Valerie Coleman is regarded by many as an iconic artist who continues to pave her own unique path as a composer, GRAMMY®-nominated flutist, and entrepreneur. Highlighted as one of the “Top 35 Women Composers” by The Washington Post, she was named Performance Today’s 2020 Classical Woman of the Year, an honor bestowed to an individual who has made a significant contribution to classical music as a performer, composer or educator. Her works have garnered awards such as the MAPFund, ASCAP Honors Award, Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program, Herb Alpert Ragdale Residency Award, and nominations from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and United States Artists. Umoja, Anthem for Unity was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of the “Top 101 Great American Ensemble Works” and is now a staple of woodwind literature.
Coleman commenced her 2021/22 season with the world premiere of her latest work, Fanfare for Uncommon Times, at the Caramoor Festival with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. In October 2021, Carnegie Hall presents her work Seven O'Clock Shout, commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra, in their Opening Night Gala concert featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. This follows on the success of the world premiere of Coleman’s orchestral arrangement of her work Umoja, commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and performed in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hall in 2019, marking the first time the orchestra performed a classical work by a living female African-American composer. In February 2022, The Philadelphia Orchestra and soprano Angel Blue, led by Nézet-Séguin, will give the world premiere of a new song cycle written by Coleman, commissioned by the orchestra for performances in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hall.
Coleman has been named to the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater New Works dual commissioning program in 2021/22. This season sees performances of her works by orchestras around the United States including the Minnesota Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Yale Symphony Orchestra, Vermont Symphony and The Louisville Orchestra. Recent commissions include works for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Library of Congress, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Composers Orchestra, The National Flute Association, University of Chicago and University of Michigan. Previous performances of her works have been with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and significant chamber ensembles and collegiate bands across the country.
Former flutist of the Imani Winds, Coleman is the creator and founder of this acclaimed ensemble whose 24-year legacy is documented and featured in a dedicated exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Along with composer-harpist Hannah Lash, and composer-violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, she co-founded and currently performs as flutist of the performer-composer trio Umama Womama.
Committed to arts education, entrepreneurship and chamber music advocacy, Coleman created the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival in 2011, a summer mentorship program in New York City welcoming young leaders from over 100 international institutions. She has held flute and chamber music masterclasses at institutions in 49 states and over five continents, including The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College of Music, New England Conservatory, Oberlin College, Eastman School of Music, Yale University, Carnegie Mellon, Interlochen Arts Academy, Beijing Conservatory, Brazil’s Campo do Jordão Festival and Australia’s Musica Viva. As a part of Imani Winds, she has been artist-in-residence at Mannes College of Music, Banff Chamber Music Intensive and Visiting Faculty at the University of Chicago.
Coleman recently joined the Mannes School of Music Flute and Composition faculty in Fall 2021 as the Clara Mannes Fellow for Music Leadership. Prior to that she served on the faculty at The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami as Assistant Professor of Performance, Chamber Music and Entrepreneurship. In 2021/22, she leads a year-long residency at The Juilliard School in their Music Advancement Program through American Composers Forum.
Coleman’s compositions are published by Theodore Presser and her own company, VColeman Music. She studied composition with Martin Amlin and Randy Wolfe and flute with Julius Baker, Judith Mendenhall, Doriot Dwyer, Leone Buyse and Alan Weiss. She and her family are based in New York City.
Biography taken from composer’s website.
Photo: Matthew Murphy