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Faye-Ellen Silverman


Faye-Ellen Silverman

Faye-Ellen Silverman (born October 2, 1947 in New York, New York) is an American composer of contemporary classical music. She is also an author and an educator.

Life and education

Silverman began studying music at the Dalcroze School of Music shortly before her fourth birthday.[1] At thirteen she won the Parents’ League Competition, judged by Leopold Stokowski,[2] leading to her performing her winning composition in Carnegie Hall, and to an appearance on the Sonny Fox TV show Wonderama. She studied piano, clarinet, and some viola, and participated in school bands, orchestras, and choirs. After twelve years at Dalcroze, she then spent a year in the Preparatory Division of the Manhattan School of Music before leaving for college at the end of her junior year of high school. She attended Barnard College, where she studied composition with Otto Luening and took a class in 20th-century music with Henry Cowell. She graduated cum laude and with honors in music after spending her junior year at the Mannes College of Music, where she studied composition with William Sydeman. She went on to get her AM in music composition at Harvard (studying composition with Leon Kirchner and Lukas Foss, counterpoint with David del Tredici, analysis with Earl Kim, and 20th-century techniques with Donald Martino and Harold Shapiro.) While living in Cambridge, she continued her private piano studies with Russell Sherman. She then returned to Columbia University for her DMA, where she studied composition and electronic music with Vladimir Ussachevsky, composition with Jack Beeson, and 20th-century techniques with Chou Wen-chung. In the summer of 2004 Silverman participated in the Center for World Music’s workshop held in Bali. In addition to memberships in ASCAP, CMS, IAWM, and NYWC, she is a Founding Board Member of the International Women's Brass Conference (for which she has served as composer-in-residence), a founding member of Music Under Construction, a composers’ collective, and a founding member of the International Women’s Review Board (ABI),


Silverman became a published composer in her mid-twenties when Seesaw Music Corporation accepted Three Movements for Saxophone Alone. She became a member of ASCAP that same year. Seesaw Music published all of her subsequent compositions until the death of its owner, Raoul Ronson. Subito Music Corporation acquired the catalogue of Seesaw Music in 2006. Seesaw, a division of Subito Music Corporation, has continued to publish Silverman’s works.

Silverman's music has won many awards. These include the selection of her Oboe-sthenics to represent the United States at the International Rostrum of Composers/UNESCO, resulting in international radio broadcasts (1982); winning the Indiana State [Orchestral] Composition Contest, resulting in a performance by the Indianapolis Symphony (1982); a Governor's Citation (1982); and having September 30, 1982 named Faye-Ellen Silverman Day in Baltimore by Mayor Donald Schaeffer. Additionally, she has been the recipient of the National League of American Pen Women’s biennial music award (2002), yearly Standard Awards from ASCAP (now known as ASCAPlus) since 1983, several Meet the Composer grants, and an American Music Center grant. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2007), a resident scholar at the Villa Serbelloni of the Rockefeller Foundation (1987), a Composers' Conference Fellow (1985), a Yaddo Fellow (1984), and a MacDowell Fellow (1982). The Baltimore Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Greater Bridgeport Symphony, the New Orleans Philharmonic, the International Experimental Music Festival in Bourges, ISCM - Korea section, Nieuwe Oogst (Belgium), Grupo Musica Hoje (Brazil), the Corona Guitar Quartet (Denmark), the Monday Evening Concert series (L.A.), and the Aspen Music Festival are among the groups that have performed Dr. Silverman’s works. She has received commissions from the Edinboro University Chamber Players, Seraphim, Philip A. De Simone (in memory of Linda J. Warren), Larry Madison, Thomas Matta, the International Women’s Brass Conference, the Monarch Brass Quintet, the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, the Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates, the Con Spirito woodwind quintet, the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore, and a joint commission from the American Brass Quintet, the Catskill Brass Quintet, the Mt. Vernon Brass Players, and the Southern Brass quintet (under the National Endowment for the Arts Consortium Commissioning Program). She has also created pieces to fill less formal commissions, including a work for flutist Nina Assimakopoulos’s Laurels Project and one for guitarist Volkmar Zimmermann’s choir plus guitar project. Silverman has also been presented on the Composer's Voice Concert Series[3] by Vox Novus of which she is also a member.[4]


Silverman accepted her first teaching job at the Rochdale Village Community Music Center, teaching children piano, during her senior year of college. After several community music school jobs (teaching piano and theory), private teaching (piano and clarinet) and classes involving movement and music, Silverman began her college teaching career as a Teaching Assistant at Columbia University. She served as adjunct faculty at various branches of the City University of New York before taking her first full-time teaching position at Goucher College (1977-1980) where she taught music theory and other courses. She also taught for several years at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, specializing mainly in 20th-century music history at the graduate level; at the Center for Graduate Studies of the Aspen Music Festival; and at the school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Since 1991 she has been on the music history faculty of Mannes College The New School for Music. She joined Mannes College The New School for Music’s Extension Division faculty in 1995, where she teaches music history electives as well as ear training and dictation. In 2000, she also began teaching at The Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, where she currently offers courses in music theatre. She has also given many lectures as a guest composer and as a composer-in-residence. In 2009 these included a residency at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, and lectures in Lithuania, sponsored by the State Department of the United States.


Silverman originally studied piano because she was told that composers need to be pianists, and reached a professional level that enabled her to record for Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), the German public broadcasting institution based in Cologne. Additionally, she has performed at the International Festival of Experimental Music in Bourges, France; the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; and as soloist with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in New York City. She also provides accompaniment to both singers and instrumentalists.

Musical style

Silverman concerns herself with the timbral possibilities of instruments, and works with performers learning from their feedback. While many of her works incorporate virtuosity, she generally writes music that is playable, and that players enjoy sharing with audiences. She employs structure to fit the materials of each piece, as in her use of consonant melody in deliberate contrast with dissonance in the orchestral work "Adhesions". Silverman's formative years were steeped in an environment of ethnic Jewish songs and dances, and this rich heritage is reflected in works like her early opera, “The Miracle of Nemirov”, based on a story by Peretz, and a more recent piece for horn and marimba, “Protected Sleep", written for horn player David Jolley.

Selected writings

  • "Beethoven Today Would Be Exploring New Forms" Guest Comment. The Evening Sun February 28, 1983)
  • "Commissioning a Musical Composition." International Women's Brass Conference Newsletter vol. 1, no. 5 (1994):[page needed]
  • "Gesualdo: Misguided or Inspired?" Current Musicology no. 16 (1973):[page needed]
  • “Otto Luening at 96” The Sonneck Society for American Music Bulletin Vol. XXII, No. 2 Summer 1996: Cover Story
  • Record reviews for The Baltimore Sun - Sunday Arts and Entertainment section (1985)
  • "Report from New York City: Computer Conference, June 1973." Current Musicology no. 17 (1974):[page needed]
  • "The Gregg Smith Singers." The Goucher Quarterly no. 2 (1978)[page needed]

NOTE: In addition to these articles, Silverman wrote the 20th-century section of: Leonie Rosenstiel (gen. ed.), The Schirmer History of Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1982.

Musical works


  • The Miracle of Nemirov, opera in 1 act (1974); libretto by the composer based on a short story by I. L. Peretz.


  • Adhesions for orchestra (1987)
  • Candlelight for piano and orchestra (1988)
  • Just For Fun for chamber orchestra (1994)
  • Madness for narrator and chamber orchestra (1972)
  • Stirrings for chamber orchestra (1979)
  • Winds and Sines for orchestra (1981)

Large chamber ensemble

  • Bridges in Time for tpt, perc, 4 vln, 2 vla, 2 vc, cb (1986)
  • No Strings for fl/picc, ob, bcl, bn, alto sax, hn, tpt, tb, tuba, and 1 perc (1982)
  • Passing Fancies for picc/fl, ob, cl/bcl, bn, hn, tpt, tb, perc, 2 vln, vla, vc, cb (1985)
  • Shadings for fl, ob, alto sax, bn, hn, tuba, 2 perc, vln, vla, cb (1978)


  • Alternating Currents for bass trombone and piano (2002)
  • At the Colour Café for brass choir (4 C tpts, 4 hns, 2 tb, bass tb, tuba, perc) (1997)
  • Dialogue for horn and tuba (1976)
  • Dialogue Continued for horn, trombone and tuba (2000)
  • Double Threat for two trumpets (2002)
  • Edinboro Sonata for tuba and piano. (2009)
  • First Position for trombone and marimba (1992)
  • From Sorrow for trumpet, horn and bass trombone (2001)
  • Kalends for brass quintet (1981)
  • Meetings for 2 euphoniums and 2 tubas (2003)
  • Protected Sleep for horn and marimba (2006)
  • Quantum Quintet for brass quintet (1982)
  • Stories for Our Time for trumpet and piano, (2007)
  • Triple Threat for 3 trumpets (2001)
  • Trysts for 2 trumpets (1982)
  • Zigzags for tuba (1988)


  • Conversations for alto flute and clarinet (1975)
  • Conversations Continued for alto flute and clarinet (2011)
  • Layered Lament for English horn and electronic tape (1983); Tape realized at the University of Utah Electronic Music Studio.
  • Oboe–sthenics for oboe (1980)
  • On Four for electronic valve instrument, oboe/English horn, and piano 4 hands (1983)
  • Restless Winds for woodwind quintet (1986)
  • Speaking Alone for flute (1976)
  • Taming the Furies for solo flute (2003)
  • Three Movements for Saxophone Alone for soprano saxophone (1971)
  • Windscape for woodwind quintet (1977)
  • Xenium for flute and piano (1992)


  • Let's Play for string quartet (2007)
  • Azure Skies for violin, cello and harp (1993)
  • Duplex Variations violin and piano (1995)
  • Memories for viola (1974)
  • Obsessions for cello and piano (1999)
  • Paula’s Song for string quartet (1996)
  • Reconstructed Music for violin, cello and piano (2002)
  • Speaking Together for violin and piano (1981)
  • String Quartet (Untitled) (1976)
  • Translations for violin and cello (2004)
  • Trial Balance for double bass (1999 )
  • Volcanic Songs for harp (1983)

Chamber music

  • Connections for clarinet, cello and marimba (1994)
  • For Him for flute, cello and vibraphone (1975)
  • Hollowed Refrains for oboe, violin and piano (1987)
  • Shifting Colors for guitar, percussion, double bass, and piano (2012)
  • Troubled Repose for flute, viola and double bass (1998)
  • Unquiet Dreams for clarinet, violin and piano (1992)
  • Yet for Him for flute, cello and piano (1980)


  • Fleeting Moments for piano (1984); (2011, 2012) 11’ First movement commissioned by the Phoenix Concerts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
  • Gliffs for piano (1984); Influenced by the dance techniques of Pina Bausch.
  • Settings for piano (1978)
  • Two Bagatelles for piano
  1. Two/Three (1996)
  2. Three/Four (2007)


  • Pregnant Pauses for guitar quartet (2005)
  • Processional for guitar (1996)
  • 3 Guitars (1980)


  • Memories and Alterations solo marimba (2008)
  • Of Wood and Skins for percussion duo (2003)
  • Pas de Deux for marimba and piano (1991)
  • Three by Three for percussion trio (1979)


  • A Free Pen, cantata for narrator, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, chorus (8 singers) and chamber ensemble (1990); libretto compiled by the composer from texts by Socrates, Spinoza, Zenger, and others
  • K. 1971 for narrators, tenor, bass, female chorus, chamber ensemble and electronic tape (1972); based on Kafka’s The Trial, added texts from the Kafka Diaries, Balzac, and the Chinese poet Wen Yiduo.
  • For Showing Truth for female chorus a cappella (1972, revised 1978); text by John Keats
  • Hymn of Compassionate Love for soloists, choir, trumpet, timpani, and strings (2005); Biblical text: I Corintheans 13
  • The Wings of Night for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, SATB choir, and guitar. (2008); Texts by Shakespeare, Teasdale, Dickinson, and Colborne-Veel, illustrate the contrasting aspects of night.



External links

  • Faye-Ellen Silverman's Home Page
  • Subito Music Online Store
  • Manhattan Stories Label (Albany Records)
  • Silverman's bio at Mannes
  • Silverman at New World Records (pdf)

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