(This is a narrative biography written from the point-of-view of my musical career. For a more personal autobiography, click here.)
Satisfying diverse audiences with his intelligent and intriguing ouvre, as a composer Barry Drogin has proven himself in the worlds of dance, theatre, choral and chamber music. As a performer of new music-theater, he has been called "disarming and refreshing" and an "exquisite communicator" by his colleagues. And as a writer, Barry has been called an "authority on contemporary opera and music theatre" by 21st Century Music magazine.
Born in 1960 in Long Island, NY, Barry made his stage debut as a sailor in "H.M.S. Pinafore," and sang in amateur choruses and madrigal groups in school, college and in the West Village Chorale in NYC. In high school and college, he had major roles and worked backstage on many productions, including his own one-act play, "Fast Food." He started composing in high school, and while in college studied privately with Mark Kroll, Steve Wilson, Scott Wheeler, Elie Siegmeister and Gil Robbins. He also studied electronic music with Laurie Spiegel, and corresponded for several years with Stephen Sondheim, who called his music "terrific."
While majoring in Theatre Directing and minoring in Music Composition at Emerson College in Boston, he saw performances of two choral works, and wrote incidental music for two plays. After transferring to The Cooper Union in NYC, Barry was commissioned to write a full-length orchestral ballet score for The Liliana Belfiore Dance Co., which was subsequently recorded with professional free-lance musicians and lauded as "nice, friendly, wonderful-to-listen-to music" when it was broadcast on the radio in 1983. He received his BE in 1983 and his ME in 1986 from Cooper, and in 1985 received a Tau Beta Pi Laureate for Diverse Achievements in music and journalism, one of two such national honors.
In 1988, "Typhoid Mary," a theatre-dance collaboration with Peg Hill of the Bicycle Shop Dancers, was performed at the Nikolais/Louis Choreospace in NYC. The show was called "intriguing" and "dramatic" by "The New York Times," "The Village Voice" and "Dance Magazine," and is described in great detail in "Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health," a 1996 book by Judith Walzer Leavitt, professor of medicine and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin. "[They] move well beyond the common view of her as menace and demon," she wrote. "The production stands as a challenge to the audience to find a better way, to move beyond stigma and isolation."
Barry attended almost all of the International Meetings of Contemporary Music-Theatre and Opera, now referred to as "NewOp/NonOp", and he sponsors their website. The founders of the meeting also formed an international contemporary opera e-mail list server, which Barry moderated from 2000 to 2008. Barry's writings have appeared in NewOp readers given to all attendees, and at NewOp10 in Oslo in 2001, Barry was given an award for his contributions to the NewOp community and listserv. His "NewOp Doo Wop" became the theme song of the meetings.
"Alamo!/a scena for a cappella voice and Bible (King James version)" was premiered in 1998 in New York and Paris, has won numerous ASCAP awards, and was released on a Not Nice Music CD. "Love and Idols/A Jewish Opera" and "Love Poems from the Sanskrit" (a song cycle for a cappella baritone) have only enjoyed private performances (in 1984 and 1994, respectively).
In 2002, Barry collaborated with Rachel Sheinkin to create "Hoover" for Raw Impressions Music Theater at LaMaMa, ETC. Rachel was, at the time, a student of William Finn, who saw the production and subsequently chose Rachel to be his librettist for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which premiered in New York in 2005, tranferred to Broadway months later, and won Rachel a Tony award!
In 2003, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar starting playing Barry's music on their show, interviewed him live in their studio, and set up a webpage of highlights as their 180th composer guest.
Barry has had three commissions, all of which have been performed in NYC, and has himself commissioned a piano piece from a struggling colleague, which was performed in Boston and NYC. He is a member of ASCAP and was a member of the American Music Center, and was on the Editorial Advisory Board of and was a regular contributor to New Music Connoisseur magazine.
Barry was once called "the biggest thinker in show business." Although he closed his music business in 2008, he continues to compose, perform, and write about music. His most recent project is a set of cabaret songs, including the avant-garde song cycle, "September 11 Songs." Unfinished works as of this writing include separate Portraits for vocalist Laurie Amat and trombonist/singer Abbie Conant, "The Couch, or, This is Therapy?", a companion piece to Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti," and "Yisroayl B'Mitzroyim (Israel in Egypt)," a dramatic oratorio in Hebrew written under the pseudonym Baruch Skeer.
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