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The San Juan Islands

Alex Shapiro

(and... speaker... essayist.
activist... naturalist photo-blogger.
fun person.)

"[Shapiro's music is] enough to give one hope for the contemporary music scene."

—All Music Guide

Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian

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Alex Shapiro, photo by Dan Shelley, 2015

Alex Shapiro's unique music career is a happy, multifaceted one, in which she spends her time:


Composing a lot of music (mostly for chamber ensembles and symphonic wind bands, often paired with prerecorded audio soundscapes) composing

Speaking at events, residencies, and conferences around the world speaking

Participating on advocacy boards and committees participating

Writing articles and essays writing


Photo-blogging wildlife from the remote island on which she creates!


Alex speaking at the ASCAP EXPO in Hollywood, 2016
San Juan Islands, from above

Get a sense of Alex, as she responds to the question, "What kind of composer are you?" in this 50-second excerpt from a 2010 interview, below:



San Juan Islands, from above


What Alex has been up to:
Currently/Most recently

2018 award:

Alex was one of two honorees at the 2018 Friday Harbor Film Festival. She has been given the Local Hero Award for her activism through music, as an arts advocacy speaker and as a composer who often pairs her music with her wildlife photography to raise environmental awareness.

Captain Paul Watson, a co-founder of both Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, received the Film Festival's Andrew V. McLaglen Lifetime Achievement Award for his many decades of powerful environmental activism in defense of whales and all other sea life.

Friday Harbor Film Festival

Friday Harbor Film FestivalFriday Harbor Film Festival


Being composed right now:

Alex is currently composing an electroacoustic work for SATB choir, commissioned by Suzi Digby and The Golden Bridge. The new work will premiere in the Fall of 2019 in Los Angeles.

Caballito Negro


Upcoming album:

Pianist Adam Marks has recorded each of the solo piano works in Alex's catalog. Produced by Alex with the generosity of Yamaha Artist Services in New York City, Marks recorded the project in November 2018 at The Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City on Yamaha's unmatched 9' DCFX, using the latest in high resolution technology. The album is anticipated to be released in the Fall of 2019. For more info and photos about the project, click here. read

Alex and Adam Marks at Yamaha Artist Services


Latest article:

In September 2018, the online music magazine NewMusicBox published Alex's latest article, Dissing the Competition. In it she exposes the myriad problems with some pay-to-enter composer competitions, and lists many better ways emerging writers can spend their money. To read it, click here. read


Speaking, January 24 and 25, 2019, in Cabo Verde, Africa:

Alex participated in career and copyright workshops with her writer colleagues on the Executive Committee of The International Council Of Music Authors (CIAM)— the writers council of CISAC, for which she is ASCAP's elected representative— during the CIAM ExCo meetings in Cabo Verde, Africa.

CIAM addresses issues ranging from global copyright and royalty payment improvements, to transfer of value, fair trade music, blockchain potential, and much more, in an effort to advance the wellbeing of music creators around the world.


Alex Shapiro on the CIAM ExCo career workshop panel in Cabo Verde, Africa


Clinician, December 19-22 2018, in Chicago, Illinois:

Joining composer Jennifer Jolley, and conductors Jeffrey Boeckman, Courtney Snyder, Chester Bryant Phillips, and Jacob Wallace, Alex participated in a presentation at the 2018 Midwest Clinic titled, "Bridging the Gender Gap: Developing Strategies for Creating Equity in Ensemble Programming."


Speaking and presenting, December 12, 2018, in New York City, NY:

Alex and fellow ASCAP Board member Marcus Miller gave a talk to the winners of the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Award, prior to the awards ceremony at which the duo acknowledged the receipents. Alex was also pleased to present composer Melinda Wagner with the ASCAP Foundation Masters Award.

Marcus Miller and Alex Shapiro talking to winners of the Morton Gould Young Composer award

Alex Shapiro presents the ASCAP Foundation Masters Award to Melinda Wagner


Speaking, November 5, 2018, in Mexico City, Mexico:

Alex joined her writer colleagues on the Executive Committee of The International Council Of Music Authors (CIAM)— the writers council of CISAC, for which she is ASCAP's elected representative— at the Annual CIAM Congress in Mexico City. She moderated a panel discussion with music creators from Australia, Europe, Canada, and South America, discussing not only the problems of far-reaching biases, but the solutions.


Alex Shapiro speaking at the CIAM ExCo in Mexico City


Featured Composer:

Alex was the featured composer for May 2018 on the website of international distributor Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc., which has carried the entire Activist Music caltalog since 1999.

Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.


Speaking, May 31-June 5, 2018, in Warsaw, Poland:

Alex again joined her international writer colleagues on the Executive Committee of The International Council Of Music Authors (CIAM)— the writers council of CISAC, to attend three days of CIAM meetings, as well as attend the CISAC Assembly, at which she spoke on a panel addressing gender inequity issues throughout the music industry. You can read about it by clicking here. read

CIAM protects and promotes the rights of music creators across the world.


Alex Shapiro (at right)-CISAC Warsaw


Panelist, May 8, 2018, in Hollywood, California:

Partnering with fellow ASCAP Board members Desmond Child and Michelle Lewis plus producer Deputy, Alex spoke on an entertaining panel titled Welcome to Splitsville, U.S.A.: Where co-writers live together in harmony forever... like our songs. The quartet demonstrated the importance of accurate songwriting agreements to ensure payment. Click to read about the panel here. read


ASCAP EXPO 2018: Deputy, Michelle Lewis, Alex and Desmond Child

Recent track releases

Electroacoustic bassoon:

Bassoonist Cayla Bellamy has made a beautiful recording of Alex's work for solo bassoon and electronics, DEEP. The track appears on Bellamy's 2018 CD, Double or Nothing, and is also available on iTunes. iTunes link

Listen to an excerpt:


Atmospheres CD


Solo piano:

German pianist Susanne Kessel has released the first 2-CD set of her five-year project, 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven, on Obst. You can read more about the project below, and more about the CD, which includes Alex's poignant CHORD HISTORY, here read

Listen to an excerpt:


250 Pieces for Beethoven, Vol. 1 CD

Recent commissions and premieres

Electroacoustic sextet and band piece:

Alex's unusual piece for low winds, TRAIN OF THOUGHT, was commissioned by Paul Kile for the Cochran Chamber Commissioning Project, and premiered in Edina, Minnesota on May 22, 2016. Click the title to read the story behind the music. It gives new meaning to the term, "audio track"!

Kile joins conductor Adam Campagna and several other participants in a consortium that has commissioned Alex to create a version of the piece for full symphonic wind band. The new work, titled TRAINS OF THOUGHT, has begun its participant premieres, starting off with the University of Puget Sound Wind Ensemble performing on March 3, 2018, conducted by Gerard Morris.

Enjoy the live recording!


TRAIN OF THOUGHT score cover

Cochran Chamber Winds


Even more new electroacoustic wind band works:

Band director Jim Mobley loves the fresh genre of electroacoustic wind band music, and believes that there should be more such pieces in the repertoire— especially for younger musicians to perform. He put together the N-BEAM consortium, which over the course of three years, will support the addition of three new Grade 2.5 EA works to the concert band world. Composers Daniel Montoya and Benjamin Taylor will write pieces for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and Alex Shapiro will deliver a new work that will premiere in 2020.

Interested in being a participant in this unique and wonderful adventure? Click here: read

Want to witness just how ridiculous three composers and a band director can be under the glare of conference floor lights at the Midwest Clinic? Click here: watch the madness


One year after leading a consortium of seven schools that commissioned Alex's now-familiar 12-tone Afro-Cuban-grooved TIGHT SQUEEZE (just like Schoenberg!), Composers & Schools in Concert partnered again with Alex on a new piece with an emphasis on visual multimedia, titled LIGHTS OUT. A consortium of 19 schools around the U.S. interacted with Alex via Skype, as she solicited creative visual ideas from the musicians for their Spring 2015 premieres, as well as for inclusion in the published score to inspire other bands. Wanna get a sense of what they all came up with? Click here! read


In February 2016, Alex delivered a third CSIC-led electroacoustic wind band piece for an 18-member consortium, and the new work, titled MOMENT, premiered throughout Spring 2016 around the U.S. You can read about the enivronmental awareness behind the very emotional music here: read


And, March 2016 brought with it an unusual minimalist piece for musicians of all ages titled ROCK MUSIC, commissioned by Patrick Marsh Middle School Band and its adventurous conductor Chris Gleason. The piece, which addresses glacial melting and climate change and includes many extended techniques not heard on the demo below, premiered in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin on May 10, 2016. You can read about it-- and see a video!-- here: read


LIGHTS OUT score cover

MOMENT score cover

ROCK MUSIC score cover

Listen to LIGHTS OUT:
Listen to MOMENT:
Listen to ROCK MUSIC:

If you're interested in participating in future consortia,
please contact Activist Music!


Solo piano:

Michael Tierra is both a professional pianist and a renowned professional herbalist. What better way to embrace both worlds, than to commission a suite of solo piano pieces to explore the unique traits of healing plants? Exploring the balance between pain and joy on this fragile planet, the resulting 20 minute piece, titled, ARCANA, premiered in Santa Cruz, California on March 20, 2016, on a program comprised entirely of Alex's chamber works.

Tierra commissioned an additional version of the piece that pairs the sonorities of live piano with evocative textures and sounds of a prerecorded accompaniment track, for an electroacoustic experience titled ARCANA PLANET that Tierra premiered in Santa Cruz, CA. on March 23, 2017.

You can learn more about ARCANA here score info

Michael Tierra



Alex was asked by conductor Joseph Ohrt to compose a short movement for SSAA choir and piano that West Choir premiered at the 2016 Eastern Division ACDA conference in Boston on February 10. The piece, BECAUSE I AM, is part of a suite of nine such others composed by women, that comprises the collective work titled, BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN.

Listen to the premiere performance:


Central Bucks

ACDA Eastern


Flute and guitar:

When the guitar and flute pair that is Bas Duo were looking for something new and quirky to add to their repertoire, they found it in Alex's piece SLIP, originally composed for harpsichord and violin, which Alex has adapted for Bas Duo's 2016-2017 concerts in a new version titled, SLIPPERY, which the duo premiered in New Jersey on May 15, 2016.

Bas Duo

gull toes
Recent podcasts

March 2018: Alex really enjoyed talking with Mark J. Connor as a guest on his popular podcast, Everything Band. Covering everything from career to clarinet-playing gerbils (!), it was a far-ranging chat! Click the icon at right to have a listen. listen

Everything Band

January 2016: Alex spent the better part of an afternoon chatting about the business and philosophical aspects of a happy composing career, with composer and The Portfolio Composer podcast host Garrett Hope (pictured at right). Their wide-ranging conversation over drinks in Alex's San Juan Island, WA living room, is posted in two March 2016 parts, and you can hear it below:

Alex Shapiro and Garrett Hope
The Portfolio Composer

Part 1: hear Part 1
Part 2: hear Part 2

May 2017 and April 2016: In May 2017, Alex returned to MPP to join co-hosts Dennis Tobenski and mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen for a discussion about the wide range of creative commissioning techniques available to performers and composers. Want to hear Alex's Plan A,B,C,D and beyond? Click here: listen

The previous April, Alex was the inaugural guest for composer Tobenski's new series, Music Publishing Podcast. Despite some technical issues with a Hangout connection that apparently had Alex reaching for her snorkel, she and Dennis had an excellent conversation about the business of being a busy composer. You can stream it in the background while doing something mindless above the mean tide line, by clicking here. listen

Music Publishing Podcast

February, 2017: Alex was interviewed by host and composer Anthony Lanman on his podcast series, 1 Track, for a conversation about her electroacoustic music. Juxtaposing two related works that share the same accompaniment track (BELOW, for contrabass flute, and BENEATH, for symphonic wind band), Alex A/B'ed identical sections of each piece, allowing the listening audience to experience the power of different orchestrations in eliciting different emotion. Click here to listen! listen

1 Track podcast

Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute syndicated radio program produced by American Public Media in association with the American Composers Forum. The series highlights moments in music history of the past and the present, and its February 11, 2017 segment features Alex Shapiro and the anniversary of the premiere of her sonata for tuba and piano titled Music for Two Big Instruments. You can listen to host John Zech's amusing description by clicking here and then clicking the "play" arrow at the top of the page listen


You can listen to more interviews with Alex here. radio and podcasts


Composers Datebook-Shapiro

A recent documentary appearance

Alex appears in two of director Michael Stillwater's documentary films: Shining Night, and In Search of the Great Song. Click below to listen to a short excerpt from the latter, filmed at Alex's home on San Juan Island, WA. and scored with her piece BELOW. Alex shares her thoughts about how the sea inspires her muses.




A recent articles

Alex was asked to contribute her thoughts to NewMusicBox's April 2016 series about music and money, and delivered a piece titled Let's Make a List, that many college professors are already making required reading for their composition students. In it, Alex offers a detailed road map to point music-makers toward the many revenue streams that can be generated from their copyrights. You can read the essay-- and add to the comment thread with your own suggestions-- by clicking here. read

ACDA Eastern

Recent appearances

November 7-9, 2017, in Tokyo, Japan: Alex was elected to be ASCAP's representative on the Executive Committee of The International Council Of Music Authors (CIAM)— the writers council of CISAC, a global network of authors' societies that represents four million creators in 121 countries. She spoke on a panel titled, "The Future of Collective Management."

Shapiro speaking in Tokyo at the CIAM Annual Assembly.

June 7-10, 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal: Alex was invited to represent the writer members of ASCAP at the Executive Committee meetings for CIAM, the International Council Of Music Authors. The Council was formed by CISAC, the global collective of performing rights societies, and is comprised of creator members of performing rights music organizations around the world.

Shapiro at CIAM ExCo meeting

April 26, 2017, in Washington, D.C.: Alex returned to Capitol Hill where each spring, members of the Board of Directors of ASCAP and writer members who are strong copyright advocates meet with Senators, members of Congress, and their aides, to keep the message of fair compensation for music creators front and center. Known as "Stand with Songwriters" Advocacy Day, the office visits are preceded by an inspiring evening concert at the Library of Congress called, "We Write the Songs," where policy makers enjoy performances by some of the world's top ASCAP creators.

Over the years Alex has spoken with many Representatives, including Joaquin Castro (D-TX), pictured here in May 2016 with Alex and ASCAP board President and Chairman Paul Williams.

View of the Capitol from ASCAP's van on lobbying day

ASCAP Lobbying in Washington, D.C.


April 13-15, 2017, in Hollywood: The 12th annual ASCAP EXPO brought artists from every genre together for an inspiring conference of workshops, panels, performances and networking at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Alex spoke on a panel titled "Getting Credit Where Credit is Due," addressing the need for accurate attribution across all genres and in all uses of digital media, alongside songwriter and performer Aloe Blacc, songwriter and fellow ASCAP Board member Desmond Child, attorney and panel moderator Dina LaPolt, and Auddly founder Niclas Molinder (pictured L-R). You can read about the animated discussion-- which included comments from Pandora's head of publisher licensing Adam Parness during the Q&A by clicking here. read

At the 2016 EXPO, Alex gave a lively presentation on a panel about creative uses of multimedia in concert music, titled "Seeing Music: Multimedia Concerts for a Visual World." Pictured L-R: Composer Veronika Krausas, Alex, visualists Candace Reckinger and Michael Patterson, and ASCAP VP of Concert Music Cia Toscanini.





December 14, 2016, in New York City: The ASCAP Foundation Awards event honors emerging and distinguished music creators from a broad array of genres, and Alex was honored to present the Life in Music Award to her friend and renowned composer Morten Lauridsen. For information, click here more info

Lauridsen and Shapiro

November 4-6, 2016, in Friday Harbor: Alex handled the Q&A sessions with the Friday Harbor Film Festival audiences for four screenings of two documentary films in which she and her music appear: SHINING NIGHT, and IN SEARCH OF THE GREAT SONG, both directed by Michael Stillwater. For information, click here! more info

Friday Harbor Film Festival

April 24, 2016, in Los Angeles: Alex (pictured on the left) was back in the saddle at the Los Angeles Composer Salon series that she co-founded in 2000 with composer Kubilay Uner (pictured second from right). She co-moderated the celebratory 60th event at Tuttomedia Studios in Venice, CA. with Giovanna Imbesi, pictured at right, and a stellar lineup of guests including L-R: Billy Childs, Gloria Cheng, and Deborah Lurie.

L.A. Composer Salon L.A. Composer Salon


Recent residencies

January 19-21, 2018: Alex was at Shenandoah University, working with the composition students and enjoying performances of three of her works: her trio CIRCUS OF FLEAS, as well as MOMENT and TIGHT SQUEEZE, conducted by Tim Robblee.

Shenandoah University

April 10-11, 2017: Alex was at University of Minnesota, speaking with the conducting students as well as the instrumentalists.

University of Minnesota

February 25-26, 2017: Alex returned to The University of Hawai'i at Manoa, to work with composition students as well as with Jeffrey Boeckman and the University of Hawai'i Wind Ensemble, which performed two of Alex's works: HOMECOMING, and MOMENT. Click HERE for more info.

University of Hawai'i

December 7, 2016: Alex was a guest speaker and gave her multimedia presentation on electroacoustic wind band music to the composition students at Columbia College.

Columbia College

December 6, 2016: Alex came to Chicago to work with the musicians at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts. In addition to lectures and private lessons all day, the evening featured a concert conducted by Stephen Squires that included three of Alex's wind band works: BENEATH, LIQUID COMPASS, and LIGHTS OUT. For info, click HERE.

Roosevelt University

November 11-13, 2016: Alex was the Composer-in-Residence at University of Montana, in Missoula, and her visit included two concerts featuring three of her recent wind band works: ROCK MUSIC, MOMENT, and LIQUID COMPASS, conducted by James Smart and Parker Bixby. For more info, click HERE.

University of Montana

August 2-11, 2016: Alex joined composer and Festival founder Anne Guzzo to be the Composer-in-Residence for the inaugural year of The Wyoming Festival. Bringing visiting composers together with world-class performers including violinist Holly Mulcahy, the Festival included two concerts held in Grand Teton National Park at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center Auditorium, and the UW-NPS AMK Ranch research station.

The Wyoming Festival

July 23-24, 2016, in Vancouver, B.C.: Alex was the guest composer at the 4th Annual UBC Wind Conducting Symposium, held at The University of British Columbia School of Music. Conductor and host Rob Taylor chose electroacoustic wind band music as the focus for the Symposium, and Alex gave an in-depth presentation on conducting and producing electroacoustic music and multimedia concerts. To top it off, Rob set up an "electroacoustic petting zoo," allowing any of the 45 conductors in attendance to come up to the podium, don a set of headphones, get comfortable with a click track, and conduct one of Alex's wind band pieces!

UBC Wind Conducting Symposium

September 9, 2015, in Nashville, TN: Alex and attorney and publisher Jim Kendrick gave another in their ASCAP Composer Career Workshop series, this time at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. The 4-hour in-depth seminar on business skills for music-makers is free and open to the public, and if you'd like one to come to your area, drop Alex an email. It's fun, too!

ASCAP workshop
Orca whale and gull
Recent publications

Over the past decade, Susanne Kessel has recorded and toured with two of Alex's short solo piano works, FOR MY FATHER, and SLOWLY, SEARCHING. On October 6 2014, Kessel once again recorded a new short work of Alex's, CHORD HISTORY, on the gorgeous Steinway at WDR Radio in Cologne, Germany, for a CD released on Obst in July 2016.

The piece is a small part of Kessel's wide-ranging 2014-2020 CD project and tour, 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven, celebrating the upcoming 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, with whom Kessel shares a Bonn, Germany heritage (though definitely not his reportedly sour personality). It's included in Volume 1, a 152 page book of the first 25 pieces in the series, published by Editions Musica Ferrum.

You can learn more about CHORD HISTORY here.score info


250 Pieces for Beethoven


June, September, 2014: Alex's brain is about 8,000 words lighter: she's written an extensive two-part article echoing the clinic presentations on new media in the band world that she gave at The 2013 Midwest Clinic and the 2014 Texas Music Educators Association Conference. The essay, titled The e-Frontier: Music, Multimedia, Education, and Audiences in the Digital World, appears in the June and September 2014 issues of the magazine of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, WASBE World.

Read the full article, offered with the kind permission of WASBE.




Two of Alex's electroacoustic wind band pieces, PAPER CUT, and TIGHT SQUEEZE, are featured in the educational book/CD series, Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Volume 10, edited by Eugene Migliaro Corporon and released by GIA Publications December 2014.

You can learn more about this book/CD set here. info

Teaching Music Through Performance

Recent appointments


November, 2017: Alex Shapiro is ASCAP's newly elected representative on the Executive Committee of The International Council Of Music Authors (CIAM)— the writers council of CISAC, a global network of authors' societies that represents four million creators in 121 countries. CIAM members convene several times a year in cities around the world to address the many ways to fiercely protect the rights of composers, authors and copyright holders so that they're properly remunerated for the commercial uses of their work. The Council also takes an active role in advising newly established collective rights societies. Working with advocates in countries whose creators have not had the benefit of essential rights like copyright protection and royalty distribution, CIAM shares information about best practices to help them serve their members.


November, 2016: Alex is honored to have been elected to the Board of Directors of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, which provides financial support for myriad composers and musicians seeking assistance in launching recording and performance projects, and handles permissions for uses of Copland's music. Click here to peruse the site!

Aaron Copland Fund for Music

March, 2015: Alex was elected by the membership to the Board of Directors of ASCAP, to serve as the Symphonic & Concert writer representative. She began serving in this capacity in April 2014 when she was elected by the board to fill the mid-term vacancy of the seat previously held for over twenty years by the late, esteemed composer Stephen Paulus.


July, 2015: New Music USA is a major national arts advocacy organization which provides over $1 million each year in grant support for the creation and performance of new work and community building throughout the country. Alex was an inaugural co-chair of its Program Council, an advisory committee of people working in the field, and continues to serve as a member.

New Music USA

October, 2015: Alex is very pleased to serve as a member of the Columbia College Chicago Music Department Advisory Panel, exploring what contemporary education should offer to students to best prepare them for productive, happy careers.

Columbia College

December, 2015: Composers Now is an important organization that celebrates the diverse music of living composers, and Alex is delighted to have joined its Distinguished Mentors Council. Click here to learn about the February 2016 Festival, as well as other upcoming events across New York City throughout the year!

Composers Now

December, 2015: Alex was elected to the Board of Directors of The ASCAP Foundation, which provides funding for a remarkably broad scope of composers and performers working in nearly every genre. Click here to peruse the site!


The ASCAP Foundation


To see more, visit Event Archive Archive
musical sea creature


Full streams of some recent premieres:



May 10, 2014: Commemorating the 140th anniversary of Carthage College's wind band, LIQUID COMPASS takes the musicians and the audience on a journey across the sea, and spans the mystical and the triumphant. The piece migrates to different places, but never loses its bearings in pursuit of a musical true north.

Featuring the live resonance of water dripping into metal bowls, this piece is not only electro-acoustic, but electro-aquatic! LIQUID COMPASS allows electricity and water to mix safely! Liquid Compass

Enjoy a live performance by the Central Washington University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Lewis Norfleet:


LIQUID COMPASS score cover

Sunset over the San Juan Islands

August, 2013: REMEMBRANCE, Alex's emotional work for string orchestra, was very beautifully brought to an audience for the first time on August 6, 2013 in Washington D.C., by the U.S. Army Strings conducted by Major Tod. A. Addison.

Click here if you'd like to read about the evolution of the piece. read

The U.S. Army Strings
a fox digging lounge chill music.

February 8, 2013: KETTLE BREW was premiered by its co-composer David Jarvis at Washington State University, during Alex's visit as the guest composer for WSU's Festival of Contemporary Art Music. The electroacoustic piece is the result of a very fun collaboration that brings the words "funk timpani" and "lounge chill" together for [we're guessing] the first time. Click here to read the story of how this happened. read

David Jarvis

Shapiro and Jarvis

an endless summer sunset at 48.5 degrees lat.


Listen to excerpts from other Shapiro premieres:

February, 2012: PERPETUAL SPARK, Alex's latest chamber sextet, was heard in six Chicago-area concerts throughout February and into March, premiered by familiar partners to her musical crimes, Fifth House Ensemble,which recorded the work fall 2013 for their 2014 CD, Excelsior, produced by Judith Sherman, on Cedille Records. Featured as WQXR's Q2 Album of the Week in New York City, and one of Rhapsody's Top Ten Classical Albums for Sept. 2014, the track and what WQXR calls its "luminous energy" has been getting wide airplay across the U.S.

Dedicated to the late Mara Bershad, this piece for flute/piccolo, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano, originally came to life as SPARK for solo piano, premiered by Teresa McCollough at Roulette in New York City in November 2011. You can enjoy Teresa's performance of SPARK at the 22-minute mark of the first stream, along with all the concert selections, from the archival page made available by Roulette, here. read

Excelsior CD
Listen to excerpts of PERPETUAL SPARK from Fifth House Ensemble's live premiere performance at the Chicago Cultural Center:
A bit later:




Read about

Flute/piccolo, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano. Performed live in New York City April 2011, by Lunatics at Large.

Listen to excerpts  
Earlier in the piece
Later in the piece





Want to hear exactly how Alex's island environment influences her music? Click on the excerpts, or listen to it stream in its entirety, below.

Read about

Symphony for winds, percussion and digital audio. Live premiere February 2011 in Minneapolis by the University of Minnesota Symphonic Band, Jerry Luckhardt, conductor.

Listen to excerpts  
Mov't 1: Depth
Mov't 2: Surface
Mov't 3: Beneath, clip 1
Mov't 3: Beneath, clip 2

February 15, 2012:
For a three-hour broadcast devoted to her music, Alex joined Marvin Rosen for his radio show out of Princeton University, Classical Discoveries, during which they broadcast all of IMMERSION, and spoke about how the piece came into existence.

Enjoy the live premiere performance, February 16, 2011, by the University of Minnesota Symphonic Wind Band, Jerry Luckhardt, conductor. Recorded by Minnesota Public Radio; Produced by Alex Shapiro.

Listen to Alex describe IMMERSION, and hear the full symphony:

MPR stream


For info about other performances, visit Concerts Concerts



Alex Shap..gurgle..iro


Recordings of Alex's music:
Shapiro chamber music collection

Notes from the Kelp CD


The Innova Recordings release of Alex's album, Notes from the Kelp, is a collection of eight of Alex's representative chamber works. To read about the music and hear excerpts, click here more


Add some algae to your life and buy a copy:


Or, download and enjoy all the tracks right now:

iTunes link




Click on any CD for more information.


New American Piano Music
Hammers & Sticks
Coast to Coast
New American Piano Music:
Sonata for Piano

Music for Hammers & Sticks:
At the Abyss

Above and Beyond
Saxtronic Soundscape
Solo Rumores
An Robert Schumann
Above and Beyond:

Saxtronic Soundscape:
Desert Tide

Solo Rumores:

An Robert Schumann:
Slowly, searching

La Discordantia
2017 NAfME Northwest
Jenni Scott
Trumpet Colors
La Discordantia:

2017 NAfME Northwest:
Liquid Compass

Jenni Scott:
Shiny Kiss

Trio Chromos:

The Dreams of Birds
Garrison Festival
60 x 60
Below: Music for Low Flutes:

The Dreams of Birds:

Garrison Piano Competition:

60 x 60 2005:

Notes from the Kelp
Midwest Clinic 2011
Midwest Clinic 2013
Alex Shapiro:
Notes from the Kelp

Midwest Clinic:
Paper Cut

Water Crossing

Midwest Clinic:
Tight Squeeze

Californian Concert
Delicate Balance
250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven, Vol. 1
Californian Concert:
For My Father

Delicate Balance:
Water Crossing

Perpetual Spark

250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven:
Chord History

Double or Nothing
Beck and Call
Everything Beautiful
Double or Nothing:

Beck and Call:
Of Breath & Touch
Everything Beautiful:
Liquid Compass
Tight Squeeze


To listen to these CDs, please visit Recordings Recordings

To purchase these CDs, please visit Purchase Purchase

cormorants at the ferry dock


Where Alex's music can be heard live:


Below is an incomplete sampling of current concerts. Click on any title for more information.



  Jan 5 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
New Richmond, Wisconsin
  Jan 13 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Mishawaka, Indiana
  Jan 13 ROCK MUSIC (symphonic wind band, prerecorded soundscape, rocks)
San Diego, California
  Jan 19 HOMECOMING (concert wind band)
West Point, New York
  Jan 19 ROCK MUSIC (symphonic wind band, prerecorded soundscape, rocks)
Seattle, Washington
  Jan 19 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Lousada, Portugal
  Jan 24 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Chanhassen, Minnesota
  Jan 26 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Modesto, California
  Jan 29 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Henderson, Nevada
  Feb 1 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Phoenix, Arizona
  Feb 7 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  Feb 7 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Salina, Kansas
  Feb 10 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Brazil, Indiana
  Feb 15 ELEGIAC (clarinet, cello, piano)
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  Feb 16 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Vancouver, Washington
  Feb 21 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Rock Valley, Iowa
  Feb 22 SPARK (solo piano)
Kenosha, Wisconsin
  Feb 23 IMMERSION (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Ellensburg, Washington
  Feb 24 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Silver Spring, Maryland
  Feb 25 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Lubbock, Texas
  Feb 25 BENEATH (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Corvallis, Oregon
  Feb 26 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Ellensburg, Washington
  Feb 28 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Fresno, California
  Mar 1 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Moncada, Spain
  Mar 1 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Spring Grove, Minnesota
  Mar 1 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Denton, Texas
  Mar 2 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Huron, South Dakota
  Mar 3 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Millersville, Pennsylvania
  Mar 5 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Hillsboro, Kansas
  Mar 5 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Raleigh, North Carolina
  Mar 7 EVENSONG SUITE (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano)
Guanajuato, Mexico
  Mar 10 EVENSONG SUITE (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano)
Guanajuato, Mexico
  Mar 12 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  Mar 14 DEPTH (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Owatonna, Minnesota
  Mar 14 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Ashland, Oregon
  Mar 15 ROCK MUSIC (symphonic wind band, prerecorded soundscape, rocks)
Encinitas, California
  Mar 15 ROCK MUSIC (symphonic wind band, prerecorded soundscape, rocks)
Salem, New Hampshire
  Mar 16 DEEP (contrabassoon, prerecorded soundscape)
Denver, Colorado
  Mar 19 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Pittsburgh, Kansas
  Mar 23 EVENSONG SUITE (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano)
Guanajuato, Mexico
  Mar 24 MOMENT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  Mar 24 OF WOOD AND TOUCH (cello, piano)
Chicago, Illinois
  Mar 25 SHINY KISS (solo flute)
Portland, Oregon
  Mar 26 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Mount Vernon, Ohio
  Mar 26 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Athens, Ohio
  Mar 29 DESERT TIDE (soprano saxophone, prerecorded soundscape)
Gorham, Maine
  Mar 31 BENEATH (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Gorham, Maine
  Apr 2 BENEATH (symphony orchestra, prerecorded soundscape)
Elgin, Illinois
  Apr 3 BENEATH (symphony orchestra, prerecorded soundscape)
Elgin, Illinois
  Apr 4 BENEATH (symphony orchestra, prerecorded soundscape)
Elgin, Illinois
  Apr 5 BENEATH (symphony orchestra, prerecorded soundscape)
Elgin, Illinois
  Apr 6 DESERT THOUGHTS (flute, clarinet, piano)
Friday Harbor, Washington
  Apr 16 TRAINS OF THOUGHT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Charlotte, North Carolina
  Apr 18 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Sudbury, OntarioCanada
  Apr 23 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Raleigh, North Carolina
  Apr 25 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Warrensburg, Missouri
  Apr 25 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  Apr 25 IMMERSION (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Storrs, Connecticut
  Apr 25 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
New London, Wisconsin
  Apr 25 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Alliance, Ohio
Seattle, Washington
  Apr 29 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Pewaukee, Wisconsin
  Apr 30 DEPTH (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Oneonta, New York
  May 6 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Crandon, Wisconsin
  May 7 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Columbia, Pennsylvania
  May 8 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Newark, Delaware
  May 8 LIGHTS OUT and PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Chico, California
  May 9 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
New Delhi, India
  May 9 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Crandon, Wisconsin
  May 10 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Chula Vista, California
  May 11 TIGHT SQUEEZE (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Arnold, Maryland
  May 14 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin
  May 17 TIGHT SQUEEZE and PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Walnut, California
  May 17 ROCK MUSIC (symphonic wind band, prerecorded soundscape, rocks)
Kenosha, Wisconsin
  May 17 LIGHTS OUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
La Mirada, California
  May 19 TIGHT SQUEEZE and PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Costa Mesa, California
  May 21 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Daly City, California
  May 24 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
San Jose, California
  May 25 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France
  May 26 PAPER CUT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape, printer paper)
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France
  June 2 TRAINS OF THOUGHT (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Tempe, Arizona
  June 3 LIQUID COMPASS (concert wind band, prerecorded soundscape)
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


For information about these and other performances, visit Concerts Concerts
Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian


Among the new Activist Music publications:


As if the original flute quartet version of Alex's ground-breaking 2004, BIOPLASM, wasn't texturally intense enough, conductor Michelle Grondin worked with Alex to create a version of this sonically squishy piece for an entire choir of flutes. Click here to read about-- and see a few pages of-- the music. Bioplasm, for choir

Listen to excerpts from the quartet version of BIOPLASM, and imagine them played by lots of long shiny objects:

Bioplasm, for flute choir
Singing while playing
Pitch bending, etc.
Pitched key clicks
Yes, some regular stuff, too!


A [non-performing!] pianist herself, Alex has always loved composing for the instrument, and Activist Music has created a collection of her solo piano works, available as a set of .pdf downloads. Ranging from short offerings to those with multiple movements, these idiomatic pieces reveal a broad swath of emotions.

For complete information about the published collection and the upcoming album, click HERE. read

Alex Shapiro
Adam Marks


During two multi-day sessions at Yamaha Artist Services in NYC in January and June 2018, and culminating with a final recording session in November at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, pianist and Yamaha Artist Adam Marks recorded all of Alex Shapiro's solo piano works composed to date, for an album slated to be released in mid 2019.


Dr. Elizabeth Etnoyer has published her 2015 doctoral dissertation, The Keyboard Works of Alex Shapiro. To read the synopsis and order a pdf or hard copy of the book, please click here. read



To see and hear Alex's catalog, visit Works Works



Burnt orange sunrise over the Salish sea


And now for something completely different:
Clemson University Memorial Stadium

Alex called upon her 15 years working in commercial music in Hollywood, and got into the team spirit with the Clemson University Tiger Band! In 2015 she was commissioned by band director Mark Spede to create the audio track to which Clemson University edited a video for the Jumbotron screens in its 85,000 seat Memorial stadium. The video-- which you can see below-- plays during every football game starting September 2015, as the 290 musicians of the Tiger Marching Band pour out on to the field to perform. Go Tigers-- the 2016 National Champions!


Here's what it looked and sounded like on January 9, 2017, as the Clemson University Tiger Band entered the field at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida for the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship:


Archipelago view


Meet Alex:

"…Shapiro has tremendous technical skills, a deep connection to nature, and an engaging and articulate personality that has gotten her multifariously involved in the new-classical-music world… She gets more performances than any one person could attend, and despite her nature wonderland she’s socially inclined…"

--Journalist and composer Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine.

Chamber Music
Click to read Kyle Gann's
insightful article

Speaking as an artist: hear Alex's response when asked to describe how she composes, in this :60 excerpt from a June 2010 interview she gave to Carey Nadeau from the American Composers Forum:



Speaking as an advocate: Alex became one of 12 writer and 12 publisher members of ASCAP's board of directors in 2014. Since most of the 640,000 members haven't met their representatives, ASCAP launched a series of "meet the board" videos in 2017. Here's Alex's:





For a lot more of Alex, visit Biography Bio
Mt. Baker


Watch a Skypehearsal!


Alex, doing a Skypehearsal in her San Juan Island studio, February 2016. CLICK the photo to watch what it's like!

Essays, such as:


Offering challenging thoughts on the new digital paradigm, the internet, free speech and the meaning of net neutrality to all artists, a number of Alex's articles have been published in essays for the online magazine NewMusicBox:

Read The Economy of Exposure: Publicity as Payment? here read

Read What I Learned About My Tiny Business From Paramount Pictures here read

Read As Important as the Printing Press: Net Neutrality and Artists' Freedom here read



Guest blogs, such as:


Greg Sandow is the author of an insightful blog on the future of classical music, and invited Alex to be a guest blogger in March 2013. Click here to see what she has to say about the fun of living in the middle of nowhere and being in the center of everywhere, in an essay titled E-ing there read



Video podcasts, such as: is a weekly online series for, and by, music-makers, and Alex was the guest for their April 14, 2013 episode. Click here to stream or download Alex's concepts of how all composers can use the 21st Century tools available to them no matter where they live, as well as her thoughts on issues of self worth that artists of all genders face, on this podcast titled Out There watch



Broadcasts, such as:


On February 15, 2012, Alex was the in-studio guest on Marvin Rosen's radio show broadcast from Princeton University, Classical Discoveries. Want some background sound while you're doing other things? Click at right, and hear the entire MP3 stream of their exceptionally wide-spanning, lively two-and-a-half hour conversation, including seven of Alex's diverse works. Here's what Marvin has to say about it on his blog, Marvin the Cat.


Rosen and Shapiro


For more essays and interviews, visit Articles and Broadcasts Essays




Additional media:
Music libraries, such as:


The leading production music library in America, Omnimusic, has launched its latest special collection titled MusicOutsideTheBox, and it includes many tracks of Alex Shapiro's unique and unclassifiable-sounding music, available to license for film, TV, games or corporate and online media.


Omni Music

Art films, such as:


Alex's music is the soundtrack for REFLECTION, a short video created by artist Grimanesa Amoros. The video was premiered in December 2011 at the International Streaming Festival, Sixth Edition at the Hague in the Netherlands, and is included in Amoros's 2013 Video Retrospective in Lima, Peru. An excerpt of the video can be seen here video


Amoros video, REFLECTION

Books, such as:


Alex is the author of "Releasing a Student's Inner Composer," one of the chapters in the 2013 book, "Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra." The book, edited by Clint Randles and David Stringham, is published by GIA Publications.



Documentary appearances, such as:


In a segment filmed at her San Juan Island home, Alex is featured speaking about composer Morten Lauridsen at the opening of a beautiful film about his life and music, titled Shining Night. Winner of Best Documentary at the 2012 Washington, D.C. Independent Film Festival, the film was directed by Michael Stillwater, and has been screening at festivals in the U.S. and Europe in conjunction with the release of the DVD. You can enjoy a trailer of the film here. trailer

Alex also appears in a longer segment at the opening Stillwater's 2015 documentary, In Search of the Great Song, which is the winner of the award for Best Documentary from the 2016 Moondance International Film Festival in Boulder, CO. Alex speaks about the many inspirations for her music that are found in the natural world surrounding her, as BELOW, in which she features a Humpback whale song, plays as the underscore.

You can enjoy previews of both beautiful documentaries here. previews


Shining Night

In Search of the Great Song

Photography, such as:


Visitors to Alex's blog know she's rarely without her camera, and her photos have been used for other people's CD covers and websites. Alex is one of the winners of the 2012 IMA Marine Life Photography Contest, hosted by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and judged by the legendary Ernest Brooks II. Alex's photo of a Bald Eagle headed straight toward her hung in the museum throughout the summer, alongside Brooks's stunning Silver Seas exhibit. That bird also spent the summer of 2013 hanging in Seattle's Museum of Flight, as a selection for its Spirit of Flight exhibit. The photo, Incoming!, (also a first prize winner at the 2012 San Juan County Fair!) can be viewed slightly larger, by clicking on the bird. photo




To see more, visit Event Archive Archive
Island fox


A sampling of what Alex sounds like:

The best thing about composers' websites is that they're sonic business cards! Click the MP3 icon to hear an excerpt. Click the title to learn more about it. Alex's education and career have allowed her voice to be expressed in music for...

Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian
chamber ensembles


film, TV and games
symphonic wind bands




jazz groups




indie pop songs
  hear   hear




and even country pop.



Alex at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014
Happily surrounded by brass, at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 2014.

Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian

Alex calls herself a pan-genre composer, with a penchant for organically spanning across idioms, often within a single piece. One of the most welcoming sonic worlds for her unique voice has been that of symphonic wind band, for which she's been composing electroacoustic works unlike anything else in the repertoire.



To explore Alex's works for band, visit: Wind band Wind band

How did this mostly-chamber music composer get into writing for symphonic band? Listen to Alex describe how it happened, in this two-minute excerpt from an interview she gave to Carey Nadeau from the American Composers Forum in June 2010.




To experience the entire catalog, please visit Works Email Alex


Want to hear much more? Visit Alex's original Dial-a-Mood Dial-a-Mood


To order scores, please visit Purchase Purchase

In addition to traditionally bound scores and parts, music is available at half price as .pdf files.
Purchase pdfs

Alex sailing in the San Juans
Alex sailing in the San Juan Islands, October 2011


Alex loves coaching and teaching...


Alex really enjoys interacting with students and faculty during residencies, in which she spends a few days at a university and gives master classes, private composition lessons, and lectures on the changing paradigm of the music business, and attends rehearsals and performances of her music. But when budgets and schedules don't allow for travel, Skype (or a Google Hangout) has become the next best thing.

Whether for a rehearsal of a concert wind band piece or chamber work, or to bring Alex right into your lecture hall for an interactive discussion about the music business, Skype is a great tool. Alex's live feedback is valuable, and musicians love it when Alex turns her camera around to show them a source of her inspiration: the sea at her feet, with the occasional Bald Eagle or Orca whale gliding past. The technology brings a unique dimension into the art of collaborative music-making, and connects students to the person-- and sometimes to the very funny stories-- behind the notes on the music stands.


A Jan. 2012 Skypehearsal with Alex in her studio on San Juan Island, and guest conductor Jerry Luckhardt on the podium at Oregon State University, rehearsing BENEATH.

A December 2012 Skypehearsal with Alex in her studio on San Juan Island, and band director Mary Bauer and Mt. Mansfield Union High School in Vermont,rehearsing PAPER CUT.
The view from Alex's desk- with Bald Egle and rainbow!


For more about online coaching, please visit Skypehearsals Email Alex

Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian

Private mentoring:

Alex Shapiro has a private teaching studio for those wishing to study composition and/or business skills with her online. She offers instruction in the many ways to use one's web presence to generate income, as well as specific consultations in music copying, publishing, promotion, and other necessary professional skills for today's composers.

A familiar guest lecturer at universities and conservatories, Alex is available to speak to music and business school classes.


To inquire about lessons, email Alex Email Alex

Alex sailing a Farr 65
Alex sailing a 65' racing sloop in Jamaica, January 2011


Alex loves to speak to audiences...
CD Party and lecture

Alex speaks at many events and motivates people in and outside of the music world. Whether discussing music-making, the new digital paradigm, the philosophy of self worth, or the importance of a sense of humor, Alex is an engaging and encouraging presenter who's been referred to by more than a few people as "the Anthony Robbins of contemporary music, but a lot shorter."


To see a video and obtain booking information, click here Speaking
Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian


Keeping up with Alex...

Get online with Alex!


Interact! Become one of Alex's online friends and share your world with her.

Email Alex!

Internet networking sites have brought many wonderful collaborations and commissions to Alex's virtual doorstep. Enjoy watching one of her online friends, artist Simon Kenevan, make a pastel study for his painting 'Afternoon Sun,' to her Phos Hilaron:



Alex loves hearing from visitors, so don't be shy if you'd like to send her an email. To join the mailing list for concert information and news of Alex Shapiro CD releases, click here email

Your contact information will not be shared with anyone for any reason, even if sharks surround Alex's kayak and demand it. Promise!

offshore Malibu


Alex in her natural habitat...

Perhaps the best way to get to know Alex's music, is to get to know Alex through the personal offerings on her blog, Notes from the Kelp. Thousands of visitors join her on explorations of the San Juan Islands and beyond, using Alex's award-winning essays, photographs and music (and her sense of humor) as their guide. blog

Scroll down this page to share life through Alex's eyes-- and ears.

Canada geese family


A note from Alex...
Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian

My compositions are a very personal expression, but I also write to give musicians pieces which they'll really enjoy playing, and to offer audiences music which will speak to them directly and emotionally. As with the sea which surrounds me here on San Juan Island, there's an ebb and flood to this happy relationship. I compose music because I have to, without expectation that others will resonate with it, yet with the hope that many might. My art is a tidepool, inviting others to enter and... with luck, thrive.

Composing is a lot like making love. We're trying to please ourselves. We're hoping to please at least one other person. And, we are in fact, communicating. Passionately. I compose to communicate, and ideally, my work will show you not only a glimpse of me, but a reflection of yourself.


The intimacy of the magic triangle of composer, musicians and audience is what draws me to compose. In the midst of writing, I love exploring and balancing the voice of each instrument within a group, whether a small chamber ensemble or a symphonic band. When I have the opportunity to rehearse one of my pieces with players, it's exciting to be part of the volley of interpretations and personalities. Music lives through the art of others.

Finally, when the new piece is performed, the triangle between me, the musicians and the audience is complete. A musical idea which was formerly a personal impression has now become a public gesture.


I compose
to communicate.

tide pools
tide pools

Alex at the helm

A major inspiration for my music has been the gorgeous coastal areas in which I've lived; water seems to be an inescapable theme in my life. I grew up in Manhattan, overlooking first the East River, then later, living by the Hudson. At 21, I moved to southern California and spent most of my 24 years there at the shore in Malibu and even afloat on the water itself, living part-time on a sailboat in Santa Barbara.

Now, it's the serenity of Washington State's remote San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea that makes my muses so happy. When I'm not composing, I'm marveling at the abundant shoreline life and tidepools directly in front of my house. This connection to the natural world has become as necessary to me now as urban life was to me years ago.

I've developed a little hobby of capturing in photographs the creatures and the small, yet remarkable moments that define my daily life here. This website is riddled with them, and you can experience more of this joy with me via my blog, Notes From the Kelp blog



When I'm not composing,
I'm marveling at the
abundant shoreline life
a few steps from my house.




No composer writes in a vacuum; our output is the result of musical history. My own voice is inspired by the chromaticism and angularity of Alban Berg and Anton Webern, the lyricism of Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel and Bill Evans, and the rhythms of Middle Eastern and African cultures. With luck, the notes come out sounding something like... Shapiro. You can listen to brief samples of all my recent pieces on the pages of this website and draw your own opinion.

I'm convinced that there has never been a better time to be a composer. There are no longer stylistic boundaries limiting our expression, and thanks to tools such as websites like this, we can share our explorations with the world, regardless of where we choose to live. I get a lot of joy from encouraging my peers to take full advantage of the freedom and power artists now possess.

Traditionally, a composer's catalog of pieces is viewed by instrumentation, and you'll find such a listing on the WORKS Works page of this site. But I think that the music itself and the emotions it elicits are the best indicator of what a writer has to say, and so I put together the DIAL-A-MOOD Dial-a-Mood page to offer a quick sampling of a variety of styles. It's almost as interactive as I am.


Ideally, my music
will show you not only
a glimpse of me,
but a reflection
of yourself.

Alex Shapiro, photo by Paul Chepikian

So, there's a bit about me and what motivates my work as a composer. If you'd like to read a little more on my thoughts about composers, listeners and life in general, my musings continue here essays

Or, begin clicking around the other pages on this site to learn more about my background, read about my recent pieces and hear audio clips of my music. Drop me an email if you feel like it; I love hearing from people around the world. Enjoy!


Zoom back up to the top!


island fox
Alex Shapiro, composer
You're here


© 2000-2019 by Alex Shapiro. All nature photos by Alex Shapiro (like 'em?). All rights reserved to design and content.