John Orfe’s music has been performed worldwide. He has fulfilled commissions from the Sacrum Profanum Festival (Krakow, Poland), the Jedediah Foundation (MA), Illinois Wesleyan University, Choral Arts Ensemble (MN), Two Rivers Chorale (MN), Music Institute of Chicago, Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Diocese of Peoria, Peoria Symphony Orchestra, and numerous chamber, choral, orchestras and festivals. Ensembles that have performed his music include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Spokane Symphony Orchestra, Mannes American Composers Ensemble, the Mizzou University Singers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign combined Glee Clubs, and new music ensembles at the North Carolina School of the Arts, UIUC, and Bowling Green State University. His music has earned praise from The New York Times, LAWeekly, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Die Welt, Berkshire Fine Arts, and Hamburger Abendblatt. He is a winner of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, a Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship, the William Schuman and Boudleaux Bryant Prizes from BMI, fourteen Standard Awards and the Morton Gould Award from ASCAP, the Heckscher Prize from Ithaca College, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and first prizes in national competitions held by NACUSA, the Pacific Chorale, Choral Arts Ensemble, Eastern Trombone Workshop, and New Music Delaware. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from the University of Rochester, as well as Master of Music, Master of Musical Arts, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yale School of Music. He served as the Peoria Symphony Orchestra’s first-ever Composer-in- Residence and was honored by InterBusiness Magazine as one of Peoria’s “40 Leaders Under Forty.” Prior to his full-time appointment at Illinois Wesleyan University, he received Bradley University’s Presidential Appreciation Award. Music of Dr. Orfe appears on the Centaur, Delos, and Nonesuch labels.
As piano soloist and collaborative artist, Orfe has earned critical acclaim for his interpretations of five centuries of keyboard repertoire ranging from the canonic to the arcane. As the core pianist and a founding member of critically-acclaimed new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, he has performed in Carnegie Hall, Miller Theatre, Roulette, the World Financial Center, and Symphony Space in New York; Disney Hall, Mondavi Hall, and Hertz Hall in California; and music series and festivals across the United States, Europe, and Asia, including Beijing, Nanning, Seoul, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Berlin, Bremen, Bolzano, Cork, Hamburg, London and Krakow. The New York Times praised his “virtuosic ardor” in performances of György Ligeti’s Piano Études, and icareifyoulisten.com hailed his performance of György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto as “effortless.” His solo piano transcription of John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine was hailed as “a knockout” by the Boston Globe and “breathtaking” by the San Francisco Chronicle, which also praised his “hypervirtuosic” performances of Conlon Nancarrow. Orfe gave the US premiere of Steve Reich’s “Piano Counterpoint” at Stanford University’s Bing Hall in March 2013 as well as the work’s East Coast premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2013. His sold-out Zankel Hall performance of György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto with Alarm Will Sound in March 2018 was praised by Berkshire Fine Arts, Concerto.net, NewYorkClassicalReview.com, and the New York Times, which called it “magnificent throughout” and “twenty-five of the best minutes of music heard all year.” He has recorded on the Canteloupe, Nonesuch, and Parma labels.
John Orfe – composer, pianist
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