Don Byron

2020-21 CAST Virtual Visiting Artist

Don Byron performs in The Great Clarinet Summit, 2018. Credit Sham Sthankiya/MIT. Don Byron and the New Gospel Quintet, On Time God, 2010. Video courtesy of the artist. Don Byron and the New Gospel Quintet on October 27, 2012 at MIT. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington. Don Byron on October 27, 2012 at MIT in collaboration with the MIT Visiting Artists program. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington. Don Byron and the New Gospel Quintet on October 27, 2012 at MIT. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington.

Legendary clarinetist and composer Don Byron forges what he calls "a sound above genre"

In this present moment of global pandemic, racial injustice, and the economic devastation of the cultural sector, CAST introduces a new category of appointment for 2020-21, Virtual Visiting Artists. The three distinguished artists—Don Byron, Anat Cohen, and Luciana Souza—bring breadth, scope, and energy to MIT during a period when most learning is online and remote. This new program will draw upon wide-ranging facets of their artistry and cultural heritage and bring expertise in specific musical cultures that are currently underrepresented in MIT’s curriculum.

About the Residency

As a CAST 2020-21 Virtual Visiting Artist (VVA), multifaceted clarinetist Don Byron expands on his previous collaborations with MIT with presentations on klezmer, music for film, jazz, and more, weaving together these topics through the lens of the intersections of race and music throughout history and today. Byron will also lead class lectures, masterclasses, small group sessions, and individual lessons to enliven and enrich both the online learning and cultural lives of MIT students during this challenging time of COVID-19.

Byron is well known at the Institute and has collaborated with various entities over the last decade. He was most recently at MIT as a guest performer at the Great Clarinet Summit in 2018 where he was joined by Billy Novick, Evan Ziporyn, Eran Egozy, Anat Cohen, and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble & MIT Wind Ensemble, led by Music Director Frederick Harris, Jr. The exciting and eclectic program included Byron’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, music for jazz and chamber ensembles featuring the clarinet, and a special world premiere featuring all guest soloists.

Over the 2012-13 academic year, Byron collaborated with MIT students and faculty in a range of activities including new music and opera workshops. He also worked closely with students from the Boston Arts Academy to present a gospel concert with his own New Gospel Quintet in October 2012. In March 2013, the MIT Wind Ensemble, conducted by Harris, premiered Byron’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, with Evan Zipoyrn, soloist.

In 2007-08, he was appointed a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT, the first full-year MLK appointment in music and theater arts. Byron’s first collaboration at MIT was with his own ensemble, author Paul Auster, and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble in 2005.

Schedule

Upcoming Events

Fall 2020 Ensemble Visits
Don Byron will be visiting the following ensemble rehearsals: some will be open to listeners, so if you are part of the MIT community and are interested in attending, please fill out this short form.

Diverse Improvisational Approaches with MIT Wind Ensemble
Wednesday, September 9 / 7-8:30pm

Exploring Jazz Ensemble Blues Classics Part 1 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Tuesday, October 13 / 6:30-7:30pm

Line/Improv session #1 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Thursday, November 12 / 5:30-7:30pm

Line/Improv session #2 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Tuesday, November 17 / 6:30pm-7:30pm

Line/Improv session #3 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Thursday, November 19 / 6:30pm-7:30pm

Line/Improv session #4 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Tuesday, December 1 / 6:30pm-7:30pm

Line/Improv session #5 with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Thursday, December 3 / 6:30-7:30pm

Ensemble visits during the spring 2021 semester will be announced later in the fall.

Fall 2020 Class Visits

Don Byron will be sharing his experience and insights with MIT students as a guest lecturer in the following classes:

21M.294 Popular Musics of the World, Patricia Tang

21M.284 Film Music, Martin Marks

Additional class visits to be announced.


Past Events

The Great Clarinet Summit
May 11, 2018 / 8:00pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

This unique event featured renowned clarinetists Anat Cohen, Don Byron, Eran Egozy, Billy Novick and Evan Ziporyn along with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble & MIT Wind Ensemble, led by Music Director Frederick Harris, Jr. The exciting and eclectic program included Byron’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, music for jazz and chamber ensembles featuring the clarinet, a special world premiere featuring all guest soloists, and a community play-along piece for all attending clarinetists of all ages.

Watch the full length recording

Artist Presentation: Don Byron Composer Forum
March 13, 2013

Byron spoke about his Clarinet Concerto that was premiered by the MIT Wind Ensemble; Evan Ziporyn, soloist, on March 16, 2013 in MIT Kresge Auditorium.

Don Byron New Gospel Quintet
October 27, 2012

Legendary clarinetist Don Byron brings his newest project to MIT. It features the music of gospel pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey. Byron’s album Love, Peace and Soul (released in February 2012 on Savoy Jazz) mixes his original jazz compositions with traditional gospel works. Joining Don Byron and his New Gospel Quintet on stage is a chorus of students from Boston Arts Academy, an innovative public high school for the performing and visual art

Don Byron and Evan Ziporyn: Concerto for Clarinet With the MIT Wind Ensemble Conducted by Frederick Harris Jr. and Kenneth Amis
March 16, 2013

World premiere of Byron’s Concerto for Clarinet; Ives, Fugue in C, Variations on “America”; Mendelssohn, Overture for Winds; Arnold, Four Scottish Dances; Bach, Fugue in G minor (for saxophone ensemble), Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Presto (for clarinet ensemble), arranged by Byron.

Class Visits
Rehearsal with MIT Wind Ensemble

Visit to Martin Mark’s Film Music Course

Collaborators at MIT

Frederick Harris, Director of the MIT Wind Ensemble and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and a Lecturer in Music in Music and Theater Arts

Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music in Music and Theater Arts and the Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology

The MIT Wind Ensemble

The MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Biography

Don Byron, a singular voice in a broad range of musical contexts, is acclaimed as much for his restless creativity as for his unsurpassed virtuosity as a player. Byron has presented a multitude of projects at major music festivals around the world. Launched in 2009, Don Byron’s New Gospel Quintet grows out of his in-depth studies of gospel music.

In the Media

“He has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named “Jazz Artist of the Year” by Down Beat in 1992.”

Cantaloupe Music 

“While hardly a radical, Byron is an original voice within the bounds of whatever style he happens to embrace.”

Blue Note Records

Irish Independent: May is a Fiesta of Jazz with Two Festivals

Theatermania: The Inaugural Doris Duke Artists

Youtube: Live on Soundcheck on WNYC

Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards: Don Byron

The Boston Music Intelligencer: Wind Exhilarations at Kresge

The Arts Fuse: Fuse Jazz Review