The Composers

Meet the composers that we've commissioned:

Kathleen Bader
Kathleen Bader, born in Kalamazoo, MI in 1982, began composing at a young age. Her mother started giving her piano lessons at the age of 8, and she began writing music shortly later. Over the years, she has become increasingly attuned to her surroundings. As she continues to listen to her environments, her music opens itself up to more evocative expression. She often seeks out a synthesis between those formal possibilities that are perhaps best expressed in music and those phenomena or experiences that deeply move her. She now resides in Tucson, Arizona where she enjoys finding musical suggestion in the Sonoran desert landscape.

She received a BA in music summa cum laude from Princeton University in 2004. As an undergraduate at Princeton, she studied composition with Steve Mackey and Paul Lansky. After graduating Princeton she received a Martin Dale Fellowship, and with this funding she was able to write music during the year following college while living in Tucson, Arizona.

She received a PhD from Duke University in May 2010 where she studied composition with Scott Lindroth, Stephen Jaffe and Anthony Kelley. While at Duke, she received a James B. Duke Fellowship, a Summer Research Fellowship and an Aleane Webb Fellowship. She was also one of two graduate fellows selected to participate in the Franklin Humanities Institute’s interdisciplinary seminar entitled “Innovating Forms."

She has attended the UC Davis Summer Arts Program, Music06 at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the European-American Musical Alliance at La Schola Cantorum in Paris, France. Performers of her music include the Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, the AM/PM Saxophone Quartet, the Duke New Music Ensemble, Pictures on Silence and the Duo Après.

Amy Beth Kirsten
Amy Beth Kirsten (b. 8/21/1972 in Belleville, Illinois) was recently a finalist for the Rome Prize in Music Composition and was the recipient of a 2009 Artist Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. She has been a Composition Fellow at Norfolk New Music Festival, Bang on a Can, Mizzou New Music Festival, Music10, and at École Normale de Musique in Paris. Most recently, Ms. Kirsten held the position of Missouri Composer Laureate (2009-10). Recent performances include those by Vicki Ray, Alarm Will Sound, Tim Munro (of eighth blackbird), American Composers Orchestra – 16th Annual Underwood Reading, l’Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne, Harbor Opera Company, San Francisco Cabaret Opera, Missouri Verses and Voices, the CAGE Ensemble, Volti, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a reading session with Marin Alsop.

Raised in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago, Ms. Kirsten received degrees from Benedictine University (BA), the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University (MM), and from Peabody Conservatory (DMA). She has taught on the faculties of Peabody Conservatory, Towson University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut. Currently a freelance composer, she currently lives and works in New Haven, CT.

Adam Knauss
Adam Knauss (b. 1984) is a composer based in the Baltimore, Maryland area. While much of his music is in the contemporary classical vein, he has also composed for a wide variety of media in a number of different styles. In the field of concert music, he has written for orchestra, concert band, choir, solo instruments, and a wide variety of chamber ensembles. He has composed pieces for a number of colleagues, as well as several ensembles, including ALEA III, the Boston University Concert Choir, the Boston University Concert Band, the AM/PM Saxophone Quartet, and No Signal. In 2007, he received a Career Development Grant from the Peabody Institute, which was used to fund a studio recording of his String Quartet in three movements.

Knauss has also taken part in multimedia collaborations, composing works for theater, film, and dance. Notable past projects include composing incidental music for several Boston University Theater Department productions, such as Shakespeare's The Tempest and Carlo Gozzi's The King Stag, both directed by Lenny Leibowitz; Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, and Eugène Ionesco's Rhinoceros, both directed by Dan Winerman. Knauss has also composed for film, collaborating with director Jen Purington on her 2008 documentary Counter Body Motion. In 2005, he collaborated with choreographer Gabrielle Orcha, composing a piece for jazz ensemble entitled Rollin' Boil to accompany Orcha's dance piece Woman with a Vision, which went on to win Boston University's Kahn Award in 2006.

Knauss also has experience performing, conducting, and teaching. A pianist since a young age, he has performed and recorded a number of his own works for piano, and he has conducted his own works in both concert and theater settings. Awarded a teaching assistantship in music theory from the Peabody Institute, he has experience teaching undergraduate music theory as a primary classroom teacher, a teaching assistant, and as a private tutor.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, Knauss received his Bachelor's Degree in Music Composition from Boston University and Master's Degrees in Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He has studied composition with Kevin Puts, Martin Amlin, Steven Weigt, William Mival, and Samuel Headrick, and he has studied piano with Linda Jiorle-Nagy and Noriko Kawai. He has also had individual composition lessons with Lukas Foss, Christopher Theofanidis, Chen Yi, and Libby Larsen. Knauss is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and he now works as a freelance composer, and also as a Dueling Pianist, playing and singing songs by request.

George Lam
George Lam lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is pursuing a PhD in music composition at Duke University. Upcoming projects include a new documentary opera, The Persistence Of Smoke, with a libretto by John Justice; a collaborative score for Charlie Chaplin's 1931 silent film City Lights, commissioned by Contemporary Musicking; and a cello concerto for cellist Brian Howard. George's recent works explored the intersection of music, words and theater, including >Variations On for chamber ensemble, This Evidence for chamber orchestra and The Gestures Of Farewell for narrator and orchestra, all collaborative projects created with Chicago-based writer Benjamin Rogers.

George Lam’s music has been performed by Volti, American Opera Projects, Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, AM/PM Saxophone Quartet, Boston University Concert Band, Charles River Wind Ensemble, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Hong Kong Voices and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. George was a Schumann Fellow at the 2006 Aspen Music Festival and School's composition master class, as well as an Angus Allnatt Foundation Fellow at the 2004 Dartington International Summer School. Other recent fellowships and residencies include American Opera Projects’ “Composers & The Voice” workshop series, the Virginia Arts Festival John Duffy Composers Institute, and the 2007-08 Volti Choral Arts Laboratory commissioning and residency program. George is a 2009 recipient of a grant from the American Music Center Composer Assistance Program for his orchestral work The Queen's Gramophone, as well as the 2010-11 Evan V. Frankel Fellowship in Humanities at Duke University.

George Lam holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and Boston University, and is co-artistic director of Rhymes With Opera, a new opera company dedicated to bringing new opera and music-theater into unexpected spaces.

Photo by Jianghai Ho.

Meet the Composer Who's Music Inspired the Project:

Lori Laitman is one of America's most prolific and widely performed composers of vocal music. She has composed two operas, an oratorio and over 200 songs, setting the words of classical and contemporary poets, among them the lost voices of poets who perished in the Holocaust “It is difficult to think of anyone before the public today who equals her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music.” (The Journal of Singing)

Laitman’s full-length opera, The Scarlet Letter, to a new libretto of the Hawthorne classic by American poet David Mason, was commissioned and performed by the University of Central Arkansas in 2008 to critical acclaim. Excerpts from the opera were showcased at the Opera America Salon Series in New York in September 2010. 

Laitman’s one-act opera, Come to Me in Dreams, was premiered by Cleveland Opera in 2004, and her oratorio, Vedem, a commission by Music of Remembrance (another collaboration with poet David Mason), saw its world premiere in May of 2010 in Seattle, WA. Laitman spoke about Vedem at Yale’s Institute for Sacred Music in September 2010 and Naxos will release a CD of the work in May 2011. Meanwhile, Laitman and Mason are poised to embark on their next project, the creation of a new opera based on Ludlow, Mason’s award-winning epic verse novel.

In February 2010, Laitman was the Featured Composer on Thomas Hampson's new online resource, Song of America. Last June, a retrospective concert of her music at SongFest in California featured the premiere of a work commissioned by the Sorel Organization. In October 2010, the composer was the guest of The International Conservatory Week Festival at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, where she presented performances of her music and conducted a master class.

Many of Laitman’s songs have entered the standard repertoire, including her settings of Abraham Sutzkever’s poems from the Vilna ghetto, The Seed of Dream (2004). Released on the Naxos label, the cycle was pronounced "a masterpiece that should not be missed!” (Journal of Singing). In 2009, acclaimed Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmair performed the cycle in his native Austria and subsequently commissioned German and English settings of Paul Celan’s Todesfuge. In October  2010, renowned American countertenor Brian Asawa, accompanied by pianist Rudolf Jansen, performed Laitman’s The Silver Swan at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and in November 2010, celebrated American soprano Elizabeth Futral performed the composer’s Sunflowers with pianist William Billingham at a Samford University recital.

Since launching her career in 1991, Laitman’s music has been performed frequently in the U.S. and abroad. Some recent U.S. venues include The Frye Art Music and Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA; The Kennedy Center and The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC; Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Hall in New York, NY; The Granada in Santa Barbara, CA and The USC Fisher Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

Her discography continues to grow and her four solo CDs have received enthusiastic reviews. The composer’s latest, Within These Spaces (2009), is receiving exceptional praise: “One hundred years hence, when critics look back at the art songs of our era, there will be many fine composers to laud and applaud, but few will deserve higher praise than Lori Laitman.” (The Journal of Singing); “This is music of depth and richness that connects with the soul.” (American Record Guide); “Her affinity for the voice…is beyond doubt…her songs represent outpourings of great beauty.” (Fanfare Magazine)

Laitman graduated magna cum laude from Yale College and received her Master of Music degree in flute performance from The Yale School of Music. Her recordings are available on her website,, and on Amazon and ITunes. 

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Photo by Christian Steiner.