Alex Shapiro aligns note after note with the hope that a few of them might actually sound good next to each other. She has become one of the Pacific coast’s most familiar composers of acoustic and electroacoustic music, and her expressive works are performed and broadcast daily across the U.S. and internationally. Published by Activist Music, Shapiro’s music can be found on over twenty commercially released CDs from record labels around the world.
Born in New York City in 1962 and raised in Manhattan, Alex began composing as a much shorter person at age nine. She was educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, where she was a composition student of Ursula Mamlok and John Corigliano. Earlier composition studies from age fifteen were with Leo Edwards at Mannes College of Music and with Michael Czajkowski and George Tsontakis at the Aspen Music School. An accomplished pianist, Ms. Shapiro was a student of New York recitalist Marshall Kreisler, and she is an active guitarist as well.
Alex’s concert music is a diverse, dramatic collection spanning from chamber groups to large ensembles, and from purely acoustic pieces to works that pair musicians with prerecorded digital audio. The 2010-2011 concert season included nine premieres of Shapiro commissions, including a groundbreaking suite for electroacoustic symphonic wind band titled Immersion for a consortium of universities led by the University of Minnesota and broadcast nationally on Minnesota Public Radio.
Also premiered were a dectet for strings and winds titled Archipelago for Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble; Unabashedly More, a mixed chamber sextet premiered at Carnegie Hall by the New York ensemble Lunatics at Large; Slowly, searching for German pianist Susanne Kessel for her latest CD and concert tour; and Elegiac, for clarinet, cello and piano, premiered by Chamber Music San Juans, a Pacific Northwest ensemble which also gave the premiere of Shapiro’s Intermezzo for Cello and Piano in August 2011.
Vendaval de Luvina, a haunting piece for piano, digital audio and prerecorded spoken word based on a short story by Mexican author Juan Rulfo, was premiered in California by pianist Teresa McCollough, who gave the California and New York City premieres of Ms. Shapiro’s latest solo piano work, Spark, in November 2011.
Perhaps the most instantly popular of Ms. Shapiro’s newest pieces has been Paper Cut, an innovative offering for wind band, prerecorded electronics and printer paper (yes, printer paper), commissioned for the BandQuest series by the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts. The piece has rapidly become a favorite with high schools and colleges, and has been performed many times throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. Paper Cut was featured at the December 2011 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, performed by the VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band, and has become one of the strongest sellers in BandQuest history.
An enthusiastic leader in the new music community, Alex is a strong advocate for other artists through her speaking appearances, published articles and volunteerism. She is the elected national concert music representative on the ASCAP Board of Review, is a member of ASCAP’s Symphony & Concert Committee, serves on the Board of Directors of The MacDowell Colony, and chairs the Media Council for New Music USA. Ms. Shapiro is the past President of the Board of Directors of the American Composers Forum of Los Angeles, and has also served as on the boards of national music organizations including The American Music Center, The College Music Society, NACUSA, and The Society of Composers & Lyricists.
Shapiro’s volunteer activism extends beyond the music world to additional interests, and includes three terms she served in the 1990’s on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Southern California, including two years as the 30,000-member affiliate’s Vice-president. Reflecting an affinity with the ocean that inspires much of her music, Alex is also a Board member of the University of Washington’s renowned marine science research facility, the Friday Harbor Laboratories.
Articulate, passionate and entertaining, Ms. Shapiro appears regularly as a speaker at a wide variety of music events, which have included NARAS’ Grammy® in the Schools, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s First Nights series, IAWM’s International Congress of Women in Music, the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, Colorado, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, and each of ASCAP’s I Create Music Expos in Hollywood.
Since 2000 Alex has interviewed over 100 composers as the moderator of the Los Angeles Composer’s Salon series as well as ACF/LA’s Composer to Composer series at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and she is a familiar guest lecturer at many colleges and universities. Alex is especially well versed on the uses of digital media for the promotion of artists’ careers, and is a speaker for the ASCAP Composer Career Workshop touring series she co-founded. She recently testified on a Federal Communications Commission panel hearing in Washington, D.C., about broadband access and digital rights issues.
Ms. Shapiro is the recipient of national honors and awards including those from the American Music Center, ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer and Mu Phi Epsilon, and she has been awarded artist fellowships from The California Arts Council and The MacDowell Colony. In August 2011, Ms. Shapiro was honored with the national music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon’s highest award given to members, the Award of Merit, for her inventive use of new technologies in developing her composing career and helping colleagues do the same.
A longtime resident of Malibu, California, Alex now resides on Washington State’s San Juan Island. When she’s not composing, she procrastinates on her next piece by communing with the sea life that surrounds her, as seen on her music- and photo-filled nature blog, Notes from the Kelp.