Composer, Clarinetist Derek Bermel to speak at Stetson

Derek Bermel (Photos courtesy of Derek Bermel)

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has traveled to West Africa to learn gyil music, to Brazil to learn caxixi and to Bulgaria to learn Thracian folk music.

He’s traveled around the world to find out about the music of different countries and regions, and to play their instruments like the gyil, a West African xylophone, and the caxixi, a Brazilian shaker.

“I took some trips and spent some time in various places — Brazil or West Africa or Bulgaria – where I spent time really trying to learn on their instruments with their music,” he said in a phone interview from the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, where he’s a Master Artist in Residence for three weeks, providing guidance and feedback to eight associate composers.

“What’s so interesting about composing is it doesn’t have to be on your instrument,” he said. “That process is very exciting in a different way from playing my own instrument.”

Bermel will talk about his career and music on Friday, March 3, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Composition Forum class in Presser Hall, Room 112, at Stetson University. Bermel is Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and has led master classes and held residences around the world, including at Yale and Princeton universities. His talk is free and open to the public.

Manuel de Murga, Ph.D., an associate professor and Director of Composition at Stetson’s School of Music, said he invited Bermel to the Composition Forum after seeing his name on the Artist in Residence schedule at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Bermel will speak to the class and present his music.

Bermel was nominated for a Grammy Award for his recording, “Voices for Solo Clarinet and Orchestra,” in 2009. He hold B.A. and D.M.A. degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan, according to his website.

A lifelong New Yorker, he brings an eclectic musical background to his work. He performed in a rock band for many years and has been involved in hip hop projects, he said. He has performed with a number of jazz artists, as well as receiving many honors and awards for his orchestral works.

“For me, each genre presents very different challenges because people think about music very differently, depending on the genre,” he said. “They imagine creativity differently and they make different kinds of choices and they have very different processes of making music come alive.”

He said he hopes to provide Stetson students with an overview of his journey as a composer and performer.

“I do a lot of performing and traveling around,” he added. “I hope it can be of value to the students to hear another perspective on a life in music.”

-Cory Lancaster