NEAL KIRKWOOD BIO

Neal Kirkwood is a composer, pianist, arranger and bandleader living in New York City. He holds a master’s degree in composition from Mannes College of Music, where he studied with Charles Jones. He was a charter member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, where he studied with Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Album. He is currently on the faculties of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and Third Street Music School in New York City.

Kirkwood has composed music for wide range of instrumental and vocal ensembles. He has written over 200 works for his jazz ensembles. Jazz ensembles directed by Neal Kirkwood include the Neal Kirkwood Big Band, the Chromatic Persuaders, and the Neal Kirkwood Octet. His output includes compositions for jazz ensembles, chamber ensembles, orchestra, solo voice, and chorus. Mr. Kirkwood has received numerous commissions, including a 2007 New York State Music Fund commission for “Village Songs." This song cycle for children’s chorus and a ten-piece jazz ensemble uses lyrics drawn from the writings of 4th grade students in New York public schools. In 2000 he received a New York State Council for the Arts commission for “The Future of Futurism," a five movement work for jazz orchestra. Other commissions include “Voices" for children’s chorus (2008) for the Children’s Aid Society chorus. “The Mirrored Self" and “The Enchanted Realm" were commissioned by the Belgian ensemble Octurn. His composition for jazz orchestra “Goldberg’s Variations" was winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Competition in 1996. His "Five Choruses from Mexico City Blues" for jazz chorus and big band was premiered in April 2012 at Kutztown University.

In addition to his activities as a bandleader and composer, Kirkwood has performed and recorded with Pony Poindexter, Bobby Previte, Lindsey Horner, Phillip Johnston, Mike Clark, and has toured with vocalists Michel Hermon, Chris Connor, Abby Lincoln and Bobby McFerrin.

Mr. Kirkwood has also been deeply involved performing and composing for some of New York’s most creative and experimental theater ensembles. For the last 12 years he has composed scores for Ralph Lee’s Mettawee Theater. He has contributed to many of playwright Jim Neu’s productions, often in collaboration with saxophonist Harry Mann. He has also worked with Otrabanda Company, the Talking Band, Anne Bogart, Joseph Chaiken, and Louise Smith.

He has released four CDs as a leader: “The Neal Kirkwood Octet," “The Chromatic Persuaders," and “Extrospection" on Timescraper Records, and a solo piano CD “Time’s Circle" on Present Eye Music.