Recognized with artist fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, Amy Beth Kirsten’s music combines popular idioms with fierce expressionism and theatre and often requires musicians to play, vocalize, and move simultaneously. Her work is distinguished by an intense physicality that pushes players to extremes by making their bodies and voices instruments of artistic expression. Ms. Kirsten also composes non-theatrical orchestra, chamber, and solo works which have been programmed throughout the U.S. and the U.K.
Her most recent commissions include those from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, eighth blackbird, the New World Symphony, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard, Chamber Music America, and the American Composers Orchestra.
A composer, librettist, and vocalist, Ms. Kirsten begins the 2017-18 season in collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series to create Savior, an evening-length work of ‘composed theatre’ for three singers, flute, cello, percussion, lighting, and sound design. Composed and directed by Ms. Kirsten, Savior is a mystical re-telling of the life and death of Joan of Arc, and brings together vocalists and stage designers from HOWL (Ms. Kirsten’s own ensemble) and players from the Chicago Symphony. Savior premieres April 2, 2018 at the Harris Theatre in Chicago.
World premiere performances in 2016-17 of her 90-minute work, QUIXOTE, were the culmination of a 2-year Performing Arts Research Lab (PeARL) residency at Peak Performances @ Montclair State University (NJ) with HOWL. A theatrical work inspired by Cervantes’ epic novel and performed by vocal trio, singing percussion quartet, and actor/director, Mark DeChiazza,QUIXOTE was described as “wildly inventive” by the New York Times.
Educated at Roosevelt University (MM) and the Peabody Institute (DMA), Ms. Kirsten grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago. She now lives with her husband, Christopher Theofanidis (also a composer), in New Haven, Connecticut and teaches music composition privately and, for the past seven years, at the HighSCORE summer festival in Pavia, Italy. She presently serving as guest faculty at the Yellow Barn Young Artist Program in Putney, VT and recently served on the Music Composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University (2015-2017).