Composer Profile – Alex Shapiro

Contact CSIC to Commission Alex Shapiro


Name: Alex Shapiro
State: WA
Primary Genre(s): Contemporary Classical/Film/TV
Audio Sample:
Paper Cut

Biography: Alex Shapiro aligns note after note with the hope that a few of them will sound good next to each other. Drawing from a wide musical palette that defies genre, her acoustic and electroacoustic works, published by Activist Music, are performed and broadcast daily across the U.S. and internationally and can be found on over twenty commercially released recordings from around the world.

Long established in the chamber music world, Ms. Shapiro is also known for her groundbreaking electroacoustic works for wind band at the middle school, high school, and college levels. As the 2010 commissioned composer for the American Composers Forum BandQuest series, Shapiro created the repertoire’s very first Grade 3 electroacoustic band piece, PAPER CUT. The unusual addition of printer paper used as a percussion instrument rapidly turned the piece into a worldwide best seller, and has sparked nearly a hundred YouTube videos of live performances, many of which include black light and other visual effects. The fun of creating fresh, contemporary music to engage students has become one of Alex’s newest joys, and in 2013, funded by a consortium of schools led by Lisa Oman and CSIC, Shapiro created another popular electroacoustic Grade 4 work, TIGHT SQUEEZE, which incorporates the unlikely combination of Latin grooves and a 12-tone row. Ms. Shapiro’s latest project with CSIC is her 2015 multimedia band piece, LIGHTS OUT, for which Alex Skype’d with many of the participating bands as she began composing, to garner students’ creative ideas about possible visual and theatrical effects.

Born in New York City in 1962, Alex began composing as a much shorter person at age nine. Educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music as a student of Ursula Mamlok and John Corigliano, Ms. Shapiro is an enthusiastic leader in the new music community, and advocates for other artists through speaking appearances, published articles, and volunteerism. She has served on numerous U.S. music advocacy boards, and is the Symphonic and Concert composer representative on the ASCAP Board of Directors. Alex is a familiar guest lecturer at universities around the United States, and the author of a chapter titled, “Releasing a Student’s Inner Composer” for the 2013 GIA Publications book, “Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra.” Shapiro’s band works PAPER CUT, and TIGHT SQUEEZE, are featured in “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Volume 10,” edited by Eugene Migliaro Corporon and released by GIA Publications.

Alex’s extensive article on electroacoustic band music and new digital technologies in classrooms and concert venues was published in two 2014 issues of the international band association’s magazine, WASBE World, and she has presented workshops on electroacoustic music and social media at the 2013 Midwest Clinic in Chicago, and the 2014 Texas Music Educators Association in San Antonio.

Alex lives on Washington State’s remote San Juan Island, and procrastinates on her next piece by pointing her camera at the surrounding wildlife. Shapiro’s audio and photos fill her popular blog, Notes from the Kelp, and are accompanied by her essays on animals, sea life, and human nature, connecting Alex’s music and her heart to a wide sphere of colleagues and audiences.