Composer Michael Frazier has been appointed assistant professor of composition in Oberlin’s Division of Contemporary Music. Since joining the Composition Department as a visiting assistant professor in 2021, he has helped students develop a deep and varied skill set with an emphasis on nurturing their individual voices.
“Easily, the thing I’m most excited about in the Composition Department are our wonderful students,” Frazier says. “It brings me great joy and honor to be able to continue working with our fine young composers in many different capacities.”
Frazier encourages engagement with topics and aesthetics outside students’ musical familiarity or awareness. He harbors a strong passion for forward-thinking music-making and creativity that embraces each individual’s cultural identity, especially those of historically underrepresented groups.
A Black and Latino composer, Frazier’s musical language blends influences from jazz, hip-hop, and other genres, rooted in a broader history of Black creative artistry. His compositional style incorporates a dense, expansive tonal language juxtaposed with freer approaches to melody and structural organization, often born in the expression of musical improvisation in various forms. At the forefront, Frazier’s music relies on gesture, harmony, slowness, and patience.
Frazier’s compositions have been widely performed and presented by esteemed groups worldwide, including Strings & Hammers, OSSIA New Music, Musica Nova, Trio Alexander, Musique 21, Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, and Birds on a Wire. He earned a master’s degree and PhD in composition from the Eastman School of Music, where he received numerous awards in composition, including the Howard Hanson Ensemble Prize and the Wayne Brewster Barlow Prize.
My Oberlin experience so far has been nothing short of remarkable. Never could I have predicted being in an environment with such a high level of musicality, artistry, respect, and compassion as I’ve found here.”
At Oberlin, Frazier aims to foster meaningful connections across the conservatory. Already, he has supported cross-departmental initiatives including the Explorations project, through which student composers collaborate with musicians from a different studio each year toward the creation of a new work. He envisions further collaborations between the Composition Department, TIMARA, and jazz, enriching the creative experiences of students and faculty alike.
“We are so pleased to welcome Michael,” says Composition Department Chair Stephen Hartke. “Of course, having served here these past two years in a visiting capacity, he is already a highly valued colleague whose talents and energies have led to new initiatives and a broadening of our department’s perspectives. I know that all of us, students and faculty alike, look forward to his continuing engagement with our creative community.”
Frazier’s collaborative mindset is apparent in his artistry. He’s currently working on two projects with Oberlin community members: a piece for solo viola for rising third-year student Solomon Leonard, as well as a piece for bassoon, piano, percussion, and electronics for Dana Jessen, Oberlin’s associate professor of contemporary music and improvisation and director of conservatory professional development. “I’m taking both pieces as opportunities to incorporate more improvisational approaches by the players,” he says. “I’m excited to see how it’ll go!
“I can say that my Oberlin experience so far has been nothing short of remarkable. Never could I have predicted being in an environment with such a high level of musicality, artistry, respect, and compassion as I’ve found here.”
“I’m so thankful to be able to continue being a part of this school. This is perhaps the first time ever that I’m more eager for summer break to be finished just so I can get right back into doing what I love this upcoming school year!”
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