Composition Faculty Bios

inti figgis-vizueta

“[inti’s] music feels sprouted between structures, liberated from certainty and wrought from a language we’d do well to learn” writes the Washington Post.

NYC-based composer inti figgis-vizueta (b. 1993) writes magically real musics through the lens of personal identities, braiding a childhood of overlapping immigrant communities and Black-founded Freedom schools—in Chocolate City (DC)—with direct Andean & Irish heritage and a deep connection to the land. Her musical practice is physical and visceral, attempting to reconcile historical aesthetics and experimental practices with trans & indigenous futures.

The New York Times speaks of inti’s music as “alternatively smooth & serrated” and “slyly warp[ing] time”, The Washington Post as “raw, scraping yet soaring”, and The Strad Magazine as “between the material and immaterial”. Recent honors include the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Fred Ho Award and a 2022-23 Music Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. inti is currently in residency at Sō Percussion’s Brooklyn studio for the ‘21-22 season. Upcoming projects include new works for the American Composers Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, and Roomful of Teeth, in collaboration with visual artist Rose Bond.

2020-2021 commissions included works for the LA Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, Attacca Quartet, JACK Quartet, & Crash Ensemble, as well as Jennifer Koh, Matt Haimovitz, Andrew Yee, and Jay Campbell. Recent performances of inti’s music have featured the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, Music at Copland House Ensemble, red fish blue fish, Aspen Contemporary Music Ensemble, Oberlin Sinfonietta, Ensemble Connect, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, The Walden School Players, OSSIA New Music, Ensemble Reflektor, BGSU Contemporary Ensemble, Northwestern Contemporary Ensemble, and members of the San Francisco Symphony, Oregon Symphony, and LA Philharmonic. Her music has appeared in spaces such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and The Phillips Collection as well as the Ojai Music Festival, TIME:SPANS Festival, Kronos Festival, New Music Dublin Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Tribeca New Music Festival, ultraBACH Festival, Mizzou International Composers Festival, and New Latin Wave Festival.

In 2022, inti will join Fifth House Ensemble’s Fresh Inc Festival as lead composition faculty and return to teach for her third year at Wildflower Festival (formerly Young Women Composer’s Camp). inti also joined Kaufman Center’s Luna Composition Lab as a mentor for the ‘21-22 lab, recently completing mentorship work with the inaugural Boulanger Initiative Elizabeth Henriksen Mentorship Program. inti also will appear as composition faculty at the inaugural ‘21-22 Atlanticx Composition Festival, a program focused on Latin American composers. 

inti’s music appears on violinist Jennifer Koh’s 2021 GRAMMY-nominated album Alone Together as well as cellist Matt Haimovitz’s 2021 GRAMMY-nominated album Primavera I: the Wind

inti studied privately with Marcos Balter, George Lewis, Donnacha Dennehy, and Felipe Lara. inti received mentorship from Gavilán Rayna Russom, Du Yun, Angélica Negrón, Tania León, and Amy Beth Kirsten.

inti loves reading poetry, particularly Danez Smith and Joy Harjo. inti honors her Quechua bisabuela, who was the only woman butcher on the whole plaza central and used to fight men with a machete.​

Shawn Okpebholo

“…a beautiful artist. …who has enormous grace in his music, and fantasy and color.”  

— Augusta Read Thomas, Grammy-award winning composer

Fifth House Ensemble’s Composer-In-Residence and a widely sought-after and award-winning composer, Shawn E. Okpebholo (b. 1981) has been described by Augusta Read Thomas as “…a beautiful artist …who has enormous grace in his music, and fantasy and color.” Okpebholo comfortably composes in a variety of styles and genres, intentional in creating music that is diverse, dynamic, and genuine.  A laureate of various awards, these include: Second Place Winner in The American Prize in Composition (professional/orchestral division), First Prize Winner in the Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition, Winner of the Adams-Owens Composition Award, First Prize Winner in the Accent06 International Composition Competition, among others. His music has been performed in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and all across the U.S., including close to forty states. Distinguished venues, festivals, and radio broadcasts include: Carnegie Hall; The Kennedy Center; The National Cathedral; Chicago’s Orchestra Hall; EarTaxi Contemporary Music Festival; Monte Music Festival (Goa, India); MusicX Contemporary Music Festival; The Uncommon Music Festival (Alaska); Front Wave New Music Festival; several National Flute Association, Society of Composers, Inc., College Band Directors National Association, and Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers national conferences; state music festivals across the country; Chicago’s WFMT 98.7 and Cincinnati’s WGUC 90.9. 
 
Okpebholo regularly receives commissions from noted soloists, universities, and organizations, including the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, the United States Air Force, the Ohio Music Education Association, to name a few. Some celebrated performing artists and ensembles include Cadillac Moon, Fulcrum Point, Picosa, United States Army Field Band, cellist Leonardo Altino, baritones Will Liverman and Robert Sims, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, pianists Paul Tuntland Sánchez and Mark Markham, euphonium virtuoso Steven Mead, flutists Caen-Thomason-Redus and Jenny Oh Brown, among others.  He has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, Tangemen Sacred Music Center, Wheaton College (Aldeen Research Grant, John Stott Faculty Grant in Human Needs and Global Resources, Faculty Global Research Grant) and a Union University Pew Research Grant. His compositions can be heard on a variety of commercially released albums, including his first album solely devoted to his music, Steal Away, a collection of re-imagined Negro spirituals. 
 

As an academic, Okpebholo has been in residence at many colleges and universities both in the U.S. and Nigeria, giving masterclasses, guest lecturing, and having his music featured in concert. He was one of eighteen featured composers in Volume IV of the book series, “Composers on Composing for Band,” edited by Mark Camphouse. And his compositional interests and research have been a gateway for ethnomusicological field work in both East and West Africa. 

He earned his masters and doctoral degrees in composition from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati, where he also studied music theory. He completed a bachelor’s degree in composition and music history from Asbury College and had additional studies in film scoring from New York University. A significant part of his music education growing up was through The Salvation Army church, where he regularly received free music lessons. Inspired by that charity, Okpebholo is passionate about volunteering his musical talents to underserved communities. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (IL), having previously taught at Union University (TN), Northern Kentucky University, and CCM.

He lives in Wheaton, IL, a suburb of Chicago, with his wife, violist Dorthy, and his daughters, Eva and Corinne.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post).

Jessie was born and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s during a time when the neighborhood was at a major turning point in its history. Artists gravitated to the hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development. Her parents – her father a musician, her mother a theater artist and storyteller – were engaged in the activities of the neighborhood and regularly brought Jessie to rallies, performances, and parties where neighbors, activists, and artists gathered to celebrate and support the movements of the time. It is from this unique experience that Jessie has created a life that merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy.

Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African-American and Latinx string players. She currently serves as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, the Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. She was a two-time laureate of the annual Sphinx Competition and was awarded a generous MPower grant to assist in the development of her debut album, Strum: Music for Strings (Azica Records). She has received additional grants and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Composers Orchestra, the Joyce Foundation, and the Sorel Organization.

Her growing body of work includes solo, chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Some recent highlights include Five Slave Songs (2018) commissioned for soprano Julia Bullock by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Records from a Vanishing City (2016) for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Caught by the Wind (2016) for the Albany Symphony and the American Music Festival, and Banner (2014) – written to mark the

200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner – for The Sphinx Organization and the Joyce Foundation.

In the 2019-20 season, new commissioned works will be premiered by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the National Choral Society, and ASCAP Foundation. Jessie is also teaming up with composer-violinist Jannina Norpoth to reimagine Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha; it is being produced by Volcano Theatre and co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts, Stanford University, Southbank Centre (London), National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Additionally, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony will all perform Montgomery’s works this season.

The New York Philharmonic has selected Jessie as one of the featured composers for their Project 19, which marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting equal voting rights in the United States to women. Other forthcoming works include a nonet inspired by the Great Migration, told from the perspective of Montgomery’s great-grandfather William McCauley and to be performed by Imani Winds and the Catalyst Quartet; a cello concerto for Thomas Mesa jointly commissioned by Carnegie Hall, New World Symphony, and The Sphinx Organization; and a new orchestral work for the National Symphony.

Jessie began her violin studies, at the Third Street Music School Settlement, one of the oldest community organizations in the country. A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and currently a member of the Catalyst Quartet, she continues to maintain an active performance career as a violinist appearing regularly with her own ensembles, as well as with the Silkroad Ensemble and Sphinx Virtuosi.

Jessie’s teachers and mentors include Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, Alice Kanack, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel, Mark Suozzo, Ira Newborn, and Laura Kaminsky. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a Graduate Fellow in Music Composition at Princeton University.

Phillip Sink

Phillip Sink composes vocal, instrumental, and audiovisual works for video and electronics. He seeks to combine the expressive power of timbre and texture with an eclectic approach to harmony and form, which is born from his interests in classical and popular music styles. His music embraces themes of social awareness, human experience, and science.

His recent projects include works for the Romex Duo, Tim Ledger, Khemia Ensemble, and the Fifth House Ensemble. 

Phillip is the recipient of many awards include the Hermitage Prize awarded by the Aspen Music Festival, the Best Music Submission Award at the 2015 International Computer Music Festival, and three Indiana University Dean’s Prizes for the best orchestral, chamber, and electronic music. He has presented many electroacoustic works at conferences such as the International Computer Music Conference; SEAMUS; Arts and Science Days, Bourges, France; DME Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Diffrazioni Multimedia Festival, Florence, Italy; New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival; Electronic Music Midwest; Studio 300; TurnUp Festival; and the Electroacoustic Barn Dance.

Phillip received two bachelor’s degrees in Music Composition/Theory and Music Education from Appalachian State University and two master’s degrees in Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy from Michigan State University. Phillip earned a Doctorate of Music in Music Composition at the Jacobs School of Music. He previously held positions at the University of Missouri as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and Northern Illinois University as an Assistant Professor.

He is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he serves as the head of the Composition and Technology Area.

Austin Wintory

Austin Wintory has built his career on exploring and curiosity. He began his obsession with composing back when he was ten years old, when he discovered Jerry Goldsmith’s scores to Patton and A Patch of Blue. Austin studied at NYU and USC with composers Morten Lauridsen, Charles Fussell, and Erica Muhl. Never satisfied with working in a single medium, Austin has worked in the concert world, film music, video games, and miscellaneous others.

In March 2012, the PlayStation3 game Journey was released, after three years of work. The game instantly became Sony’s fastest-selling PlayStation title, and the soundtrack album debuted on the Billboard charts higher than any original score in gaming history. In December 2012, more history was made when it was announced that Journey had become the first-ever Grammy-nominated videogame score. The score subsequently won an Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences D.I.C.E. award, two British Academy Awards, a Spike TV VGA, and IGN’s “Overall Music of the Year,” five G.A.N.G. Awards and host of others. The score features the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra and a lineup of top soloists (Audio excerpts available here). Orchestral excerpts, and the stand alone mini-concerto “Woven Variations” have been consistently scheduled for concert performances all over the world since its release.

Beginning humbly as a Kickstarter campaign, Austin’s next major game effort was Stoic Studio’s The Banner Saga, a unique and mature turn-based strategy / RPG hybrid with a dazzling art direction. The score featured the Dallas Wind Symphony, America’s premiere wind ensemble, and an all-star trio of YouTube musicians: MalukahPeter Hollens and Taylor Davis. The game and soundtrack were released in early 2014 to critical and commercial success; the score earned Austin over a dozen awards and nominations, including his 4th and 5th British Academy Award nominations, and won the first-ever peer-voted ASCAP Composer’s Choice Award for “Best Video Game Score of the Year.” He is currently working with Stoic on The Banner Saga 2, which was announced live, on-stage at The Game Awards in December 2014 to an audience of nearly 2 million people.

Most recently (released August 2016), Austin scored the debut title for Giant Squid Studios, ABZÛ. The score was an ambitious blend of orchestra, choir and large harp ensemble recorded in both the US and the UK. The game and score were both immensely well-received, earning a number of publications’ “Best Of” lists for top soundtrack of the year, in addition to Austin’s second D.I.C.E. Award nomination, a Hollywood Music in Media nomination, and others.

In 2015, Austin wrote and produced the score for Ubisoft’s latest blockbuster: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The music is at its heart a chamber score deeply rooted in 19th century traditions, featuring virtuoso musicians Sandy Cameron and Tina Guo, and an all-star ensemble recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. The score earned Austin his 6th British Academy Award nomination, and second ASCAP Composer’s Choice Award win, and has been lauded as among the top game scores for 2015 by major industry organizations like GameTrailers, IGN, Movie Music UK, the International Film Music Critics Association and the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.

Austin has also scored nearly 50 feature films, and his first major film score, for the Sundance Film Festival-winning film Captain Abu Raed, was shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Original Score by the LA Times. His next major film, Grace, was also a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Austin’s score (which featured a wild array of custom-recorded sounds such as babies crying and horse flies, in addition to a large ensemble of clarinets at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios), was also highly lauded, earning a notorious Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination and being cited by “Visions in Sound” (a popular film scoring radio program) as among the Top 10 Scores for 2010. His most recent films are writer/director Adam Alleca’s Standoff, starring Thomas Jane and Laurence Fishburne, and Amin Matalqa’s The Rendezvous, starring Stana Katic.

Outside of games, Austin also maintains a busy concert composing schedule, with regular appearances throughout the world. Most recently he premiered the commissioned work “This Gaming Life” with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a theatrical work created in collaboration with the legendary comedians called “Tripod.” Announced in 2016 was also the unveiling of his partnership with the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble, with whom he will tour in a production of “Journey LIVE,” a recreation of the hit PlayStation title, performed interactively live. His chamber music show “Mythos,” combining his own music with other contemporary works, is also touring throughout 2015 and beyond following a successful world premiere in Manhattan at New York Comic Con in 2014. Forthcoming he will also have premieres with the West Michigan Symphony, Colorado Symphony and others.

Passionate about education, Austin is a regular public speaker at schools and events around the world, in addition to pre-concert talks and workshops. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Education Through Music – Los Angeles, as well as the Board of Directors for the Society of Composers and Lyricists.

Chen Yi

As a prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries, Dr. Chen Yi is a recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. She has been Lorena Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1998. She was elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2005, and the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 2019.

Born in China, Ms. Chen received bachelor and master degrees from the Central Conservatory in Beijing, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University in the City of New York. Her composition teachers included Profs. Wu Zu-qiang, Chou Wen-chung, and Mario Davidovsky. She has served as Composer-in-Residence for the Women’s Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and Aptos Creative Arts Center (1993–96) supported by Meet The Composer, and taught on the composition faculty at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University (1996–98). She has also been Distinguished Visiting Professor in China since 2006.

Fellowships and commissioning awards were received from Guggenheim Foundation (1996), American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996), Fromm Foundation at Harvard University (1994), Koussevitzky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress (1997), and National Endowment for the Arts (1994). Honors include the first prizes from the Chinese National Composition Competition (1985, 2012), the Lili Boulanger Award (1993), the NYU Sorel Medal Award (1996), the CalArts/Alpert Award (1997), the UT Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), the ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), the Elise Stoeger Award (2002) from Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Friendship Ambassador Award from Edgar Snow Fund (2002), the UMKC Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship and Faculty Service (2006, 2012, 2019), and Pulitzer Prize Finalist with Si Ji for orchestra (2006). Honorary Doctorates are from Lawrence University (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College (2008), University of Portland (2009), The New School University (2010), and University of Hartford (2016). She has received the Sterling Patron Award of Mu Phi Epsilon International Fraternity in 2011 and the Society for American Music Honorary Member Award in 2018.

Her music is published by Theodore Presser Company, performed world wide, and recorded in over 100 CDs, on Bis, New Albion, Teldec (w/Grammy Award for Colors of Love), New World (w/NPR Top 10 Classical Music Album Award for Sound of the Five), Albany, Naxos, BMOP/sound, XAS Records, Bridge, Centaur, Innova, Delos, Angel, Nimbus, Cala, Avant, Atma, Hugo, Koch International Classics, Eroica, Capstone, Quartz, and China Record Corporation since 1986. Chen Yi, An Accessible Guide to the Composer’s Background and Her Works, by Leta E. Miller and J. Michele Edwards published by University of Illinois Press, 2020.

Recent world premieres of Chen Yi’s works have included Introduction, Andante, and Allegro by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and Fire for 12 players by Grossman Ensemble at Logan Center Performance Hall in the University of Chicago in 2019; Totem Poles for organ solo at AGO national conference in Kansas City, Pearle River Overture by Guangzhou Symphony in China, and Southern Scenes for flute, pipa and orchestra by the Hawaii Symphony in Honolulu in 2018; and piano concerto Four Spirits by China Philharmonic in Beijing and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016. The 20/21 concert season started with European premiere of Tang Poems Cantata by MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir in Germany (9/27/20) and world premiere of Bamboo Song by pianist Zou Xiang at the China National Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall in China (10/5/20), followed by world premiere performances of two oboe solo works, Elegy by St Paul Chamber Orchestra’s oboe principal Cassie Pilgrim in MN (11/28/20), and Mountain Song by Fergus McCready at Royal Academy of Music in UK (6/8/21) to celebrate its 200th anniversary. 

* Chen is family name, Yi is personal name. Chen Yi can be referred to Dr. Chen, Prof. Chen, Ms. Chen, or Chen Yi, but not Dr. Yi, Prof. Yi, or Ms. Yi.

Pamela Z

Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist working with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound, and video. A pioneer of live digital looping techniques, she processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and sampled concrète sounds. She uses MAX MSP and Isadora software on a MacBook Pro along with custom MIDI controllers that allow her to manipulate sound and image with physical gestures. Her performances range in scale from small concerts in galleries to large-scale multi-media works in theaters and concert halls. In addition to her performances, she has a growing body of installation works using multi-channel sound and video.

Pamela Z has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan – performing in international festivals and venues including Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center (NY); La Biennale di Venezia; San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox, the Japan Interlink Festival; Other Minds (San Francisco); and Pina Bausch Tanztheater’s Festival (Wuppertal, Germany). She has received commissions to compose live and fixed-media scores for choreographers and film/video artists. Her large-scale, performance works, including Memory Trace, Baggage Allowance, Voci, and Gaijin, have been presented at venues like the Kitchen in New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Theater Artaud (Z Space) in San Francisco, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, as well as at theaters in Washington D.C. and Budapest. Her one-act opera Wunderkabinet inspired by the Museum of Jurassic Technology (co-composed with Matthew Brubeck) premiered at The LAB in San Francisco, and was presented at REDCAT in LA and Open Ears Festival in Canada. She has shown work in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum (New York); Savvy Contemporary (Berlin); the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs NY); the Dakar Biennale (Sénégal); Krannert Art Museum (IL), and the Kitchen (NY).

Ms. Z has received commissions from chamber ensembles including Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Bang On A Can All Stars; Ethel, Del Sol Quartet, California E.A.R. Unit; Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; and Empyrean Ensemble. She is currently composing a work for soprano Julia Bullock and the San Francisco Symphony. She has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Joan La Barbara, Joan Jeanrenaud, Brenda Way (ODC Dance), Miya Masaoka, Jeanne Finley + John Muse, Shinichi Iova Koga (Inkboat), and Luciano Chessa. She has participated in New Music Theatre’s John Cage festivals, and has performed with The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Her interactive web-based work Baggage Allowance can be viewed at baggageallowance.tv where it is permanently installed.

Pamela Z is the recipient of many honors and awards including the Rome Prize, the United States Artists fellowship, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; the Creative Capital Fund; the MAP Fund, the ASCAP Music Award; an Ars Electronica honorable mention; and the NEA Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.