Our Artists

Maya Beiser

Describing avant-garde cellist, producer, and multifaceted artist Maya Beiser, The New York Times writes, “The adventurous Ms. Beiser has been called the ‘cello goddess,’ which is not hyperbole: She summons from her instrument an emotional power so stirring that even the most stoic audience members risk turning into sobbing sacks of flesh.” Passionately forging her artistic path through uncharted territories, Maya Beiser has been captivating audiences worldwide, bringing a bold and unorthodox presence to contemporary classical music, experimenting with various musical styles, and defying conventional norms with her boundary-crossing performances. Hailed as “the reigning queen of avant-garde cello” by The Washington Post, she has been called a “cello rock star,” by Rolling Stone and praised as “a force of nature,” by The Boston Globe.

Raised in the Galilee Mountains in Israel, by her Argentinean father and French mother, Maya spent her early life surrounded by the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, while studying classical cello repertoire. At the age of 12, she was discovered by the late violinist Isaac Stern who became her mentor throughout her early career. Reinventing solo cello performance in the mainstream arena, Maya is a featured performer on the world’s most prestigious stages including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, London’s Southbank Centre, Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican, the Sydney Opera House, the Beijing Festival, Barcelona’s L’Auditori, Paris’ Cité de la Musique, and Stockholm’s Concert Hall. Among the wide range of artists with whom she has collaborated are Louis Andriessen, Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Mark Anthony-Turnage, Shirin Neshat, Erin Cressida-Wilson, Bill Morrison, Robert Woodruff, Missy Mazolli, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Evan Ziporyn, Pontus Lidberg, Wendy Whelan, Lucinda Childs, and Joe Hisaishi.

Maya’s critically acclaimed multimedia productions World To Come, Almost Human, Provenance, Elsewhere: A Cello Opera, and All Vows have consistently been chosen for top critics’ “Best Of The Year” lists. Recent seasons highlights include featured solo performances at the Barbican’s Sound Unbound and Kings Place’s Cello Unwrapped festivals in London, Cello Biennale in Amsterdam, Festival MANN in Naples, Italy and Strings for Autumn Festival in Prague; two new concerto premieres, Mohammed Fairouz’s cello concerto with the Detroit Symphony and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Maya with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Bowie Symphonic: Blackstar, a collaboration with Evan Ziporyn that reimagines David Bowie’s complete final album as a cello concerto, with performances in Boston, Barcelona, New York’s Central Park SummerStage, and a 2018 U.S. tour; Spinning, a new collaboration with composer Julia Wolfe and visual artist Laurie Olinder, commissioned and premiered by Peak Performances at Montclair State University; her debut solo performance at the BBC Proms; and premiere performances of a cello concerto by the celebrated Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi at Carnegie Hall and in Tokyo, Japan. Maya is currently in the midst of an international 20 cities tour of her production THE DAY, a music and dance star-studded collaboration with Wendy Whelan choreographed by Lucinda Childs with music by David Lang, which premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August 2019.

Highlights of Maya’s tours include performances at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, Celebrity Series in Boston, Ojai Music Festival, International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, and major venues and festivals in Paris, Amsterdam, Torino, Milano, Tokyo, Taipei, Athens, Mexico City, Havana, Bogota and Adelaide. She has appeared with many of the world’s top orchestras performing new works for the cello including the Detroit Symphony, Montreal Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Boston Pops, Sydney Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Nashville Symphony, China Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, Barcelona Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, among many others.

Maya’s vast discography includes twelve solo albums. Her recent albums Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar (2020), delugEON (2019), Tranceclassical (2016), Uncovered (2014) and Provenance (2012), topped the classical music charts. She is the featured soloist on many film soundtracks, including an extensive collaboration with composer James Newton Howard for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and After Earth, Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond, and Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman. Her performance of Lang’s world to come IV has been featured on the soundtrack for Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar winning film, La Grande Bellezza.

Maya Beiser is a 2015 United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music; a 2017 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology; and was recently a Presenting Artist at the inaugural CultureSummit, held in 2017 in Abu Dhabi. Invited to present at the prestigious TED main stage in Long Beach, CA, Maya’s 2011 TED Talk has been watched by over one million people and translated to 32 languages. She has been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and All Things Considered, PBS News Hour, and the BBC World News. Maya is a graduate of Yale University and a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. 

Evan Ziporyn

Composer/conductor/clarinetist Evan Ziporyn’s music has taken him from Balinese temples to concert halls around the world. 

He has composed for and collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider, Maya Beiser, Ethel, Anna Sofie Von Otter, the American Composers Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Iva Bittova, Terry Riley, Don Byron, Wu Man, and Bang on a Can. In 2017, his arrangements were featured on Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War, and on Silkroad’s Grammy-winning album Sing Me Home.

Most recently, his orchestral reimagining of David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, was recently released on Islandia Music, featuring Ziporyn conducting his own Ambient Orchestra with Maya Beiser, cello soloist. Since its 2017 premiere, Ziporyn has conducted the work in Boston, Barcelona, New York Central Park Summerstage, Australia’s Adelaide Fringe Festival, Strathmore Hall, and numerous other national and international venues. 2019 also saw the world premieres of two new works, the drum concerto Impulse Control for the Bowling Green New Music Festival, and the gamelan/string hybrid Air=Water for Philadelphia’s Network for New Music. Other recent works include the collaborative immersive installation Arachnodrone/Spider’s Canvaswith Christine Southworth, which premiered at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo in 2018, and The Demon in the Diagram with visual artist Matthew Ritchie and choreographer Hope Mohr. Ziporyn studied at Eastman School of Music, Yale, and UC Berkeley with Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, and Gerard Grisey. He received a Fulbright in 1987, founded Gamelan Galak Tika in 1993, and composed a series of groundbreaking compositions for gamelan and western instruments, as well as evening-length works such as 2001’s ShadowBang, 2004’s Oedipus Rex (Robert Woodruff, director), and 2009’s A House in Bali, which was featured at BAM Next Wave in October 2010. He released two albums of his orchestral works with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, featuring tabla master Sandeep Das as soloist. 

From 1992-2012 he served as music director, producer, and composer/arranger for the Bang on a Can Allstars, winning Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year award in 2005. He has also recorded and toured with Paul Simon (You’re the One) and the Steve Reich Ensemble, sharing in the latter’s 1998 Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance. In 2012 he formed the Eviyan Trio with Iva Bittova and Gyan Riley, with whom he recorded two albums. He has also released numerous albums on Cantaloupe Music, New World, CRI, Airplane Ears, and other labels. Other honors include a USA Artist Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Prize from the American Academy, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, and commissions from Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet, Rockefeller Multi-Arts Program, and Meet the Composer. As a conductor recent appearances include LA Opera (Keeril Makan’s Persona), Hamburg Elbsphilharmonie (Julia Wolfe/Bill Morrison’s Fuel), the Barcelona Symphony, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. At MIT he is Distinguished Professor of Music, Director of the Center for Art, Science and Technology, and currently Guest Director of the MIT Symphony Orchestra.

Steven Schick

Steven Schick photo by Bill Dean

Percussionist, conductor, and author Steven Schick was born in Iowa and raised in a farming family. Hailed by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as, “one of our supreme living virtuosos, not just of percussion but of any instrument,” he has championed contemporary percussion music by commissioning or premiering more than one hundred-fifty new works. The most important of these have become core repertory for solo percussion.

Steven Schick was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2014. He is artistic director of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus and previously, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. As a conductor, he has appeared with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, Ensemble Modern, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble.

Schick’s publications include a book, The Percussionist’s Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams, and many articles. He has released numerous recordings including the 2010 Percussion Works of Iannis Xenakis, and its companion, The Complete Early Percussion Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen in 2014 (both on Mode). He received the “Diapason d’Or” as conductor (Xenakis Ensemble Music with ICE) and the Deutscheschallplattenkritikpreis, as percussionist (Stockhausen), each for the best new music release of 2015.

Steven Schick is Distinguished Professor of Music and holds the Reed Family Presidential Chair at the University of California, San Diego. He was music director of the 2015 Ojai Festival, and co-artistic director, with Claire Chase, of the Summer Music Program at the Banff Centre from 2017-2019.

Ambient Orchestra

Ambient Orchestra

Evan Ziporyn founded AMBIENT ORCHESTRA in January 2016 as a People’s Orchestra for the 21st Century. Our repertoire is the ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ recorded masterworks of ambient music, electronica, progressive rock, fusion jazz, and world music. We seek to transform this treasure trove of beloved recorded repertoire into large-ensemble, live human performance, to help audiences connect to the intensity – and necessity – of the orchestral idiom. 

The Ambient Orchestra is the brainchild of Artistic Director Evan Ziporyn, who arranges for and conducts the ensemble. Ziporyn, having done award-winning arrangements for Bang on a Can (Brian Eno’s Music for Airports), YoYo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble (the Grammy-award winning Sing Me Home and the soundtrack for Ken Burns/Lynn Novick’s documentary The Vietnam War), and Maya Beiser (Uncovered), launched the orchestra in the wake of David Bowie’s untimely death in January 2016. Said Ziporyn, “We wanted to do something right away, in the moment, while everyone’s thoughts and feelings about David Bowie and what he represents were still highly present. It was a both a way to express our collective grief and, in the spirit of Bowie’s endless creativity, channel it into something positive and beautiful.”

That debut performance, a benefit for cancer research held just two weeks after Bowie’s death, featured an 80-piece volunteer ensemble of the Boston-area’s top professional musicians, in a performance of Philip Glass‘ two Bowie-inspired Symphonies, Low and Heroes. One year later, in March 2017, the group re-assembled to premiere Ziporyn’s startling, evening-length arrangement of Bowie’s final album Blackstar, reconceived as a concerto for cello vistonary Maya Beiser. Beiser and Ziporyn have since performed the Blackstar Concerto with the Barcelona Symphony and at New York’s Central Park SummerStage. In Fall 2018 The Ambient Orchestra with Beiser as soloist embarked on their first US tour, which will conclude with an already-sold-out upcoming performance at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, featuring an immersive multimedia environment developed especially for the piece by the creators of Guitar Heroand Rock BandEran Egozy and Alex Rigopulos

Critical reaction has been effusive. Of the Boston premiere, the Boston Globe’s Marc Hirsh wrote, “David Bowie’s “Blackstar” was from the very start an album fundamentally concerned with transformation. Friday’s sold-out recasting of Bowie’s swan song as an extended orchestral piece by cellist Maya Beiser & The Ambient Orchestra, conducted by Evan Ziporyn, was in its way more faithful to his intentions than a straightforward duplication of the record…The orchestra’s approach took advantage of the rich, jazz-infused harmonic palette of “Blackstar.” As the rest of the strings rose up in deep menace and then flitted away like shadows, Beiser’s cello replaced the vocals of “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)” with a shivering panic, and “Girl Loves Me” tick-tick-ticked along implacably while she captured the curvy fillips of Bowie’s singing. And as it pressed forward, “Lazarus” reached further down into the grave and further up toward the stars all at once.” WBUR’s Jeremy Goodwin opined, “Ziporyn’s arrangement draws out the epic sweep, translating Bowie’s introspection into letters big enough for sky-writing. It turns out the combination of cutting edge classical music and the work of an arty rock hero can sound pretty sweet!”

Following the Barcelona performance, in a review entitled “The Fantastic Symphony of David Bowie,” El Mundo’s Javier Blanquez wrote, “Bowie is already symphonic. But last night another color was added to his music, a rich and adventurous density that easily and forcefully connected high and popular culture.”

Upcoming projects for the group include new versions of music by Robert Fripp & Brian Eno, Erik Satie, Laraaji, Glenn Branca, and Ziporyn himself. In March 2019 the group travels to Australia for 3 performances at Adelaide Fringe, in collaboration with the Elder Conservatorium. The group takes its name and inspiration from Brian Eno, who defined ambient music as ‘an atmosphere, a surrounding influence, a tint…pieces for particular times and situations.’ Ambient also means ‘of or relating to the immediate surroundings.’ The Ambient Orchestra is devoted to both.