Born in Rochester, New York, in 1948, composer-conductor Dan Welcher has been gradually creating a body of compositions in almost every imaginable genre including opera, concerto, symphony, vocal literature, piano solos, and various kinds of chamber music. With over eighty works to his credit, Welcher is one of the most-played composers of his generation.
Dan Welcher first trained as a pianist and bassoonist, earning degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. He joined the Louisville Orchestra as its Principal Bassoonist in 1972, and remained there until 1978, concurrently teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. He joined the Artist Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1976, teaching bassoon and composition, and remained there for fourteen years. He accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Texas in 1978, creating the New Music Ensemble there and serving as Assistant Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1990. It was in Texas that his career as a conductor began to flourish, and he has led the premieres of more than 120 new works in a twenty-two year period. He now holds the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professorship in Composition at the School of Music at UT/Austin, teaching Composition and Orchestration, and serving as Director of the New Music Ensemble.
In 1990, Mr. Welcher was named Composer in Residence with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra through the Meet the Composer Orchestra Residencies Program. During his three-year residency, he distinguished himself with a weekly radio series entitled Knowing the Score (which has had a second life on KMFA-FM in Austin, winning the 1999 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Broadcast Award), a statewide program teaching elementary school children the basics of musical composition, conducting more than thirty concerts with the Honolulu Symphony and inaugurating a series of new music concerts entitled Discoveries. He also wrote two works for the Symphony: a work for the childrens’ concert series entitled Haleakala: How Maui Snared the Sun for narrator and orchestra, and an ambitious 38-minute Symphony No. 1. More recent works include Bright Wings: Valediction for Large Orchestra, commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and premiered in Dallas under the baton of Music Director Andrew Litton in March 1997, and Spumante, a festive overture commissioned by the Boston Pops, premiered in Symphony Hall on May 6, 1998 under Keith Lockhart. His works for symphonic wind ensemble, notably Zion (which won the ABA/Ostwald Prize in 1996) and Symphony No. 3 (Shaker Life) have earned him new accolades in non-orchestral venues. His most recent orchestral works are Venti Di Mare: Fantasy-Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, commissioned by the Guggenheim Foundation for the Rochester Philharmonic and premiered in February 1999; JFK: The Voice of Peace, a 55-minute oratorio for chorus, orchestra, narrator, solo cello, and soloists, premiered in March 1999 by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston; and Zion, a 10-minute tone poem commissioned by the Utah Symphony, and premiered by that orchestra under Keith Lockhart in September 1999.
Dan Welcher has won numerous awards and prizes from institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation (a Fellowship in 1997), National Endowment for the Arts, The Reader’s Digest/Lila Wallace Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The Bellagio Center, the American Music Center, and ASCAP. His orchestral music has been performed by more than fifty orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony. Welcher lives in Bastrop, Texas.