Composer and pianist, Sean Friar (b. 1985) grew up in Los Angeles, where his first musical experiences were in rock and blues piano improvisation. While his focus soon shifted toward classical music, his composition has always kept in touch with the energy and communicative directness of those musical roots, now along with an expansive and exploratory classical sensibility that is “powerfully engaging and incredibly fun” (I Care if You Listen) and “refreshingly new and solidly mature… and doesn’t take on airs, but instead takes joy in the process of discovery – in the continual experience of suspense and surprise – that good classical music has always championed.” (Slate Magazine).
He thrives on composing for ensembles both within and outside the realm of traditional concert music, and his recent commissions run the gamut from works for orchestra and string quartet to a junk car percussion concerto, music for laptop orchestra, and a microtonal piano duo. His music has been performed throughout the world by ensembles including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble (Germany), the American Composers Orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, the Redlands Symphony, Argento Ensemble, So Percussion, Crash Ensemble (Ireland), Ensemble Klang (Netherlands), Camerata Pacifica, New York Youth Symphony, Alter Ego (Italy), Orkest de Ereprijs (Netherlands), Psappha (UK), Darmstadt Staatsorchester (Germany), ensemble Interface (Germany), Newspeak, Janus, Brightwork, Line C3 Percussion, Quintet of the Americas, Formalist Quartet, Matmos, members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and percussionist Glen Velez, Festivals featuring his music include Aspen, Bang on a Can, Bowdoin, Cabrillo, Carlsbad, Cresc. Biennal für Moderne Musike, GAUDEAMUS Muziekweek, International Young Composers Meeting, Klangspuren International Ensemble Modern Academy, La Pietra Forum for New Music, Norfolk, Nuova Consonanza, Nuovi Spazi Musicali, RadialSystem, SONiC, the Venice Biennale, and the World Saxophone Congress.
A winner of the Rome Prize, Friar’s honors include the Aaron Copland Award; a Fromm Foundation Commission; Charles Ives Scholarship; a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant; four ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards; Lee Ettelson Award; First Music Award from the New York Youth Symphony; a CAP Grant and a MetLife Creative Connections Grant from New Music USA; Renee B. Fisher Award; as well as awards from eighth blackbird, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, SCI/ASCAP, and the Hawaii Institute of Contemporary Music.
Recordings of his music can be found on New Amsterdam Records (NOW Ensemble, Awake), Innova Recordings (Mariel Roberts, nonextraneous sounds), Darling Records (Darmstadt Staatsorchester, Soli fan tutti), TRANSIT’s self-released TRANSIT EP, the Brass Project’s Cityscaping, and Crescent Phase Records (Madera Quintet, Five at Play.) Friar’s current projects include an album-length piece, Before and After, for NOW Ensemble, music for solo piano, and a microtonal piano duet for pianists Vicki Ray and Aron Kallay.
Friar is Assistant Professor of Practice in Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music, where he is also Director of Graduate Studies in Analysis and Co-Chair of the Thornton Faculty Council. He previously taught composition at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. In Fall 2020, he will become Chair of Composition at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. He is also Director of the Composition program at the Sunset ChamberFest Summer Music Festival in Los Angeles and Director of the Summer Composition Intensive at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. He received a Ph.D. and M.F.A. in Music Composition from Princeton University, where he held the Harold W. Dodds Honorific Fellowship and the Roger Sessions Fellowship. He graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 2007 with B.A.’s in Music and Psychology. His principal teachers have been Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dmitri Tymoczko, and Paul Chihara.