blues piano styles of her native Chicago with her later immersion in the music of India and musical studies with Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Henry Threadgill.

Many critics chose The Guest House (Enja), her latest recording with the all-star collective Trio M, as one of their ten favorite releases of 2012. In addition to Trio M, featuring Mark Dresser and Matt Wilson, her current projects include the collective duo Dialogue with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and her new quintet Snowy Egret featuring Ron Miles, Liberty Ellman, Stomu Takeishi, and Tyshawn Sorey. She also performs a series of original solo piano pieces, based on the drawings of artist Don Reich, which is being released on Firehouse 12 Records in fall of 2013.  Her new mixed media piece, Language of Dreams, inspired by the writing of Eduardo Galeano, will premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in November 2013, where she will be in residence for two years as a recipient of a 2013 Doris Duke Artist Residencies to Build Demand for the Arts Grant in partnership with YBCA. 

She has received major commissions and grants from the Hellman Family Fund; UC Berkeley Faculty Research Program; Chamber Music America/FACE; the Walker Arts Center and Flynn Center co-commission for the multimedia piece Knock on the Sky, also funded by NPN, PAJ and MTC; Chamber Music America Encore and New Works Presentation programs; New York Foundation for the Arts; and a Fulbright Fellowship.

She was nominated for the Jazz Journalists Association Award for pianist in 2008–2009 and as a composer in 2004. Down Beat critics’ polls have honored her numerous times between 1991 and 2012. She has been invited to apply for the United States Artists (USA) Fellowship.

Her work has been presented at venues such as MOMA in New York City, as well as prominent festivals and concert halls in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Lisbon, Helsinki, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Skopje, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Mumbai, and elsewhere.

Artist Statement


I draw great inspiration from other people’s creative work and am intrigued by the ensuing cross-disciplinary dialogue. It’s a very personal conversation, which begins with a spark of recognition when I experience a given work of art, be it in any medium. Something in that building, the imagery or rhythm in that poem, that dancer’s gestures or that painting, speaks to me or moves me, and I want to respond through music. The conversation is both internal—between the active/doer and the receptive/perceiver within me, and external—between the artwork that inspires and the musical response. It’s a very rich and engaging process on many levels: emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and one I return to again and again in my work.

Follow this link to view a video of Myra Melford’s Guggenheim funded project (in progress), excerpt from Language of Dreams.

Myra Melford on Facebook

Myra Melford, Berkeley Music Department

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