Kirsten Jermé  

Engaging Your Audience in the 21st Century: An Interview with Composer-Educator Bruce Adolphe

Kirsten Jermé
March 18, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Bruce Adolphe is a leading American composer, educator, author, performer, and radio personality. He is Resident Lecturer and Director of the Family Concerts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, host of Piano Puzzlers, the weekly radio quiz show presented by Performance Today, and founding Creative Director of The Learning Maestros, a music and interdisciplinary education initiative run jointly with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra founder Julian Fifer. Bruce has taught at Juilliard, New York University, and Yale, and has published several books. His compositions include an array of fun, educational pieces for youth as well as concert works that have been recorded on Telarc, Naxos, CRI, Delos, and Koch labels, and performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Sylvia McNair, the Brentano and Miami String Quartets, and countless orchestras and chamber ensembles. For a complete biography, please visit

I had the pleasure of speaking with Bruce about his wealth of experience in the field of education and outreach. In the interview that follows, Bruce shares his knowledge and background in educational performances - including 18 years in the Education Department at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Full of tips and insights on engaging contemporary audiences of families and school children, Bruce's thoughts will surely help inspire and guide any performer interested in outreach and education - from seasoned professionals to emerging young artists and conservatory students.

To watch Bruce in action at a family concert for La Jolla's SummerFest, click here. A brief interview with Bruce from the 2009 Music@Menlo festival can be viewed here.
- Kirsten Jermé

- Ramon Ricker

Bruce Adoplhe Bruce Adolphe (Click to enlarge.)

Q: Could you please briefly describe some of the outreach and educational programs you have been involved with over the years, highlighting those that you feel have been most noteworthy, rewarding, or influential?

I was Education Director of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 1992 to1998, and then I became Education Advisor to Chamber Music Society. Now I’m a lecturer and I run the Family Concerts, which is not exactly outreach but is related to it. So I’ve been doing education for Lincoln Center going on 18 years now.

In 1984 and 1985 I was Composer-in-Residence for the 92nd Street Y school music programs. My job was to compose music and create curricula to go with it that would somehow engage schools on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I composed works for the New York Chamber Symphony, which was the resident ensemble at the 92nd Street Y. I wrote “kids’ parts” so that the compositions would be scored for orchestra and audience. Audiences were made up of school children from the Upper East Side – sometimes as many as 900 students in the audience. These pieces gave the kids performance roles – singing, shouting, and clapping, for example – roles that had to be worked out carefully at school so that practicing became part of their classroom curriculum. I also created corresponding learning materials for the schools.

In 1992, I wrote an interactive piece for string quartet and kids called “Urban Scenes” for Turtle Bay Music School. This piece has been used in schools and festivals all over the country. In “Urban Scenes,” the rehearsal process is part of the performance, such that kids come up on stage to learn and perform their parts, so families can watch their kids learning on stage.

I consider Piano Puzzlers to be outreach as well, to the general public, because it’s like a game show to which people call in and try to solve a puzzle, discussing what they think a piece is and why. It’s an educational experience and is framed as an education program, to hook people into good listening habits in a fun way.

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