Noted for her “directorial command” and “technical expertise,” conductor Beth Willer is recognized as a bold, 21st-century artist with her finger on the pulse of the vocal ensemble art. Her commitment to expanding and deepening the repertoire for vocal ensembles through creative collaboration and culturally-relevant programming can be seen in her work with professional and student ensembles alike. A champion of new music, Willer frequently collaborates with established and emerging composers, including significant projects with David Lang, Julia Wolfe, George Benjamin, Kati Agócs, Kareem Roustom, James Kallembach, Shawn Kirchner, and Jessica Meyer.
As founder and artistic director of Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble, Willer has led the octet to international acclaim, performing at celebrated venues across the country, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tanglewood Music Center, and Boston’s Symphony Hall. Committed to fulfilling Lorelei’s mission to elevate and expand the repertoire for women’s voices, she frequently initiates collaborations with composers from the U.S. and abroad, leading the ensemble in more than 60 world, U.S., and regional premieres since its founding. Nationwide performances in 2019-20 featured the world premiere of Jessica Meyer’s I long and seek after (winner of the 2019 Chorus America Dale Warland Commissioning Award). Recent recordings include David Lang’s love fail (Cantaloupe, 2020) and Impermanence (Sono Luminus, 2018) featuring motets of Guillaume Du Fay, selections from the Turin Manuscript and the Codex Calixtinus, and the premiere recording of Peter Gilbert’s Tsukimi.
Lorelei Ensemble maintains a robust national touring schedule, including recent collaboration with Grammy-nominated ensembles A Far Cry and Cantus. In 2020-21, Lorelei Ensemble is proud to present the world premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story, in performances with five co-commissioning orchestras: the Nashville Symphony (Giancarlo Guerrero), the San Francisco Symphony (Guerrero), the Chicago Symphony (Marin Alsop), the National Symphony Orchestra (Gianandrea Noseda), and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Guerrero). Written for Lorelei Ensemble to commemorate the centennial of the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment, Her Story is the latest in a series of Wolfe’s compositions highlighting monumental and turbulent moments in American history and culture. Additional Lorelei appearances in 2020-21 include The National Gallery, Eastman School of Music, Princeton University, Duke University, and a performance of Holst’s The Planets at the Tanglewood Music Center with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Thomas Adès). Future projects include work with choreographer Renée Jaworski (Pilobolus), Grammy-nominated composer Christopher Cerrone, video artist Hannah Wasileski, and a trio of composer-performers: Ken Thomson (Bang on a Can), Nathalie Joachim (Eighth Blackbird), and Jason Treuting (Sō Percussion).
As guest conductor, Willer has been privileged to lead premiere ensembles from across the country, including performances with Seraphic Fire, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, New York Baroque Incorporated, and Roomful of Teeth. Symphonic work includes performance and recording of standard repertoire and multiple world and U.S. premieres with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Andris Nelsons), the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra (Stefan Asbury), Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Gil Rose), and Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute (Ken-David Masur).
Prior to joining the Peabody faculty, Willer served as director of choral activities at Bucknell University, where she led the University Choir and Camerata and taught courses in conducting, chamber music, arts entrepreneurship, and choral music education. Previous academic appointments include positions at Harvard University and The Boston Conservatory. A passionate music educator, Willer has led numerous young artist ensembles, including choruses at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute, New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School, the Boston Arts Academy, The Walnut Hill School, and Eau Claire Memorial High School. An active clinician and master teacher, Willer enjoys frequent engagements with high school and collegiate ensembles across the country.
Willer holds graduate degrees in conducting from Boston University (DMA and MM), and an undergraduate degree in music education and trumpet performance from Luther College (BM). Teachers include Ann Howard Jones, Weston Noble, Mark Shapiro, David Hoose, and Bruce Hangen.