Described by the New York Times as “prodigiously accomplished and exciting” and as one of the piano’s “brilliant stars,” pianist Blair McMillen leads a musical life unbounded by convention. Known for his advocacy of living composers and contemporary music, McMillen has forged a life as recitalist, chamber musician, new music advocate, music festival organizer, and educator.
McMillen has performed in all of the major concert venues in New York City, throughout the US, and around the world. Recent appearances include concertos with the American Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, solo appearances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Albany Symphony, and a 3-week solo tour of Brazil sponsored by the US State Department. As chamber musician, he is pianist for the American Modern Ensemble, the six-piano “supergroup” Grand Band, the Bardian Ensemble, and the Perspectives Ensemble, among others. For 12 years he was pianist for the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players.
As a teacher and pedagogue, McMillen is in high demand. He has taught at Bard College and Conservatory since 2005, and he joined the faculty at the Mannes School of Music in 2017. He regularly adjudicates at competitions and festivals throughout the United States. In summers, he has taught at the Elm City Chamber Festival, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Samuel Barber Institute, Bennington Chamber Music Festival, and the Mostly Modern Festival, among others.
McMillen’s first solo CD “Soundings” was released to high critical acclaim in 2000. Since then, he has been featured in dozens of solo and chamber recordings. A 2016 CD of 2-piano music with Stephen Gosling, “Powerhouse Pianists II,” was called “one of the finest piano recordings of the year” by NPR.
McMillen is the co-founder and co-director of the Rite of Summer Music Festival. Rite of Summer is a contemporary “indie-classical” outdoor concert series, held on New York City’s Governors Island. Rite of Summer started in 2011, and has presented artists as diverse as the JACK Quartet, Dawn Of MIDI, Theo Bleckmann, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Todd Reynolds, Contemporaneous, and Don Byron’s New Gospel Quintet. Rite of Summer is still the only annual music festival on Governors Island, a place the New Yorker has called “an enormous playground for the arts.”
Blair McMIllen holds degrees from Oberlin College, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School. He enjoys biking, skiing, film, jazz, and playing the occasional semi-competitive game of table tennis. He lives in New York, with his wife Kay and son Conor.
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