Composer | Singer Marisa Michelson creates interdisciplinary music-theatre, choral work, and musicals, and is the Founding Director of the psychedelic singing collective Constellation Chor | an immersion in voice, movement, and spirit.
The collective performs internationally and in New York City, and has expanded organically into the new music community, making their Lincoln Center debut in 2018 premiering Ash Fure’s Filament (New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden), and collaborating with artists and venues such as Claire Chase, Sarah Hennies, Paola Prestini, Maria Popova, Heartbeat Opera, Harvard Art Lab, Spectrum and Pioneer Works.
Since 2016, the Chor has been engaging at the intersection of singing, movement, deep listening, ritual-making and music-theatre while in ongoing residence at the historic Judson Memorial Church. In addition to collaborating with composers, choreographers, directors, videographers, and interdisciplinary artists, they also perform interdisciplinary pieces composed by Michelson.
Michelson’s award-winning compositions and theatre pieces have been called “exquisite” (The New York Times), “otherworldly” (Steven Suskin), “gorgeous...adventurous” (Vox Magazine). Her off-Broadway musicals include Tamar of the River starring Margo Seibert (Prospect Theater; 2 Drama Desk Nominations) and One Thousand Nights and One Day starring Sepideh Moafi (Prospect Theatre, ART NY). Naamah’s Ark, her oratorio for five choirs starring Victoria Clark (River to River festival in Rockefeller Park) was conducted by Ted Sperling.
Residencies: MacDowell, Ucross, New Dramatists, Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, Blue Mountain Center.
Awards: National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Jonathan Larson Award, Eric Salzman Award for Music-Theatre, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, MacDowell, Ucross, New Dramatists, Jonathan Larson Award. Upcoming: Toulmin co-fellow (along with Miriam Parker) with Center for Ballet Arts and National Sawdust. Marisa lives, works and teaches in New York City and Hudson, NY.
2020/2021 – Toulmin Foundation Awarded Co-Fellow (with Miriam Parker) for National Sawdust and Center for Ballet Arts
2019 – Support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts for Constellation Chor
2018 – Inaugural Eric Salzman Award for New Music Theatre for Song of Song of Songs
2018 – Winner (with co-writer Jason Grote) of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Grant for the new musical One Thousand Nights and One Day
2017 – Winner of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Creative Engagement Grant for Marisa Michelson’s Desire | Divinity Project
2016 – Residency at the Blue Mountain Center
2015 – MacDowell and UCross Fellowships
2014 – Weston Playhouse Writer’s Residency
2012 – Winner of a NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre) Writer’s Residency award to work on The Grid at Millikin University.
2011 – Winner (with Joshua H. Cohen) of the Jonathan Larson Award
2011 – Theatreworks Palo Alto Writers Residency
2010 – Commissioned by Montclair University´s New Works Initiative to create a new musical adaptation of Jason Grote´s play, 1001
2009 – Winner of the American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation commission from the Shen Family Foundation to create an original full-length musical for the Tony-Award Winning Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA): First full workshop, Tamar of the River, July 2010
2008 – The Shen Family Foundation Developmental Grant, in conjunction with the Signature Theater´s “American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation” – Honoree
2008 – New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Workshop.
2007 – Fellowship to Compose Music and study Indian Hindustani singing in India
2006 – Winner of St. Botolph Grant-in-Aid for Composition
“Marisa Michelson’s music has an authenticity to it that seems to heal through vibration. She captures sound in its purest form.”
Times Square Chronicles
“Michelson presents a vibrant sonic landscape that ranges from Middle Eastern music to modern EDM… The show sounds heavenly.” – Time Out New York (One Thousand Nights and One Day)
“It was composer Marisa Michelson’s seraphim touch that lifted the piece to the heavens. Michelson’s iconic musical explorations…brought the beauty, sensitivity and exotic, ethereal allure to the show with her astounding songs.” – The Beirut Times (One Thousand Nights and One Day)
“TAMAR OF THE RIVER sometimes sounds like it hails from a world where pop music followed a very different evolutionary path. Its Asian-influenced sounds are the opposite of Hamilton’s contemporary tones — but it’s just as adventurous.” – VOX Magazine (Tamar of the River)
“Michelson’s challenging and tonally complex music is some of the most unique and beautiful I’ve heard in musical theater. When [Michelson] writes music for the river…one imagines that this is what the prophets heard when receiving the word of God.” – Zack Sullivan, Theatermania (Tamar of the River)
“Marisa Michelson’s music here is complex, haunting and exquisite.” – Tablet Magazine (One Thousand Nights and One Day)
“Ms. Michelson’s music is frequently exquisite and always melodic.” – The New York Times (Tamar of the River)
“Marisa Michelson’s music is hard to describe; otherworldly, perhaps?” – Playbill
“In TAMAR OF THE RIVER, it is the vocals that give the recording its majesty and opulence. Chants, improvisations, dissonance, rich chords, and so much more permeate the air, soul, and mind as the recording plays. The vocal compositions are complex and earthy…Listeners who have experienced the work of Dave Malloy will instantly draw comparisons to him. They will also draw comparisons to Steve Reich’s works, where repetition, layering, and convoluted musicality all add depth and surreal richness to his compositions.” – Steven Suskin (Author of “The Sound of Broadway Music”)
Marisa Michelson may well be one of the most exciting composers working in musical theater today…Michelson’s style is wholly unique and ignites listeners to sit up with curiosity and wonderment.”
“Her musical language goes beyond words and includes all manner of vocalizing with words and wails receiving equal weight…gorgeous harmonies and mystical dissonances that put us in a meditative state.” – Voce di Meche
“With a rich tapestry of complicated choral and musical stylings, Marisa Michelson’s inventive and experimental score has been recorded…Not since Dave Malloy’s NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812… have I had the pleasure to experience a score so meaty, unique, and vastly interesting in the genre of musical theatre.” – Broadway World
“[Michelson’s] sonic expressions, from ethereal sounds to primal screams, animalistic wails and simply breath, are more aligned with vocal innovators like Kate Bush, Bjork, Florence Welch and even Yoko Ono than traditional musical theatre or opera.” – Cindy Sibilsky, StageBiz
“ …Lyrical, melodic, yet dissonent music… Marisa Michelson’s music…is haunting and ethereal… Rarely do you see a piece that is so new and enchanting.” – Times Square Chronicles
“Tamar of the River is a phenomenal effort of beauty.” – Theater is Easy
“It’s hard to imagine a more ambitious piece of musical drama coming out of indie theatre than Prospect Theater Company’s production of Tamar of the River…The narrative takes on immense power through Michelson’s rich and distinctive score.” – NY Theatre Now
“Tamar of the River…one of the most extraordinary scores in years.”
Jesse Green, New York Magazine
“Marisa Michelson…her presence is commanding as a goddess yet vulnerable as a maiden.”
Cindy Sibilsky, StageBiz
The Desire/Divinity Project
One Thousand Nights and One Day
Tamar of the River
Early Musicals and One Acts
FEATURES / INTERVIEWS
The Interval: “Marisa Michelson on ‘One Thousand Nights and One Day’ and More”
2018 APEX HOUR – Southern Utah University: Podcast interview exploring “Constellation Chor,” “Naamah’s Ark” and my journey as a composer
American Theatre Magazine: “6 Theatre Workers You Should Know”
Opera Wire: “Q & A: Composer, Writer Marisa Michelson on Exploring Female Perspective in ‘Naamah’s Ark’ and ‘Desire | Divinity Project'”
National Opera Association: “Composer Spotlight On: Marisa Michelson…Cultivating Spiritual Movement in Music Drama”
Click here to read an interview with Marisa on “Meet the Artist”
Sex Birth Trauma Podcast: “Voice + the Nervous System with Marisa Michelson”
The Trauma Therapist Podcast: “Using Our Voices to Heal with Marisa Michelson”