The Aspen Contemporary Ensemble was formed to address the training and performance needs of composers of contemporary repertoire. Members of the ensemble are selected by audition for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and percussion. This basic ensemble became the standard instrumentation for hundreds of compositions in the twentieth century, inspired by the scoring of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire. The group appears regularly throughout the summer playing the energetic and challenging new chamber music of the world’s leading artists. The ensemble also provides concert performances of new works composed in Aspen by students in the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies. These performances are an essential element in the training of composers, who must experience their compositions firsthand with a live ensemble to complete the act of creation. The Aspen Music Festival and School is the United States’s premier classical music festival, presenting more than 400 musical events during its eight-week summer season in Aspen. The institution draws top classical musicians from around the world to this Colorado mountain retreat for an unparalleled combination of performances and music education. Many events are free and seating on the David Karetsky Music Lawn and in the Music Garden is always free. More than 630 music students from more than 40 states and more than 40 countries come each summer to play in five orchestras, sing, conduct, compose, and study with approximately 130 renowned artist-faculty members. Students represent the field’s best talent; many have already begun their professional careers, and others are on the cusp. Renowned alumni include violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Gil Shaham; pianists Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han, and Joyce Yang; conductors Marin Alsop, James Conlon, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin, and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng, and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Danielle de Niese, Sasha Cooke, Renée Fleming, and Dawn Upshaw; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele; and bassist Edgar Meyer.
Learn more about Aspen Music Festival and School’s Aspen Contemporary Ensemble