Photo by Susan Wilson
Scott Wheeler is an award-winning composer, conductor, pianist and teacher with a multifaceted career. Although his chamber and orchestral music shows a wide range, it is his prominent profile as a composer of vocal and operatic music that defines his career and artistic personality. Wheeler’s most recent opera is Naga, on a libretto of Cerise Jacobs, co-commissioned by Friends of Madame White Snake and Boston Lyric Opera. His previous operas have been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera (commissioned by Placido Domingo) and the Guggenheim Foundation. Current and recent commissions include 200 Dreams from Captivity for baritone and orchestra on texts of Wang Dan, Ben Gunn on texts of Paul Muldoon, and Nightingale, a new narrative ballet with choreographer Melissa Barak. In recent seasons, Wheeler’s works have been performed in Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Austria, Italy, Panama, Winnipeg, Hong Kong and Beijing. Singers who have performed and recorded the music of Scott Wheeler include Renee Fleming, Sanford Sylvan, Susanna Phillips, Anthony Roth Costanzo, William Sharp and Joseph Kaiser.
Scott’s most recent CDs include Portraits and Tributes, featuring pianist Donald Berman, on Bridge, and Songs to Fill the Void, featuring baritone Robert Barefield and pianist Carolyn Hague, on Albany. Other Wheeler CDs include Crazy Weather, with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose, Wasting the Night -- songs for voice and piano, and the opera The Construction of Boston, both available on Naxos; Shadow Bands features Scott’s chamber music for strings and piano with the Gramercy Trio, recorded on Newport Classic.
Scott Wheeler with Gil Shaham, checking out violins backstage, talking music at the sound check, and with the wonderful pianist Akira Eguchi after their performance of Scott's sonata The Singing Turk.
Scott Wheeler is Distinguished Artist in Residence at Emerson College in Boston, where he has conducted musical theatre works by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Cy Coleman and many others. He is a recognized expert in the coaching and analysis of songs from the entire history of American musical theatre, from the early 20th century to the latest shows in New York and elsewhere. Performers who have studied with Scott Wheeler are currently performing on Broadway, in Broadway tours, in regional theatre and in cabaret. Several of his students have also made careers as theatrical songwriters.
The 2016-17 season showcases Wheeler’s multi-faceted compositional style in several nationwide performances and on the release of a new recording. Ben Gunn, a song cycle set to poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, premieres in spring 2016 by the Buffalo Chamber Players and the Florestan Recital Project followed by a performance at the Brooklyn Art Song Society. In September 2016, Wheeler’s new opera Naga with libretto by Cerise Jacobs premiered by Beth Morrison Projects and Friends of Madame White Snake at Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre. Taking a page from his mentor Virgil Thomson, Wheeler presents an aphoristic gallery of piano portraits in his new album Portraits & Tributes (Bridge Records, TBR June 2016) featuring pianist Donald Berman. Complemented by a CD release concert at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, Portraits & Tributes comprises Wheeler’s vignettes and
gifts to friends ranging from Birthday Card for Tony for The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini to Epithalamion for pianist Donald Berman. Marking Wheeler’s debut as a composer for ballet The Emperor and the Nightingale with choreography by Melissa Barak, premieres in June 2017. Scott Wheeler’s operas have been commissioned and/or performed by the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theatre, Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, Boston Conservatory Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Beth Morrison Projects. Since writing his first opera The Construction of Boston (1988), Wheeler has written a number of large and small stage works, including Democracy (2002), an evening length opera on a libretto of Romulus Linney that was featured on the Vox program of New York City Opera, then was commissioned by the Washington National Opera, which premiered the work in 2005. The orchestras of Minnesota, Houston, Toledo and Indianapolis have featured his orchestral and
instrumental works, as have the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, Dinosaur Annex, Alea III, Chamber Orchestra of Manitoba, Newport Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Buffalo Chamber Music Society, New England Composers Orchestra, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, the John Oliver Chorale, Parnassus, New England String Ensemble, the Chicago Contemporary Players, Concert Artists Guild, Florestan Recital Project, Boston Cecilia, the Alba Festival in Italy, and the River Concert Series in Maryland. Other performers of his music include soprano Renee Fleming, Lauren Flanigan, and Susanna Phillips, baritones Sanford Sylvan and William Sharp, tenor Plácido Domingo, conductors Kent Nagano, Gil Rose, and Anne Manson, and musicians Stephen Sondheim and Donald Berman, to name a few.
Recordings of Wheeler’s music and conducting can be found on the Naxos American Classics series, Newport Classic, GM, New World, Bridge, BMOP/sound, and other labels. Wheeler has received awards and commissions from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Koussevitsky Foundation, the Fromm Foundation, Tanglewood, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, as well as the Stoeger Prize for excellence in chamber music from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He was a Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin in 2007. He was the 2010 recipient of the Composer of the Year Award from the Classical Recording Foundation. In 2014, he won the Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as the Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. In 2015, he was appointed a Resident Fellow at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.
Formal composition studies with Lewis Spratlan at Amherst College, at the New England Conservatory, and with Arthur Berger at Brandeis University expanded his experience to encompass the formal and expressive possibilities of the whole of Western music, up through the high modernists. He pursued further study at the Tanglewood Music Center (with Oliver Messiaen), the Dartington School (with Peter Maxwell Davies), and privately with Virgil Thomson.
In his home base of Boston, he has enlivened the new music community for 40 years as a pianist,
conductor, teacher, and administrator. He is the co-founder of Boston’s new music ensemble Dinosaur Annex, and served as the group’s principal conductor and artistic director for many years.