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Daniel Roumain

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Professor of Practice, MY
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 0405
Biography: 

Daniel Bernard Roumain’s acclaimed work as a composer, performer, educator, and activist spans more than two decades, and he has been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. “About as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (NYT), DBR is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations span Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover and Lady Gaga.

Known for his signature violin sounds infused with myriad electronic, urban, and African-American music influences, DBR takes his genre-bending music beyond the proscenium. He is a composer of chamber, orchestral, and operatic works; has won an Emmy for Outstanding Musical Composition for his collaborations with ESPN; featured as keynote performer at technology conferences; and created large scale, site-specific musical events for public spaces. DBR earned his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan and is currently Institute Professor and Professor of Practice At Arizona State University.

An avid arts industry leader, DBR serves on the board of directors of the League of American Orchestras, Association of Performing Arts Presenters and Creative Capital, the advisory committee of the Sphinx Organization, and was co-chair of 2015 and 2016 APAP Conferences.

DBR has most recently created the musical score for The Just and The Blind, a collaboration with spoken word artist and writer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, commissioned by Carnegie Hall; and a new work for Washington State University’s Symphonic Band, Falling Black Into The Sky, based on the work of the artist James Turrell and his “light work” at Roden Crater. DBR is currently creating Cipher, a new pocket opera for the Philadelphia Boys Choir, with a libretto by Joseph, based on the incarceration of young, Black boys.

Education: 

Doctorate. Music Composition, University of Michigan

Research Interests: 

Living in NYC since 1997, for 18 years, I have been creating and performing in the Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix area. The Fall 2020 semester begins my fifth consecutive year of creative activity, teaching, research, and service at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts as an Institute Professor and Professor of Practice. Since 2002, I have been presented by, and in a deep and on-going collaboration with, ASU GAMMAGE, creating work from Rosie’s House to Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church to Gammage Auditorium, working side-by-side with the children of Arizona, the composer, Philip Glass, or our ASU Symphony Orchestra. I am most excited to continue that work within HIDA programs and offerings across the ASU campus, and in communities across the United States and internationally, in constant and innovative on-line offerings; on campus classes and projects; recruitment of minority students to our campus; and immersive live performances.

Research Activity: 

Since 2016, I continue to receive several national and international commissions for new works. These commissions are a critical aspect of my creative work and research, and are innovative in their use of contemporary, Black musical vernaculars within concert music. My research focuses on identifying and building new audiences and community within recurring themes of social justice, race, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Hip-Hop Dances and Prayers for Solo Violin, is a new work for solo violin for Rachel Barton Pine, a world-class, virtuoso performer and educator. This work bridges an important gap in the solo violin cannon of work between the work of Bach and music of contemporary America by using elements of hip-hop and rock music within the score.  Songs For The Alone, a new work  (and second commission) for solo piano for the talented and innovative pianist Eunbi Kim, draws from rhythm & blues and soul music to create a new sound and musical texture for the instrument. The link is a wonderful interview with Kim in which she discusses our first collaboration, It Feels Like a Mountain Chasing Me, an exploration of her relationship with her Korean parents on themes of immigration and identity.

I composed the score for a new opera, We Shall Not Be Moved, on a commission from Opera Philadelphia (PA), the Apollo Theater (NYC), and Hackney Empire Theater (London). The opera is drawn from the MOVE bombing event of 1985, between members of the MOVE organization and Philadelphia law enforcement, but is an original story of 5 run away children learning from the ghosts of children burned in the fire. The creative team consisted of Marc Bamuthi Joseph as the librettist, Bill T. Jones as the director, choreographer and dramaturge, and featured a diverse cast of singers and dancers of color (rare on opera stages). The opera was a critical and commercial success, running for several sold-out performances, including performances for children and non-traditional opera audiences, and was lauded by Opera News Magazine and The New York Times:

           We Shall Not Be Moved,” she said, represented “such an authentic way to make art. Quite frankly, this is not just the future of  opera, but it is the past, present and future of African-American cultural expression, too.”

        —Kamilah Forbes, Executive Director of The Apollo Theater

On May 10, 2020, We Shall Not Be Moved will be presented online in a world premiere streaming event on local, Philadelphia public television and on an international YouTube broadcast, as part of the Digital Festival O.

Additional new work commissions included Feeling Black Into the Sky, commissioned by Washington State University. This work was a composer’s response to the work of James Turrell and his Roden Crater project. Cipher for children’s chorus, spoken-word artist and chamber orchestra, commissioned by the Philadelphia Boys Choir and performed by the ASU Symphony Orchestra during the concert Towards A More Perfect Union at ASU Gammage Auditorium. 24-Hour Protest Song  for solo violin and 200 community members, commissioned by The Flynn Center, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and the UVM Lane Series, was composed in protest of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and consisted of me playing the violin non-stop for 24 hours, in constant collaboration with members of the Burlington community.

Forthcoming new work commissions include Redemption Too, At Least Some, a new multi-disciplinary theater piece for the Apollo Theater between the aerial dance troupe BANDALOOP, local musicians, a spoken-word artist, and me suspended and in-flight with the dancers.  Riots and Prayers, a new work for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. The world-renowned conductor, Maestro Sarah Ioannides, will lead the performance. The work involves “Town Hall Cadenzas” that will allow members of the audience to speak (on mic) about any issue or subject that they feel needs to be heard, in collaboration with the orchestra, as it underscores their words.

The world-renown Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned a new opera for their 2022-2023 concert season. The collaboration will include a libretto by the MacArthur Award-winning actor and writer, Anna Deavere Smith, who has been nominated for Pulitzer and Tony awards, and will be directed by MacArthur Award-winning director Yuval Sharon.

I have performed in clubs, concert halls, and in performing arts centers internationally, and created special projects for online and social media audiences. These performances are an integral aspect of my creative work and research in that they allow for real-time responses from a wide-spectrum of diverse audiences from representative communities that both support and challenge the work of artists and academics.

Dancers, Dreamers, and Presidents is an orchestral work that was performed by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the legendary Maestro Keith Lockhart.

The work takes its title and inspiration from a 21-second dance shared by then Senator Barack Obama and talk show host Ellen Degeneres. Here was a young, mixed-race, heterosexual man dancing with a young, white, lesbian woman, all on national television. Could this scene have happened in the 1960s, 1970s, or even 1980s? This work responds musically to that historic moment.

The Just and The Blind is an evening-length work performed by spoken-word artist, hip-hop dancer, and violin, that was presented by Carnegie Hall and at The REACH at The Kennedy Center. The work illuminates the unseen and under-heard experiences of incarcerated youth and the realities their families face. Centered on the humanity of the historically marginalized, The Just and the Blind provides a framework for the unique voices of the community, striving to humanize the Black and Brown children that are enmeshed in it. The performances were a critical success, receiving an important review of distinction in The New York Times:

            “But it was the raw, cry from the soul new work, “The Just and the Blind,” that has stayed with me from my marathon. Part of Carnegie’s 125 Commissions Project, begun in honor of the hall’s 125th birthday in 2016, it’s a 60-minute piece by the spoken-word poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, with music by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Though it includes a dancer (Drew Dollaz), a vocalist (Somi) and projected animations and videos, the work is driven by Mr. Joseph’s stinging, brilliant words and is structured as a series of vignettes. Mr. Joseph voices the thoughts of a black father who admits to being afraid when, at night, he walks past young black men who look the same age as his son. Every day, he tells his son, the boy’s main mission in life is “to come home to me.” Stretches of Mr. Roumain’s score, which he mostly plays on piano and violin, are alternately jazzy and modernist. A rhythmically frenetic section will segue into a breezily cool passage. But Mr. Roumain knows when to pull the music back so Mr. Joseph’s searing words can do their work. Is this classical music? Perhaps not by traditional definitions. But it speaks to where Carnegie has come that it fit in at the hall just as well as the Vienna Philharmonic.”

            —Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic, The New York Times

My project-based learning class DBR LABspace, in partnership with DBR LAB,  participated in 3-day immersive, on-site visit to New York City performing arts organizations and venues and culminating in an evening-length performance at National Sawdust. DBR LABspace is a collective and experience in which contributors (we refrain from using the words teacher and student), working side-by-side with me, design musical, spoken word, beat-boxed, theatre, and dance pieces that are published, performed and toured. Throughout the development process DBR LABspace members meet and have creative conversations with established artists in the field including luminaries such as Helga Davis, Ron K Brown, Martha Gonzalez, members of Anda Union, Skyler Badenoch (CEO of the Hope for Haiti Foundation) and many more.  This year’s DBR LABspace class is presenting their work online due to the coronavirus pandemic, and has received this preview article of note from ASU NOW:

       “Adapting my honors thesis performance to the digital platform was not a choice, but a necessity,” said Waller. “Technology does not stop us from telling stories, from connecting with one another, from seeing one another. The stories needed to be told and the dances needed to be danced. People were craving being in space together, and I knew my responsibility was to create and hold that space. So, my dancers and I went to work, and through the process we discovered so much deep knowledge about ourselves, about intimacy and about community."

            —Maggie Waller, undergraduate student, School of Film, Dance and Theater

I made my Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance debut in my Voodoo Violin Concerto with the legendary conductor Marin Alsop. The work is an exploration of my Haitian cultural roots and ancestry. A chamber version of the concerto was included in an online performance by TURNmusic, a Vermont-based new music group, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Towards A More Perfect Union, ASU Gammage in collaboration with the ASU Symphony Orchestra, presented a theatrical, symphonic concert—with film, song, and spoken word—highlighting new works and powerful compositions that spoke to the challenges of our time. The works performed were by Tamar-kali (Mudbound — an Academy Award Nominated Film), Joel Thompson (ASU Projecting All Voices Fellow), Carlos Simon (Sundance/Time Warner Composer Fellow), Grammy-winners Joan Tower and Martha Gonzalez, renowned spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and me (Daniel Bernard Roumain; We Shall Not Be Moved — New York Times top 10 classical new works). The concert was an examination of the lack of equity and diversity in American cultural life, and challenged the preconceptions of a traditional orchestral experience by creating a thorough and provocative evening of new, commissioned music, enveloped by poetry, theatrical lighting, and amplified sound.

 

Fall 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
HDA 494Special Topics
MUP 494Special Topics
MUP 590Reading and Conference
MUP 598Special Topics
HDA 598Special Topics
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
MUP 111Studio Instruction
MUP 499Individualized Instruction
MTC 499Individualized Instruction
HDA 583Fieldwork
MUP 590Reading and Conference
MTC 590Reading and Conference
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
MUP 111Studio Instruction
MUP 494Special Topics
HDA 494Special Topics
MTC 499Individualized Instruction
HDA 583Fieldwork
MUP 590Reading and Conference
MUP 598Special Topics
HDA 598Special Topics
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
MUP 494Special Topics
HDA 494Special Topics
MTC 499Individualized Instruction
MUP 598Special Topics
HDA 598Special Topics
Honors / Awards: