Skip to content

California Festival Composer Reflections

A collection of crowd-sourced messages voiced by contemporary composers reflecting on how California has inspired them.

California’s landscape and culture energetically informs the music that’s made here. These recordings from a wide spectrum of composers, distills the multitude of ways in which one’s physical environment can influence creative expression. We hope these insightful musings from Golden State composers, many of whom are participating in the inaugural California Festival, will encourage you to explore their work and in turn, open your senses to the inspiration found all around you.

Recently praised as “the leading American composer of his generation” by the Los Angeles Times, and “one of the most gifted and respected composers of his generation” by the New York Times,  Andrew has established himself as a significant voice in American classical music.

Time Magazine calls his music 'rousing' and 'anthemic', while The Guardian calls it 'joyful' and 'an intelligent meeting of melody and theme'.

The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.” The Times (London) described Skye’s music as “deliciously head-spinning.”

Dylan Mattingly is a composer and creator of musical work which seeks to offer ecstatic, transformative experience and provide an opportunity to alter the way we see our world and place within it. Many of Mattingly’s projects exist on a massive scale, the results of a dedication to the pursuit of bringing to life the most meaningful projects in the wild reaches of imagination.

Jake Heggie is the American composer of nine full-length operas, including Dead Man Walking and Great Scott with librettos by Terrence McNally; Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, It’s a Wonderful Life, If I Were You, and Two Remain with librettos by Gene Scheer; and numerous one-acts.

Reviewing his Monterey Suite for orchestra, San Francisco bay area critic Joseph Gold wrote:

“Cavaterra would hold his own in any period of music history. What sets this contemporary music apart, and high above the others, is rhapsodic melodic line and brilliant orchestration which is never heavy or overbearing.”

Meara O'Reilly is a composer and artist, focusing on perception and new musical interfaces. Her Hockets for Two Voices EP was released on Cantaloupe in 2019. It was named in several year end best of lists, including Art ForumBandcamp, and Second Inversion. Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo reviewed the EP for Talkhouse, saying it “sends you, moves you, destroys you with beauty“.

Adult Swim Singles announces a new song by renowned violinist, composer, and electro-acoustic artist Kono Michi (aka. Michi Wiancko), described by The Strad magazine as “intriguing and exquisitely beautiful - music that breaks through the pop classical barrier.”

Beijing-birthed, Toronto/LA-dwelling musician—vocalist, composer, songwriter, improviser, multi-instrumentalist, teacher, curator—Mingjia (MING-juh) performs in solo & collaborative projects across many genres and likes to roll around in grass even though she is allergic.

Nicolás Lell Benavides’ (Ben-ah-VEE-des) music has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and cooking up a “jaunty score [with] touches of cabaret, musical theater and Latin dance.” (Tim Smith, OPERA NEWS)

“One day, I sat with the composer-vocalist Odeya Nini in a small park in Mount Washington, while she performed her piece “I See You.” No one else was there. It felt like music being reinvented note by note, after the deluge.” - Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Patrick Shiroishi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist & composer based in Los Angeles.

Rand Steiger was born in New York City and lives in San Diego, where he draws inspiration from the natural landscape and the long history of experimental music in Southern California.

Sarah Davachi is a composer and performer whose work is concerned with the close intricacies of timbral and temporal space, utilizing extended durations and considered harmonic structures that emphasize gradual variations in texture, overtone complexity, psychoacoustic phenomena, and tuning and intonation.

Saunder Choi is a Los Angeles-based Filipino composer and choral artist whose works have been performed internationally by various groups including Conspirare, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Pacific Chorale, World Youth Choir, Brightwork New Music, People Inside Electronics, and many others.

(Featured recording of Our Streets, A Symphony Again by Saunder Choi commissioned and performed by VOX Femina Los Angeles)

Sheli Nan composes music that defies boundaries. Her Baroque and Classical training coupled with having lived all over the world produce a unique sound; a 21st century harmony.

Praised as “a real talent” (The Seattle Times) with “vivid, dramatic” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “enjoyable” (Gramophone Magazine) scores, and “an incredible span of compositional tool box” (American Record Guide), Shuying Li is an award-winning composer who began her musical education in her native China.

Composer and violinist Tommy Dougherty is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and solo works.

The Globe & Mail (Toronto) writes: “...her works, whose organic, lyrical sense of storytelling are supported by a rigid formal elegance, give her audiences a sense that nature’s frozen objects are springing to life.”