An outdoor headshot of Joshua, in a gray suitcoat with a red shirt and a gray tie.

JOSHUA BAERWALD

(he/him/his)

Composer-artist, community member, learner, teacher, facilitator

This site is a reflection of me, meaning it will change, grow, hold contradictions, and mirror my lifelong process of learning. Thanks for being here.

 

artist statement

         Most art forms can feed the soul, but they cannot free us from hunger*. They cannot house us. They cannot reduce carbon emissions*. What they can do, however, is help us envision a future where these are no longer concerns. They can give us the power to see what a world without poverty would look like*. They can help us understand how liberation and freedom look beyond the contemporary American understanding of freedom as individualized.

         My main focus in exploring these issues is through narrative driven structures in the context of opera, audio-visual work, and music with underlying text from speeches, poems, or interviews. In 2017, my first opera, The Process (based on Kafka's novel Der Prozeß) was premiered at Florida State University with the FSU Opera Department. I was hoping to follow the danger and stress of living in a surveillance state*. In 2020, I finished my second large-scale vocal dramatic work, Medusa, for three high-voice singers, which uses the Medusa myth to analyze self-identity after trauma*.

         These problems and topics are what fascinates me as an artist. How can I use narrative and art to pursue self-discovery, address existing toxic institutions within and outside of my life, encourage community building, and help audiences and myself imagine liberating practices for the future? While my main focus is in opera and audio-visual work, I continue to write works for ensembles and soloists without text, but even these are often driven to answer the same questions. Through taking risks, listening, and interacting with my communities in their many complexities, I can learn what works well, what doesn't, and how to move forward. This is my lifelong goal as artist - to continue learning how I can tap into art's potential for developing sustainable, loving, and significant change.

Yes, food is art and can free us from hunger, but y'all know what I'm getting at here

I am particularly grateful to a number of Black women and femme writers who have helped me see the value in this (such as Octavia Butler, adrienne maree brown, and N.K. Jemisin, to name a few)

I'm looking at you especially, Non-fungible tokens

To be frank I failed in a lot of ways, but was fortunate to have a lot of lessons to take from it.

Medusa was scheduled to have a reading in Summer 2020. As we all know, that didn't end up happening so, verdict is still out on the success of this one. I feel good about it though!

biography

 

         Joshua Baerwald is an artist who uses music, video, and drama to address themes of toxic institutions in our communities, the shift from binaries to spectra, and the power of dedicated imagination. He creates music with the hopes of inspiring social change through these themes and challenging audiences to envision a future more liberating and community-centric. His first opera, The Process, was premiered in May 2017 with the Florida State University Opera Department. His second large-scale dramatic vocal work was finished last April and was scheduled to have a reading in the Summer of 2020 before being cancelled due to COVID. The work uses the Medusa myth to analyze self-identity after trauma.

         In addition to being an artist, Joshua has been active as a member of his community. He has provided composition lessons and taught classes on composition for three years through various fellowships. Outside of the music community, Josh is an active participant in mutual aid work and uses his previous experience as a leadership program facilitator and coordinator to inform and facilitate current discussions around issues stemming from masculinity and whiteness. Joshua received his B.M. in Music Composition at Florida State University, his M.M. in Music Composition at the University of Louisville as a Bomhard Fellow, and is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the Hartt School. His mentors include Anthony R. Green, Kyle Grimm, Steve Rouse, Kimcherie Lloyd, Daron Hagen, Joey Mechavich, and Clifton Callender, to name a few.

selected works

 

Please contact the composer for access to scores​.

Information about pieces can (and likely will) be updated over time.

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includes electronics

includes prompts for reflection/community discussion

not yet performed

click on the underlined text of a piece to view more information about the work

Opera

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Chamber/Art Song

  • "The Thorn," a Song Cycle for Low Voice and Piano

  • "Death By Water" for Baritone and Chamber Ensemble

Vocal

Solo

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Chamber (4-10 players)

Large Scale (11+ players)

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Flex Ensemble

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  • Communiscope

  • Cello Concerto (Two Versions)

  • Trumpet Concerto

  • Two Miniatures for Orchestra

  • Palimpsest, for brass quintet

  • Snapshot, for sextet

  • ...mostly, for string quartet

  • Son of Ahab, for tuba and piano

  • The Painter for piano trio

  • 6 pieces for Saxophone and Electronics

  • Enough I, for solo cello

  • First Grade, for Trombone and Electronics

  • Gray, for cello and electronics

Instrumental

Electronics/Multi-Disciplinary

Electronics

Multi-Disciplinary

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teaching/education

 

Teaching Experience

  • Tutoring through Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Program (01/2021 - Current)

    • Teach various levels of math including the SAT math sections​

  • Community Division Fellowship through Hartt Community Division (08/2020-05/2021)​

    • Gave composition lessons every two weeks to a number of middle + high school students ​

    • Graded assignments by community members participating in a music theory class led by Dr. Jessica Rudman

    • Wrote 6 educational pieces for saxophone and electronics for middle + high school students as well as a communal work to be performed on Zoom with a facilitated discussion after

  • Youth Performing Arts School Composition Class through University of Louisville's Bomhard Fellowship (09/2018-03/2020)​

    • Co-led a weekly composition course for high school students at the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, with a cumulative concert at the end of the semester premiering works written by the students.​

Philosophy

Learning to create as an artist is a vulnerable, complex, lifelong process. My approach as teacher is context-driven, so each student's lessons are independently crafted + curated to them specifically. Growth as artist is directly related to growth as a person, so my approach to teaching is multi-faceted, includes but is not limited to discussions, engagement, and work with:​

  • Composition craft (orchestration, counterpoint, form, etc.)

  • Understanding, loving, expressing, and liberating the "self"

    • This practice is mostly addressed through engagement with outside material such as videos, books, and articles.

  • Larger historical trends in music

  • Music's relationship to larger cultural moments and issues historically and currently

  • Music's relationship to the larger art world

  • The limitations of Western music and how we can (and why we should) expand our worldview.

  • Engraving and its relationship to communication and composition

  • The use of electronics

  • How our identity as artist relates to social media, cultural trends, and finances

Again, each student's curriculum is specifically curated for them, so some of these topics will apply more than others depending on age, experience, and goals.

Do these topics interest you? Do you want to explore these ideas and skills further? Please feel free to email me! We can schedule a consultation to discuss whether we would be a good fit. Lesson costs are on a sliding scale.

Last updated May 2021

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