Small cleveland color Learning from Donald Erb

Reflections | Keith Fitch, Composer / James Mobberley, Composer
Bt movie not in use Learning about having a sense of humor from Donald Erb 00h:00m:00s

Composer James (Jim) Mobberley sits down with CIM's Head of Composition, Keith Fitch, to reflect on learning from Donald Erb.

James Mobberley


Recorded Date: 31-10-2014

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Keith Fitch

Keith Fitch currently heads the composition department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he holds the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition and also directs the CIM New Music Ensemble. Called “gloriously luminous” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, his music has been consistently noted for its eloquence, expressivity, dramatic sense of musical narrative, and unique sense of color and sonority. Reviewing a performance of his work Totem by Wolfgang Sawallisch and The Philadelphia Orchestra (chosen by Maestro Sawallisch to celebrate the orchestra’s centennial), The Wall Street Journal praised “the sheer concentration of his writing, and its power to express a complex, unseen presence shaping the course of musical events.” His works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan by such ensembles as The Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and new music ensembles around the country. Additionally, his music has been heard at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the June in Buffalo Festival, the Midwest Composers’ Symposium, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Milwaukee PremiereFest, New York’s Carnegie and Merkin Halls, and in university settings nationwide. Highlights of recent seasons include the premieres of ’Tho Night Be Falling (commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Colorado String Quartet); Midnight Rounds, written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Da Capo Chamber Players; and Mean Fiddle Summer, composed for the acclaimed violinist Lina Bahn. The 2012-13 season brings the premieres of Knock on Wood (for the harp/guitar duo of Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux); Cascade, a fanfare commissioned by Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the inauguration of their new building; and In Memory, a new chamber orchestra work commissioned by the League of Composers Orchestra (NY).

A native of Indiana, Keith Fitch (b. 1966) began composing at age eight and began formal musical training on the double bass at age eleven. While still in high school (age sixteen), he received his first professional orchestral performance. Subsequently, he attended the Indiana University School of Music, where he completed his Doctorate in 1995. At Indiana, he studied composition with Frederick Fox, Eugene O’Brien, and Claude Baker, double bass with Bruce Bransby and Murray Grodner, and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky, founder of the Borodin Quartet. He also counts Donald Erb and Joan Tower among his compositional mentors. Among his many awards are the annual Dean’s Prize for Composition at Indiana (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994), the Kate and Cole Porter Memorial Fellowship at Indiana (1993-1995), three ASCAP Young Composer Awards (1988, 1989, 1993), the ASCAP-Raymond Hubbell Scholarship (1988), three National Society of Arts and Letters awards (1990, 1992, 1993), an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), and a Fromm Foundation Commission (2005). He has enjoyed multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony (1998, 2001) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007), as well as at The Charles Ives Center for American Music (1991), and the Atlantic Center for the Arts (1989), and he has twice served as Resident Composer and faculty at the Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East (2002, 2006). He has also served as guest composer at California Summer Music (2010) and at the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University (OH, 2010). Most recently, he was the recipient of a 2012 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

Highly regarded as a teacher, chamber music coach, and conductor of new music, he has taught at Indiana University (2001), Bard College (2005-2006, 2007-2008), and for eleven years served on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in New York (1997-2008), where he founded the new music ensemble, CIRCE. His students regularly win awards from such prestigious organizations as ASCAP, BMI, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as attending leading summer festivals around the world. Students interested in studying with Dr. Fitch are strongly encouraged to contact him at The Cleveland Institute of Music ( prior to auditioning.

His music is published by Non Sequitur Music (

James Mobberley

Rome Prize winner and Guggenheim Fellow James Mobberley’s works span many media, from orchestra and electro-acoustic music to music for dance, film, and video. Commissions have come from the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, Koussevitzky Foundation/Library of Congress, Barlow Endowment, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, National Endowment for the Arts, and numerous ensembles and individual performers. He is currently Curators’ Professor of Composition at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and has also been a Resident Composer with the Kansas City Symphony (1992-1999), and a Visiting Composer with both the Taiwan National Symphony (1999) and the Fort Smith Symphony (2000). He has also received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, League-ISCM, Meet the Composer, the Van Cliburn Foundation, the Shanghai Spring Festival, and numerous other organizations. Many of his works are available for listening on