GREGORY SPEARS is a New York-based composer whose music has been called "astonishingly beautiful" (The New York Times), "coolly entrancing" (The New Yorker), and "some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory" (The Boston Globe). He has been commissioned by The New York Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seraphic Fire, The Crossing, Volti, BMI/Concert Artists Guild, Vocal Arts DC, New York Polyphony, The New York International Piano Competition, the JACK Quartet, and The New York Youth Symphony among others. Spears' 21-movement solo piano cycle "Seven Days" was released in the form of a custom designed app produced by the 92Y in fall 2021.
His latest opera "Castor and Patience", written in collaboration with former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, was commissioned by Cincinnati Opera for their 100th Anniversary and premiered in 2022. The opera, nominated for an International Opera Award, was a New York Times "Critic's Pick." In the 2021-2022 season the New York Philharmonic premiered a new work by Spears also written in collaboration with Smith for countertenor and orchestra. They are currently writing a new opera for Santa Fe Opera ("The Righteous") for premiere in summer 2024.
Spears' opera, "Fellow Travelers", written in collaboration with Greg Pierce, premiered at Cincinnati Opera in 2016 and was subsequently produced at the Prototype Festival (NYC), The Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Minnesota Opera, Madison Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera, Columbus Opera, the Des Moines Metro Opera, the Seagle Festival, and Florida Grand Opera. It will be produced this season at Virginia Opera and at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. It was hailed as "one of the most accomplished new operas I have, seen in recent years" (Chicago Tribune) and an opera that "seems assured of lasting appeal" (The New York Times). The premiere was featured in The New York Times' Best in Classical Music for 2016, and Cincinnati Opera released a commercial CD recording in 2017.
Spears' first opera, "Paul's Case", written in collaboration with Kathryn Walat, was described as a "masterpiece" and a "gem" (New York Observer) with "ravishing music" (The New York Times). It was developed by American Opera Projects and premiered by Urban Arias in 2013. The opera was restaged at the Prototype Festival in New York, and presented in a new production by Pittsburgh Opera in 2014. "Paul's Case" was released on National Sawdust's record label featuring the original cast in 2019. Spears' children's opera "Jason and the Argonauts", also written with Kathryn Walat, premiered in 2016 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was subsequently performed for over 20,000 school children. An opera about space exploration, "O Columbia", written with Royce Vavrek, premiered in 2015 at Houston Grand Opera.
Recent commissions include a new vocal work, "The Bitter Good", commissioned by New York Polyphony — made possible by a 2016 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program grant, as well as "The Tower and the Garden" for a consortium of choirs including The Crossing underwritten by the Ann Stookey Fund for New Music. Spears also recently completed a "Double Trumpet Concerto" for Concert Artists Guild and the soundtrack for the British feature film "Macbeth" (Kit Monkman, director) featuring 18th-century instruments. His "Requiem" was released by New Amsterdam records in 2011.
Other commissions have come from Bang on a Can, Five Boroughs Music Festival, OPERA America, poet Tracy K. Smith, Christopher Williams Dances, the Dalton School Orchestra, pianist Marika Bournaki, the Present Music Ensemble, New Vintage Baroque, the Damask Ensemble, and the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra. He has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Aaron Copland House, the Rauschenberg Residency at Captiva Island, and was a participant and later a composer mentor for The American Opera Project's Composers and the Voice program. He holds degrees in composition from Eastman School of Music (BM), Yale School of Music (MM), and Princeton (PhD). He also studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen. He currently teaches composition and orchestration at Purchase College Conservatory (SUNY). His music is published by Schott Music and Schott PSNY.