A member of G. Schirmer’s prestigious roster of artists, Gabriela Lena Frank is a pianist and composer of contemporary classical music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, she has always placed identity at the center of her work, exploring her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, she is something of a musical anthropologist. She has travelled extensively throughout South America, and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.
Among recent numerous awards, she has received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2009 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Crossover Album, and a 2010 United States Artists Fellowship, which is given each year to 50 of America’s finest artists. Her compositions have been described as “luminous…bursting with fresh originality” (Los Angeles Times), “brilliantly effective” (New York Times), “of unearthly beauty” (Miami Sun-Sentinel), and “[belonging to] one of the most compelling voices on the classical music scene today” (Chicago Tribune). In 2011, the all-Frank Naxos CD Hilos broke into Billboard’s top 100 classical recordings in the first week of its release while garnering a rare 10/10 rating from Classics Today that praised her both as composer and concert pianist.
She is the subject of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary Peregrinos: A Musical Journey about her work with the Indianapolis Symphony creating music inspired by the stories of Latino immigrants. In 2012, she was sponsored by the US-Quito Embassy in Ecuador and private donors through USA Artists to compose a new work for the Ecuadoran group La Orquesta de Instrumentos Andinos. The work, Compadre Huashayo, is played entirely on indigenous instruments while drawing on a mix of modernist classical and traditional indigenous practices. Once again, PBS profiled Frank in a documentary, likewise entitled Compadre Huashayo, which was premiered in 2013. In 2012, she was featured prominently in a W.W. Norton anthology entitled The Musics of Latin America.
She works regularly with some of the most important artists today, having written compositions for the Kronos Quartet, cellist Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (of which is she is a member), the King’s Singers, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and guitarist Manuel Barrueco, among others. Pulitzer Prize playwright Nilo Cruz frequently partners with Frank as her lyricist for vocal works. Her music has been commissioned and performed by pipa virtuoso Wu Man, the San Francisco Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Chanticleer Ensemble, the Chiara String Quartet, the Brentano Quartet, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, guitarist Manuel Barrueco with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Wu Han and David Finckel, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and many others. She has received multiple commissions from Carnegie Hall. Her piece Concertino Cusqueño was commissioned and premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in celebration of the start of the tenure of that organization’s newest conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Past performances include those by the Boston Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella series. In 2014, she had a commissioned premiere with the Cleveland Symphony and another commissioned premiere with the Houston Symphony.
She has served as composer-in-residence with many institutions, including the Modesto Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Aspen Music Festival, the Seattle Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. Between 2009 and 2012, she served as the Creative Advisor to her hometown orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra under the baton of frequent collaborator Joana Carneiro, before stepping down to spend more time composing. In 2013, she began a three-year tenure as composer-in-residence with the Detroit Symphony under maestro Leonard Slatkin as well as a second three-year residency with the Houston Symphony under Andrés Orozco-Estrada. She began her tenure as the Visiting Composer for the Sphinx Virtuosi in 2015. She has been featured at many festivals around the world including Music@Menlo, Tanglewood Music Festival, SongFest, the Chicago Chamber Players, among others.
She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Rice University, and her Doctorate from the University of Michigan. Her most influential teachers have been Jeanne Kierman Fischer and Logan Skelton for piano; and Sam Jones, William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty for composition.
In 2015, she left her native San Francisco Bay Area to start a farm with her husband in the town of Boonville, California. She travels frequently throughout North and South America. She is also often a guest artist at universities and conservatories, giving performances, lectures, and lessons.