Roscoe Mitchell
Photo: Patrick

Roscoe Mitchell, internationally renowned musician, composer, and innovator, began his distinguished career in the spirited 1960s of Chicago, Illinois. His role in the resurrection of long neglected woodwind instruments of extreme register, his innovation as a solo woodwind performer, and his reassertion of the composer into what has traditionally been an improvisational form have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music for over four decades. A leader in the field of avant-garde jazz and contemporary music, Mr. Mitchell is a founding member of the world renowned Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and the Trio Space. Mr. Mitchell is the founder of the Creative Arts Collective of East Lansing, Michigan, The Roscoe Mitchell Sextet, The Roscoe Mitchell Quartet, The Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, The Sound Ensemble, The Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble, and Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory.

Mr. Mitchell has recorded over 100 albums and has written hundreds of compositions. His compositions range from classical to contemporary, from wild and forceful free jazz to ornate chamber music. His instrumental expertise includes the saxophone family, from the sopranino to the bass saxophone; the recorder family, from sopranino to great bass recorder; flute, piccolo, clarinet, and the transverse flute. Also, for over 35 years, he has designed an elaborate percussion instrument called the Percussion Cage, consisting of instruments from America, China, Tibet, Africa, Australia, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey, as well many found instruments. Mr. Mitchell is the recipient of many honors and awards including the following: Golden Ear Award, Deep Listening Institute, The Kitchen, New York City, [2009]; International Society of Improvised Music (ISIM), Certificate of Appreciation, Lamont School of Music, Denver Colorado; The Black Women’s Collective of Mills College, Certificate of Appreciation [2008, 2009]; The American Music Center Letter of Distinction 2004 - Art Ensemble of Chicago; The International Jazz Critics Poll, Down Beat Magazine (Composer "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" [1980], Best Jazz Group (Established)-Art Ensemble of Chicago [1999, 1985, 1982, 1981, 1980, 1973, 1971], Record of the Year-Nonaah [1979]); Jazz Personality of the Year, City of Madison, Wisconsin [1997]; ASCAP Plus Award [2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997]; Named Madison Music Legend by “Madison” Magazine [2001]; Certificate of Appreciation, The St. Louis Public Schools Role Model Experiences Program [1996]; Honorary Citizen of Atlanta, GA [1980]; Outstanding Service to Jazz Education Award, National Association of Jazz Educators [1988]; Certificate of Appreciation, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Smithsonian Institution [1979]; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Image Award [1982].

He has received numerous composition and performance grants/commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts (Individual Composer’s Grant [1985, 1979], NEA Jazz Fellowship Grant [1981], NEA Jazz/Folk/Ethnic Grant [1975], Composer/Performer Grant [1975], NEA and Michigan State University matching grants {Art Ensemble of Chicago} [1973]); the John Cage Award for Music-Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, Inc. [1997, 1996]; Arts Midwest Jazz Masters [1991]; November Music 2000; the Minnesota Composer's Forum [1986]; Meet the Composer, Cultural Series Grant, Center for International Performance and Exhibition, Chicago, IL [1996]; Mutable Music [2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1995]; the Comnicut Foundation [1990, 1982]; the Wisconsin Arts Board (Individual Project Grant [1987], Individual Composer’s Grant [1986], Individual Composer’s/Vilas Foundation Grant [1981]); the Institut de Recherche at Coordination Acoustique Musique, Paris {with David Wessel} [1986]; Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission Project Grant, Madison Committee for the Arts; and the Madison Festival of the Lakes Grant [1988]; November Music 2000-Holland. Mr. Mitchell was artist in residence for The Twenty Fifth Annual Chicago Jazz Festival 2003, where he was commissioned to write three works for Jazz Big Band. “Tech Ritter and the Megabytes,” “Cards for Big Band” and a revision of “Line Fine Lyon Seven”; Commission, Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Munich and the Institute for Musicology of the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany for the Symposium for Improvised Music, 2004; In 2005 Mr. Mitchell received a commission from the Mutable Music Foundation to compose “White Tiger Disguise” for Baritone Voice and String Quintet. He also received a commission in 2006 to compose a work for Baritone Voice and Chamber Orchestra; commission from the City of Munich for the Symposium on Improvised Music.

His teaching credits include his current position as the Darius Milhaud Chair at Mills College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the California Institute of the Arts, the AACM School of Music, the Creative Music Studio. He has been artist-in-residence at the University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana, Stanford University-Stanford CA, The New England Conservatory - Boston Masschusetts, University of Wisconsin-Plattville, Oberlin College-Ohio and conducted numerous workshops and master classes throughout the world. A selection of Mr. Mitchell’s premieres are as follows: “NONAAH” for Chamber Orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, tubular bells, harp, violins I and II, viola, cello and bass) – ACO Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute and Concert, Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York City, 2010; “Quintet One for Eleven” and “Quintet Nine for Eleven”, for Eleven Piece Ensemble – SantAnna Arressi Festival, Sardegna, Italy, 2009; “Bells for New Orleans”, for Solo Orchestra Bells, and “WR/C 2A opus I” – Herbst Theatre, San Francisco CA, 2009; “Q”, for Jazz Big Band - UW Platteville, 2007; three new works for his large ensemble “The Note Factory,” “Exflover Five, “ “Quintet 2007A For Eight” and “Trio Four For Eight” during a European tour in Bergamo, Italy, Nickelsdorf, Austria and Berghausen, Germany, 2007; “White Tiger Disguise” for Baritone Voice and String Quintet and “Far Side” for Alto Saxophone and three Double Basses, Merkin Concert Hall New York City, 2006; “Composition/Improvisation Numbers One, Two and Three” for Twelve-Piece Ensemble; “Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City”, a composition for Baritone Voice and Orchestra with text by Joseph Jarman, Petr Kotik - Conductor, SEM Ensemble, Willow Place Auditorium Brooklyn, NY 2003; “Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City” European Premiere and “21 B” for Solo Soprano Saxophone, Czech Republic Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra - Ostrova, 2003; “Cards for Big Band”, 25th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, 2003; “The Bells of Fifty Ninth Street”, for Alto Saxophone and Gamelan Orchestra, and “59A”, for Solo Soprano Saxophone, November Music - ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nederlands, Gent, Belgium, and Essen, Germany, 2003; "Fallen Heroes", for Orchestra, Baritone Voice, and Solo Alto Saxophone, Petr Kotik – Conductor, Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble with Thomas Buckner, Baritone Voice, and Roscoe Mitchell, Solo Alto Saxophone, Alice Tully Hall, New York NY 1998; "Fallen Heroes", European Premiere, Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Petr Kotik – Conductor, with Thomas Buckner, Baritone Voice, and Roscoe Mitchell, Solo Alto Saxophone, Prague Spring Festival, Czech Republic, 1999; “Memoirs of a Dying Parachutist”, for Baritone Voice and Chamber Orchestra, with text by Daniel Moore, Petr Kotik – Conductor, SEM Ensemble with Thomas Buckner, Baritone Voice, New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York NY, 1995.

Biography by Chris Kelsey