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Heather Gilligan

composer and pianist


American composer Heather Gilligan strives to write music both edgy and lyrical. Her fresh, organic style is honest, direct, and compassionate while exploring the limits of emotion from humor to anguish. Her growing national acclaim has brought her music across the country and onto main stages over the past several years. She recently won the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra's 2019 Call for scores for her song cycle Living in Light, chosen from over 2,200 submissions from 90 countries. She was named a Semi-Finalist in The American Prize, 2019 Vocal Chamber Music Division. In January 2019 her song "I'm a Girl. What's your superpower?" won second place in the NYC SongSLAM Festival, an audience choice competition that celebrates classical art song. Gilligan was featured in the Washington D.C. International Music Festival, which premiered her orchestral and wind symphony works at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2015 and 2016. Her choral work, I'll See you in the Morning, was premiered in 2014 at Carnegie Hall during the annual New York Choral Festival. Her work for solo flute, Dialogue, was invited for performance at the College Music Society's Rocky Mountain Regional and Great Lakes Regional conferences and in the University of Nebraska's New Music Festival and was chosen for publication in the SCI Journal of Music Scores. She was commissioned by American Modern Ensemble who premiered her chamber sextet, One Mountain, and she won the Boston-based Juventas New Music Ensemble's Call for Scores in both 2018 and 2019.

In April 2017, Gilligan released her debut CD, Living in Light, an album of her vocal chamber music. Released on the Albany Records label, the album features soprano Margot Rood as well as the Apple Hill String Quartet, saxophonist Ken Radnofsky, pianist Damien Francoeur-Krzyzek, trumpeter Seelan Manickam, percussionist Caleb Herron, and cellist Patrick Owen with recording engineer Christopher Swist. Gilligan has also written works for flutists Sarah Brady and Orlando Cela, harpist Franziska Huhn, the Arneis String Quartet, Lorelei Ensemble, Anthology vocal quartet, Boston’s Word Song Project, Juventas! New Music Ensemble, and the Chamber Singers of Keene. She is a member of the Boston Composers Coalition, a group of seven composers dedicated to the creation, performance, education, and dissemination of new American music.

Gilligan is a Professor of Music at Keene State College in New Hampshire where she coordinates the areas of composition, theory, and aural skills. She is the founder and co-director of Currants, Keene State’s contemporary ensemble, and in 2015 she served as the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research for the School of Arts & Humanities. At Keene State College, Gilligan designed a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition which commenced in the 2013-14 school year; she established an annual Call for Scores at Keene State, which culminates each fall in a pre-concert panel discussion in addition to the premiere of a newly written work; and she spearheaded a student composers' recital series. She served as Accompanist and Composer-in-Residence for the Chamber Singers of Keene from 2010-2014 and she was named the NH Music Teachers National Association's "Composer of the Year" in 2010.

Gilligan has been an active promoter of the arts in higher ed, particularly in the landscape of Undergraduate Research as a way of bringing increased funding and visibility to the arts and humanities. In Spring and Fall of 2015, she served as the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors for the School of Arts & Humanities at Keene State College. In the summers of 2014 and 2015, she designed and helped facilitate a "Summer Institute on Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors," offered to KSC faculty members interested in implementing undergraduate research into their classes and curricula. The Institute continues annually. She played an active role in the establishment of Keene State's new undergraduate research center, the Center for Creative Inquiry. She is an active member of the Council on Undergraduate Research, serving as a Facilitator for its annual national Arts & Humanities Institute. She has mentored students in projects that have culminated in conference presentations at NCUR, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research; COPLAC, the regional conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges; and Keene State's Academic Excellence Conference. She is currently mentored her third student to have received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships; the three students were among the first students in the School of Arts and Humanities to win this prestigious award at Keene State College.

Gilligan received her D.M.A. in Composition from Boston University, where she was awarded the Malloy Miller Prize in Composition, a Dean Scholarship, and a Department Honor Award. Her principal composition teachers were Richard Cornell, Martin Amlin, and Ketty Nez. She earned her M.M. in Composition from the Longy School of Music, where she studied composition and piano. A classically trained pianist, she has studied piano with Randall Hodgkinson, Sally Pinkas, Judith Gordon, and Martha Marchena. In summer of 2002 she completed, with distinction, a course at La Schola Cantorum in Paris. She also holds a bachelors degree in Chemistry from Lehigh University where she minored in music and studied composition with composer Paul Salerni.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Gilligan spent thirteen years living in the Boston area where, in addition to earning her masters and doctoral degrees, she taught piano, music theory, and aural skills at Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brookline Music School, and the Winchester Community Music School. In 2009 she moved to Keene, New Hampshire where she lives with her partner, Alan, and her 8-year-old daughter, Gretchen.