The Houston Grand Opera announces Joel Thompson as
Houston, Texas, June 15, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is proud to announce the appointment of rising star Joel Thompson as its first full-time composer-in-residence in its history. The company recruited Thompson to Houston after commissioning and directing the 2021 world premiere of his debut opera, The snow day. Her five-year residency with HGO begins August 1, 2022.
“This position was created for Joel because he is one of the brightest minds of his generation, a transformative artist who is redefining the future of opera and expanding its reach,” says Khori Dastoor, Managing Director and CEO of HGO. “We are thrilled to have Joel join the artistic direction of HGO, a company with a well-known commitment to discovery, innovation and excellence. We believe Joel’s artistic contributions make the world a better place, and we can’t wait to see and hear what he does next.
As Composer-in-Residence for HGO, Thompson will live and work full-time in Houston. He will serve as a member of the company’s artistic direction, responsible for broadening and deepening the company’s relationship with the greater Houston community. Initiatives will include forming music-based educational partnerships with schools and non-profit organizations and identifying and mentoring local composers, librettists and other artists and creatives who, in turn, will help chart the way forward.
During her five-year tenure with HGO, Thompson plans to compose a major commission on the main stage, as well as a body of smaller-scale original works, thematically informed by her collaborations with the people who live here. These original compositions will premiere at HGO and will further the company’s core mission of supporting the creation of new, relevant and dynamic works that speak directly to this community and attract new audiences to this art form.
Thompson’s compositions incorporate a wide range of influences into a sound all his own, from Afro-Caribbean rhythms to black American jazz, gospel and blues, to Rachmaninoff and Ravel. He wrote his acclaimed first opera, The snow day, with librettist Andrea Davis Pinkney. Based on the 1963 Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats, the HGO-commissioned work had its world premiere at the Wortham Theater Center on December 9, 2021 and was successful in nine performances. In a historic first, HGO broadcast the opera’s opening night live, attracting viewers in 34 different countries.
HGO’s artistic and musical director, Patrick Summers, met Thompson and hired him to The snow day, after hearing his music in 2017 at the Aspen Music Festival. “The memory is indelible,” recalls Summers. “I knew within 30 seconds of hearing Joel’s orchestral work that I was in the presence of a rare compositional voice. I’m thrilled that as HGO’s newest Composer-in-Residence, Joel is receiving the support and resources that only this industry-leading company can provide, so that he can continue to develop his amazingly prodigious gifts. I can’t wait to see what he creates when he returns to Houston to spend the next five years with HGO, which I’m proud to say became his original company.
In addition to The snow dayThompson is best known for choral work, Seven last words of the disarmed, which commemorates the lives of seven black men killed at the hands of police or authority figures. seven last words was created in November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and Dr. Eugene Rogers and won the 2018 American Choral Composition Award; Thompson and Rogers won an Emmy Award for a documentary about the work in 2017. In August 2021, Thompson premiered a new work that sets the writings of James Baldwin to music at the Colorado Music Festival.
Thompson’s works have been performed by such acclaimed ensembles as the New York Philharmonic, Kansas City Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Master Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and EXIGENCE. He recently joined the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater’s New Works Commissioning Program, created to nurture the best talent in the field. Also a conductor, pianist and educator, Thompson was born in the Bahamas to Jamaican parents before his family immigrated to the United States, living in Houston for a time before settling in Atlanta. He is currently a doctoral student at the Yale School of Music.
“This residency will give me the opportunity to do the things that matter most to me: creating music through community and building community through music,” says Thompson. “I’m especially thrilled to do this in partnership with HGO, the visionary company that helped launch my career in opera. I believe opera can be a space for us to share each other’s stories and imaginations. HGO gives me the chance to dream and create works that I hope will be deeply meaningful to the community we will build together over the next five years.
HGO is funding the new Composer-in-Residence position with the generous support of the Mellon Foundation. A long-time partner in developing innovative world firsts and promising mid-career creators, the Mellon Foundation invests in visionary artists and artistic leaders whose practices catalyze change in our world.
HGO is committed to advancing the art form through new work. To date, the company has commissioned and produced 72 world premieres. For more information about the Houston Grand Opera, visit HGO.org.
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About the Houston Grand Opera
The Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the largest, most innovative and acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO was the only US finalist for Opera Company of the Year at the 2019 International Opera Awards and the only US company to be nominated twice. In fulfilling its mission to enrich our diverse community through the art of opera by creating, curating, exploring and producing exceptional experiences centered on the human voice, HGO has been the leader in commissioning and producing new works (72 world premieres to date) and in the training and support of promising young artists and administrators. The company contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances, community events and educational projects that reach the widest possible audience. HGO’s pioneering Community and Learning initiative served as a model for other arts organizations.
The NEXUS initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticketing program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy opera without the price barrier. Since 2007, NEXUS has connected more than 250,000 Houstonians to exceptional opera through discounted individual tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances and free productions.
HGO has toured extensively and won a Tony, two Grammys and three Emmys. It is the only opera company to have won all three awards.
Media Contact: Delicia Harvey, Elmore PR, 713-524-0661; [email protected]
Media Contact: Natalie Barron, Grand Opera of Houston, 713-546-0240; [email protected]