Anna Dembska


Anna Dembska came to composing through her work in experimental theater and as a soprano and improvisor. Her music integrates disparate musical passions—polyphonic vocal music, singing traditions from Macedonia to Mongolia, improvisation and extended use of the voice, new music theater, and the voice as a musical and dramatic instrument. She has produced and performed her original theater works, operas, and music since 1976—from Enough is Enough, a puppet opera, at the Bread and Puppet Circus, to Coyote at The Bang-on-a-Can Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Recent activities include soprano soloist in Vivaldi's Gloria and Schubert's Mass in G at the Winter Harbor Music Festival; composing and directing parade music for For the Love of Herring, A Sardine Extravaganza, in Belfast Maine; conducting the Schoodic Summer Chorus in concerts in Winter Harbor, Cape Split, and Millbridge, Maine; and coaching and guest directing the vocal ensemble, Shira, in midcoast Maine. She will be performing as soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem at the Winter Harbor Music Festival in August, 2012.

Dembska'a cantata, Earthly Light, was commissioned by the Bagaduce Chorale for their 35th anniversary and was premiered by the Chorale in Blue Hill, Maine, in December, 2009. Her chamber opera, The Singing Bridge, with libretto by poet Beatrix Gates, premiered at the Stonington (Maine) Opera House in July 2005. The opera was commissioned by Opera House Arts with a Commissioning Music/USA grant from Meet The Composer/National Endowment for the Arts and additional commissioning funding from the LEF Foundation and the Open Meadows Patsylu Fund. Dembska received a 2004 commissioning grant from The Puffin Foundation for her Joe Hill Cantata and a 1996 grant from Puffin to expand To Music, her chamber opera with lyrics by Jacques Lusseyran, which was performed at Dixon Place, NTC and the Camden Opera House in Camden, Maine in 1993. Her music/dance play, Storys for All, was produced by Carrying Place Theater in Southwest Harbor, Maine. She produced and performed, with improvisors Carol Emanuel and Tim Moran, her solo opera The Juniper Tree at the Henry Street Settlement in New York. Her Kore Chant, recorded by Libana, has been performed by choruses all over the world.

Anna created the role of Mary Burton in Leroy Jenkins' The Negros Burial Ground at The Kitchen, composed the choral music for Lee Nagrin's The Valley of Iao at La Mama ETC, and toured as composer, vocal director, and performer with Ralph Lee's Mettawee River Company. With pianist Joan Harkness, she toured the theatrical concert Pedestrian and Holy: Acts of American Music throughout the Northeast, for which she received grants from Meet the Composer and the Bronx Council on the Arts. Pedestrian and Holy was showcased in the 1996 documentary Audible Laundry, The Music of Sound, which featured interviews with composers Pauline Oliveros, Lou Harrison, and Anna Dembska. In New York, Dembska has composed for and sung with the vocal quartet Siren (with virtuoso singers Dora Ohrenstein, Pamela Warwick Smith, and Karen Goldfader) and the vocal trio H h h h h. She recently sang with Gamelon Son of Lion at Merkin Hall in new works by Lisa Karrer, David Simon, Barbara Benary, and Jody Krusgal and sings on their latest Innova CD, Sonogram.

Dembska has taught voice, musicianship, and performance technique for over 25 years, including at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theater Wing, the Metropolitan Opera Guild's In-School Program and National Teacher Training, and Brooklyn College Conservatory Prep. Division. Her books, You've Got Rhythm: read music better by feeling the beat (Flying Leap Music, 2002), and Piano, Body and Soul (Flying Leap Music, 2006), both co-authored with pianist Joan Harkness, are bringing new repertoire, improvisation techniques, and sophisticated music skills to amateur and beginning musicians. She directs the Schoodic Summer Chorus, an unauditioned a capella community chorus in Winter Harbor, Maine. In July, 2002, she conducted the Chorus in the premiere of her cantata, The Bear, from a poem by Beatrix Gates, at the Schoodic Arts Festival at Hammond Hall in Winter Harbor.