Distinguished GWYOA Alumni

The 2016-17 Greater Westchester Youth Orchestras Association Distinguished Alumni Award

(Photo Credit, Richard Bowditch)

Honoree: Derek Bermel

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity, and his engagement with other musical cultures, has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language. Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, he is also Director of Copland House's Cultivate! emerging composers institute, and Curator of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music (Bowdoin I International Music Festival) . Bermel is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series spotlighting the composer as performer and has received commissions including Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, New Jersey and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Saint Paul and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestras, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri and JACK String Quartets, Music from Copland House and Music from China, De Ereprijs, and SKO/Schoenberg Ensemble and Veenfabriek (Netherlands), and violinist Midori. As a clarinetist, Bermel's acclaimed performances have taken him to major stages across the globe as orchestral soloist, chamber musician, and collaborations with a dizzyingly eclectic array of artists. His many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships and Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, and Meet the Composer; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri, and he served as Artist in Residence at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study for four years.

Artist Notes:

In August 2001, I traveled to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to study the Thracian folk style with clarinetist Nikola Iliev. Thracia is a region in Bulgaria which stretches over the Rodopi mountains and extends into Modern Greece. I spent several hours each day transcribing and memorizing the songs, Nikola’s nephews Emil and Misha assisting by translating from Bulgarian to French or English. I used this material as the basis for an orchestra piece for the Westchester Philharmonic, “Thracian Echoes”. In this piece, I bent the original Bulgarian modes into a whole tone melodic context while retaining much of the original rhythm and contour, especially the tendency to sustain tied mordents over the barline in odd meters.

In 2003, I was asked to perform a recital as part of a residency during the Seminarios of the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. I revisited the material upon which I based the orchestra piece, and began experimenting with phrases from several faster, instrumental songs –Paydushko Xhoro (5/8), Mizhka Richenitza (7/8), Daychovo Xhoro (9/8), and Krivo Pazardshishko Xhoro (11/16) – once again, altering the modes. The piece begins in the lower register of the clarinet, and moves through the songs, increasing in velocity, range and the complexity of rhythmic groupings as it progresses. I thought of “Thracian Sketches” as a minimalist form, and I dedicated it to John Adams, who had conducted my clarinet concerto the previous year in Los Angeles.” – Derek Bermel

The 2015-2016 GWYOA Westchester Youth Symphony Distinguished Alumni



Award Honoree: Dale Lewis


Dale Lewis recently became Director of the Arts Reach Fund following 32 years as Executive Director of Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, a 1,500-student summer arts school and concert festival on Long Island. During these years Mr. Lewis introduced more than 30 new programs of study, guided 5 successful capital campaigns, and presented more than 200 of the world’s great artists at the Center’s Festival Concerts.

Mr. Lewis is especially proud of his decades-long association with GWYOA. As a student cellist he was a member of both the Junior Strings and the Youth Symphony. As a professional musician he was appointed conductor of the Junior Strings in 1976, a position he held for 18 years. He became a close friend and colleague of the Youth Symphony’s great conductors, Victor Lionti and Vincent Lionti, and of Bernard Klinger and Jacqueline Stern as well. In recent years he and Vincent Lionti have again worked together as colleagues at the Usdan Center.

In addition to his work at Arts Reach, Mr. Lewis is a founding Trustee of Long Island Arts Alliance, and is a member of the New York State Education Department’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts. He holds service awards from The Kennedy Center’s National Education Committee, the Art Supervisors Association, and now, with great pride, from GWYOA.

GWYOA Alumni Rosters

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