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Gary Kulesha: Biography

Gary Kulesha
1954 -
Region: Ontario

Gary Kulesha

GARY KULESHA is one of Canada's most active and most visible musicians.  Although principally a composer, he is active as both a pianist and a conductor, and as a teacher.

Mr. Kulesha's music has been commissioned, performed, and recorded by musicians and ensembles all over the world.  His "Angels" for Marimba and Tape has become a standard repertoire item for percussionists, and receives over a hundred performances per year.  His works for Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri are toured by her throughout the world each year, and have been recorded on RCA Red Seal.  Over 15,000 copies have been sold in Europe alone.  Works such as "Mysterium Coniunctionis" for Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Piano, and the Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano, are performed regularly in England and Europe, and are often taught as part of performance curricula in these places.  "Celebration Overture" is one of the most performed orchestral pieces written in Canada.  "Four Fantastic Landscapes" has entered the repertoire of several noted pianists from Canada and Europe.  Mr. Kulesha's first opera, "Red Emma", was included in Opera America's book of "Operas which should be performed more often", beside works by Copland, Bernstein, and Weill. 

In 1988, he was appointed Composer In Residence with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until 1992.  In 1993, he was appointed Composer In Residence with the Canadian Opera Company, a position he held until the end of 1995.  "Red Emma" was premiered on Nov. 28, 1995.  On Sept. 1 of 1995, he was appointed Composer-Advisor to The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where his duties include composing, conducting, and advising on repertoire.  In February of 1998, the TSO premiered his "Symphony" for two conductors and orchestra, with Jukka Pekka Saraste and Gary Kulesha conducting.  In winter of 1999, the TSO took his work "The Gates of Time" on their American tour.   In February of 2000, the TSO premiered "The True Colour of the Sky" in Toronto, prior to taking it on their European tour.  As well, the TSO presented the Symphony again, in November of 2000, as part of the Massey Hall New Music Festival.  The Symphony was awarded a prize at the Winnipeg Symphony New Music Festival in 2001 as Best Canadian Orchestra Composition of the 1990s.  The Symphony opened the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's 2001-2002 season, on a programme with Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

On March 19, 2002, Mr. Kulesha was awarded the first National Arts Centre Orchestra Composer Award, along with Alexina Louie and Denys Bouliane.  This begins a four year relationship with the NACO and its Artistic Director, Pinchas Zuckerman.

In 1990, Mr. Kulesha was nominated for a Juno award for his "Third Chamber Concerto."  He was nominated again in 2000 for "The Book of Mirrors."  In 1986, he was named Composer of the Year by PROCanada, the youngest composer ever so honoured.   Also in 1986, he represented Canada at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.  In the summer of 1990, he was the first composer ever appointed to the position of Composer In Residence with the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario.  He has returned every year since 1996 to direct the Young Composers programme at the Festival.  In July of 1998, Mr. Kulesha was, with Krzystztof Penderecki, one of the two Composers in Residence at the Banff Centre's summer session.  He returns to the Banff Centre in 2002 as a Fleck Fellow.

Mr. Kulesha has been the Artistic Director of The Composers' Orchestra since 1987.  His conducting activities are extensive, and he has premiered literally hundreds of works.  He has guest conducted frequently with several major orchestras throughout Canada, and has recorded for radio and CD.  Although he is well-known as a specialist in 20th Century music, his repertoire is extensive, ranging from little-known Baroque music through to the music of our time.  In the 2001/2002 season, he guest conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, and the Encounters Chamber Orchestra.  In July and August of 2002, he will co-direct the Chamber Orchestra programme at Banff.  In August, he will conduct a new CD for CRI Recordings in the U.S.  In early 2003, he will conduct the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra for the second half of the season.

In November of 2000, Music Canada 2000 premiered his second opera, written in collaboration with librettist Michael Albano.

Mr. Kulesha is the Theory and Composition Department Coordinator at the University of Toronto, where he is also the Director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble.

Gary Kulesha lives in Toronto with his wife, composer Larysa Kuzmenko.


PROCAN, Canadian League of Composers


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