Myra Melford

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013

Berkeley, CA

Originally from Chicago and classically trained, Myra Melford is a composer with a singular, kinetic, and lyrical voice in piano improvisation. Chicago blues, architecture, jazz, and experimental music inspire her work. She has released over 40 recordings, including 21 as a leader or co-leader. She is a Guggenheim Fellow (2013), an Alpert Award in the Arts recipient (2012), and has received grants from NPN Creation Fund and Chamber Music America. She is a Professor of Music at UC Berkeley and was the Artistic Director for the 2015 New Frequencies Fest: Jazz@YBCA in San Francisco. Recent projects include a new recording with clarinetist, Ben Goldberg, Dialogue (2016), a critically acclaimed recording by her quintet, Snowy Egret (2015) which debuted at the Village Vanguard in March 2016, and the solo piano recording, Life Carries Me This Way (2013). In March 2015, she presented a 25-year retrospective of her work at The Stone in New York City.

  • Photo Credit: Michael Wilson
  • Myra Melford- Language of Dreams (2013):
    Language of Dreams (2013)
  • "Attic," Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12, 2013)
  • Myra Melford- “The Guest House,” The Guest House (Yellowbird, 2012):
    “The Guest House,” The Guest House (Yellowbird, 2012)
  • Photo Credit: Michael Wilson

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

My life's work is about going as deeply as I can into the creation of my own music and the cultivation of my own voice as a composer/performer/improviser. I feel most alive when I'm actively engaged in making music. I'm continually driven to search for new forms of expression, to find beauty in new sounds and new ways of organizing those sounds. Through this process, I am able to discover more about who I am, what I value, and how to offer that to others. This quest leads me to undertake many different kinds of projects and to play in and write for many different ensembles. This has been the driving focus—and most compelling creative challenge—as long as I've been pursuing music.

I strive to make all of my musical and life experience coherent internally—such that that coherence is reflected in the music—and to offer an intimate shared experience with my ensemble mates and the audience. I always try to create an open collaborative ethos that welcomes each individual’s personal vocabularies, perspectives, and engagement; and to convey a sense of heart, hope, and aspiration to my audience—a sense that they can fulfill their aspirations, too.