Featured Composer: Michelle Lou

This season, we are launching our “featured composer” initiative.  Every season we will select a composer whose music we find especially compelling and who we believe deserves greater recognition.  Michelle Lou is our inaugural “featured composer.”  Her music will be the focal point of several programs throughout the season, which will include the premiere of her new ensemble work in May.


Michelle Lou’s work studies the possibilities of how strange form(s), functioning as behavior/as odd containers of strange objects/material can shape experiential time. In her recent work, she has begun to incorporate analog and D.I.Y. electronics, as well as edge towards computer based music and performance/installation pieces. Born in San Diego, California, Michelle received a dual B.A. degree in Performance and in Composition from the University of California, San Diego. She then continued her studies on the double bass at the Conservatorio G. Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy. Leaving without completion of the artist diploma, she decided to continue her composition studies at U.C.S.D. and later obtained an M.A. in Composition. As a Fulbright Scholar, she entered into the Masters program at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria to work with Beat Furrer. Again, leaving without a degree in hand, Michelle chose instead to pursue doctoral studies at Stanford University, earning the D.M.A. degree in 2012. Her main teachers of composition are Chaya Czernowin, Steven Kazuo Takasugi and Brian Ferneyhough. Active also as a bassist and guitarist, Michelle has performed in many contexts, from cover bands to jazz, latin jazz, salsa, and free improv to classical and contemporary chamber and orchestral music. She has worked closely with young composers, having helped to premiere many works. Her teachers on the bass were Bertram Turetzky, Leonardo Colonna, Mark Dresser, and Bruce Moyer, with additional studies on the viola da gamba with John Dornenburg. In 2013-2014, she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her work has appeared at festivals such as Wien Modern, Donaueschinger Musiktage, MATA, Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Darmstadt Ferienkurse, and The Festival for New American Music. In 2012, she won first prize in the Finale/American Composer’s Forum competition with a handwritten score.