Fascinated by the art of storytelling and capturing human expression, American composer/pianist Alex Berko draws from a wide array of musical and worldly influences to create dynamic and deeply expressive works of sonic art.
Fascinated by the art of storytelling and capturing human expression, American composer/pianist Alex Berko (b. 1995) draws from a wide of array of musical and worldly influences to create dynamic and deeply expressive works of sonic art.
Berko’s music has been widely performed throughout the U.S. and abroad by orchestras, choirs, and chamber ensembles. His recent collaborators include the Monterey Symphony, Cape Symphony, Bloomington Symphony, Donald Nally, The Crossing, NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Cathedral Choral Society and the Washington National Cathedral, Del Sol String Quartet, Boston New Music Initiative, and jazz/folk singer Kate McGarry.
Most recently, Berko was selected as the winner of the 2019 American Prize in Choral Music. Another project in collaboration with composer Daniel Bayot, director Ryan Radefeld, and the Lebron James Family Foundation landed Berko a regional Emmy Award for his music. His work has also received national recognition from the Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI), American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP; three-time Morton Gould Finalist), American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI; two-time Student Composer Awards Finalist), and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Additionally, he has held fellowships or residencies at Big Sky Choral Initiative, RED NOTE New Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival, Glen Deven Ranch in Big Sur, California Summer Music, and NYU/ASCAP Film Scoring Institute.
Berko is a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music with a BM in composition, an outside concentration in piano, and a certificate in entrepreneurship. In addition to composition and piano, Berko participated heavily in the vocal community, singing in NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble directed by Dominick DiOrio, Conductor’s Chorus, the leading vocal jazz ensemble, and accompanying various singers and choral ensembles. Primary teachers at Indiana included David Dzubay, Claude Baker, Aaron Travers, Don Freund (composition) and Jean-Louis Haguenauer and Edmund Battersby (piano). Originally from Cleveland, Berko received extensive training at the Cleveland Institute of Music pre-college division, studying with Keith Fitch (composition) and Sandra Shapiro (piano). His first composition teacher was Stephen Stanziano.
Berko is currently pursuing his MM in composition at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music as a Brown Fellow, where he teaches music theory and ear training at the Shepherd School of Music Preparatory Department. He studies with Karim Al-Zand.
Also an accomplished pianist, Berko was the winner of the inaugural Carl E. Baldassarre Composer/Performer Competition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The following year, he was invited to be the featured guest composer/performer for the competition. While at Indiana, he frequently performed his own works on various concerts and served as a pianist for premieres of new works by numerous colleagues on composition recitals. Berko is also a passionate improviser and was the pianist for the improv comedy troop HoosOnFirst.
Berko was the recipient of a 2018 Downbeat Award for Best Arrangement. His arrangements have been performed by Grammy-nominated vocalist Kate McGarry and the Cape Symphony Orchestra, Arabic/jazz artist Nai Barghouti and numerous vocal jazz ensembles around the country. His work has also been performed at the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference. While at Indiana, Berko had the opportunity to take lessons with Darmon Meader of the New York Voices.
Upcoming commissions include a new work for the Cape Symphony and Plymouth Philharmonic for narrator, singer, and orchestra (November 2020) and a commission for Conspirare and Miró String Quartet conducted by Craig Hella Johnson (November 2020).
Ever since I started composing, my music has seemed to straddle the lines with regard to style, often flirting with various flavors at once. I have always viewed differing styles as various dialects that are at my disposal as a composer to accomplish what I am after artistically. Rather than being constricted by the classifications of popular music, jazz, R&B, or classical, I view these various genres as palates that I can learn from and use to my advantage as a composer. I see them as interconnected.
We are living in a world rich with cross-pollinization and collaboration. We are past the age of the solitary artist and very much in the world of one who co-creates. As it appears to me, some of the most meaningful art in the 21st century thus far has been created through conversation and a continuing dialogue throughout the compositional process with those involved in bringing the new work to life. In my recent experiences with writing commissioned works, this collaborative aspect has proven to be the most fruitful.
My recent works have asked questions about human limitations and our responsibility in preserving the truth while simultaneously reacting to the natural beauty of our world. Ultimately, my goal as an artist is to tell relevant stories that encompass all facets of what it means to be human in the world today. It is my hope that the listening of these sonic stories allows you to experience and hear the world a little differently.
Fascinated by the art of storytelling and capturing human expression, the music of American composer/pianist Alex Berko (b. 1995) has been performed by Monterey Symphony, Cape Symphony, Bloomington Symphony, The Crossing, NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Del Sol String Quartet, and the Boston New Music Initiative among many others. His music has received national recognition from ASCAP/SCI, ACDA, The American Prize, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and more. Berko is a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, holding a BM in composition with an outside concentration in piano and a certificate in entrepreneurship. Primary teachers included David Dzubay, Claude Baker, Keith Fitch, Aaron Travers, Don Freund (composition) and Jean-Louis Haguenauer, Edmund Battersby, and Sandra Shapiro (piano). Berko is now pursuing his MM in composition at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, studying with Karim Al-Zand. He is a member of ASCAP.