August 28, 2019

“[O]ne of the finest, most searching songwriters of the day.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

PORTLAND, OR – The 2019/20 Season is one of innovation and growth for the Oregon Symphony as it expands its Classical programming, presents the next installment of its groundbreaking SoundSights Series, and now, appoints American composer and singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane to the newly-created post of Creative Chair. In the 2017/18 Season, Kahane stunned Symphony audiences with his oratorio, emergency shelter intake form, which examined inequality through the twin lenses of housing and homelessness. As Creative Chair, he joins the OSO through the 2021/22 Season taking on a variety of responsibilities. In addition to writing and performing three substantial works over the next three seasons, Kahane will serve as an advisor for contemporary programming on the Classical series. And crucially, he will produce two new concert series: Open Music, a composer-driven chamber series to be held in smaller Portland venues, and an as yet unnamed indie concert series in which marquee pop artists will collaborate with dynamic composers and orchestrators.

“I couldn't be more thrilled to be entering into a long term partnership with the Oregon Symphony,” says Kahane. “Working with the organization on emergency shelter intake form has been a career highlight, and I'm honored and humbled to have been invited to take on a more substantial role with the OSO in the coming years.”

In describing his new position with the Symphony Kahane emphasizes that, “Governing all of my planned curatorial activities with the orchestra is a desire to see an increasing commitment to new music at the OSO, and, in particular, music written by those who've been historically shut out of the concert hall. I take that responsibility seriously, and also consider it a gift to help introduce Portland to so many dynamic voices who are making essential music of the 21st century.”

For the Open Music Series, Kahane will invite a composer or musician featured on the Symphony’s classical program that weekend to examine their creative approach by curating a concert of their own design with music as well as art in other forms that inspires their work. Kahane will be on stage as moderator, friend, conversationalist, and occasionally a cameo performer; a small ensemble from the Oregon Symphony will serve as house band.

Kahane observes that “Writing music is a mysterious thing; those of us who do it professionally are continually baffled and astonished by our sublime and ridiculous pursuit of finding language, meaning, and expression in sound and silence. With Open Music, I want to create an intimate space in which audiences can get a little closer to this ineffable creative path.”

In addition to producing these new series, Kahane has been commissioned to premiere work once a year on the Symphony’s Classical Series. This season he brings the world premiere of Pattern of the Rail, six orchestral settings from his 2018 album Book of Travelers, inspired by a cross country train trip through America following the contentious 2016 presidential election, as well as the premiere of the full orchestral version of “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.) from his acclaimed 2014 album, The Ambassador. Kahane will present these works December 7-9, 2019 on the Symphony’s Prokofiev Fifth program at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

From the Kennedy Center to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kahane is in demand across the country. “The Oregon Symphony is thrilled to deepen its relationship with Gabriel,” says Oregon Symphony President and CEO Scott Showalter. “Working with him as our creative chair is a boon for our community.”


Gabriel Kahane is a singer-songwriter, pianist, and composer, whose work lives increasingly at the intersection of art and social practice. His 2018 Nonesuch Records debut, Book of Travelers, hailed by Rolling Stone as “a stunning portrait of a singular moment in America”, chronicles an 8,980 mile transcontinental train trip that he embarked on the morning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Gabriel is grateful to be working with and within an incredibly vibrant and supportive community of musicians. Among his most memorable collaborations have been projects with Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Caroline Shaw, Brooklyn Rider, Blake Mills, Chris Thile, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, for whom he served as composer-in-residence from 2011 til 2013. He has been commissioned by, among others, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Crossing, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, A Far Cry, The Knights, yMusic, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Earlier this year, he appeared as soloist with the St. Louis Symphony in a broadcast of the radio program ‘Live from Here with Chris Thile’; Kahane will make several more appearances on the show throughout the 2019-2020 season. 

An avid theater artist, Kahane has been commissioned twice by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which in 2014 presented The Ambassador, directed by Tony Award-winner John Tiffany, and in 2017 presented 8980: Book of Travelers. Last year, he made his Broadway debut with a score for Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, starring Elaine May and Lucas Hedges.

A graduate of Brown University, Kahane lives in Brooklyn.



The multi-Grammy-nominated Oregon Symphony ranks as one of America’s major orchestras. Led by Music Director Carlos Kalmar, it serves over 300,000 people annually through more than 110 performances and award-winning education and community engagement programs. Through All Classical Portland and American Public Media’s SymphonyCast and Performance Today the Symphony reaches over 26 million listeners. Now in its 124th year, the Oregon Symphony is the oldest orchestra west of the Mississippi.

Known for innovative programming, the Symphony gained national recognition for its ground-breaking Sounds of Home Series which revolutionized the role of the arts in addressing three of the most critical social issues of the day: immigration, the environment, and homelessness. This series made a powerful impact in the community through innovative art, cross-sector partnerships with 37 organizations, and civic leadership and culminated with the recording of, emergency shelter intake form, an Oregon Symphony commission by composer Gabriel Kahane that will be released in March 2020.

At a time when many orchestras are reducing their classical programming, the Oregon Symphony is continuing to invest in the art form. In the 2018/19 Season the Symphony premiered more than 20 compositions, including works by eight living composers such as John Adams, Unsuk Chin, and John Corigliano. Effective with the 2019/20 Season, the Symphony is expanding its Classical Series to 18 weeks. The schedule includes the return of the Symphony’s popular SoundSights concerts, which were first presented in 2016/17. These visually stunning programs incorporate a rich tapestry of artistic elements, which particularly appeal to new audiences. Photos for media use are available at


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