Courtney Bryan, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests” (New York Times). She is a 2023 MacArthur Fellow, and currently serves as composer-in-residence with Opera Philadelphia.

This season sees two world premieres: Dreaming (Freedom Sounds), performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble at New York’s Kaufman Music Center, and a new orchestral piece for Jacksonville Symphony. Last season, Bryan performed as soloist in the world premiere of her piano concerto House of Pianos, which debuted in a chamber ensemble version with the LA Phil New Music Group led by Paolo Bortolameolli, and in a full orchestra version with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Louis Langrée. Bryan’s Gathering Song, with libretto by Tazewell Thompson, also received its debut with the New York Philharmonic and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, conducted by Leslie B. Dunner.

Other recent works include Blessed, commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and produced as a film that weaves together musical recordings and footage from New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia; Syzygy for violin and orchestra, premiered by Jennifer Koh and the Chicago Sinfonietta; and Yet Unheard for soprano, chorus, and orchestra, commissioned by The Dream Unfinished and premiered with Helga Davis.

Bryan’s work has been presented in a wide range of venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Blue Note Jazz Club, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Her compositions have been performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (Creative Partner, 2020-2023), Jacksonville Symphony (Mary Carr Patton Composer-In-Residence, 2018–2020), London Sinfonietta, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Chicago Sinfonietta, Quince Ensemble as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra MusicNOW series, American Composers Orchestra, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, New York Jazzharmonic, Spektral String Quartet, and Talea Ensemble.

Bryan’s interest across multiple artforms have led to collaborations with visual artists Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Steffani Jemison, Abigail DeVille, Kara Lynch, Lake Simons, Amy Bryan, and Alma Bryan Powell; director Patricia McGregor; writers Sharan Strange, Matthew D. Morrison, and Ashon Crawley; and musicians Branford Marsalis, Jennifer Koh, Ryan Speedo Green, Helga Davis, Brandee Younger, and Damian Norfleet.

Bryan holds a doctorate in composition from Columbia University, where she studied with George Lewis. She also holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (BM) and Rutgers University (MM). Bryan completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. She is currently the Albert and Linda Mintz Professor of Music at Newcomb College in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University. Recent accolades include the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (2018), Samuel Barber Rome Prize in Music Composition (2019–2020), United States Artists Fellowship (2020), and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship (2020–2021).

Bryan has given music workshops at various universities including Princeton University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Berklee College of Music, The California Institute of the Arts, The University of South Carolina, Brown University, University of California, San Diego, DePaul University, and Xavier University of Louisiana. She has participated in and helped design programs that guide young people to improvise, compose, and work with music technology, including programs through Columbia University, Jacksonville Symphony, and Carnegie Hall.

Bryan has released two recordings, Quest for Freedom (2007) and This Little Light of Mine (2010); a third recording is in progress, Sounds of Freedom.