Childs, Mary Ellen

From TEK Percussion Database
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mary Ellen Childs


Born: April 13, 1957

Country: LaFayette, Indiana, U.S.A.

Studies: University of Minnesota (B.A.1980), University of Illinois (M.M.1981)

Teachers: John Melby, Ben Johnston, Morgan Powell, David Liptak


MARY ELLEN CHILDS was recently named a USA Friends Fellow, an unrestricted $50,000 award given annually to “America’s finest artists.” She is known for creating both rhythmic, exuberant instrumental works and bold, kinetic compositions that integrate music, dance and theater in fresh and unexpected ways. She has created numerous “visual percussion” pieces that embody the concept of music in motion, for her ensemble CRASH. Her repertoire includes Click, a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers; DrumRoll, for four drummers on wheels; Sight of Hand, based on uniquely American forms of body percussion–girls’ clapping games, hamboning, and baseball coaching signals—and Crash, a full-evening work for 6 crash cymbal players on rollerstools and various other rolling means of transportation. The Village Voice deemed Click “a newly born classic, like Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, only a thousand times more virtuosic. Myself, I can’t whistle, but afterward everybody who could, did.” (Kyle Gann) Her output also includes multi-monitor video pieces A Chording To and the award winning Still Life, which captured first place awards at the International Multi-Image Festival and at the American Film and Video Festival, and her electronic Standpoints, a collaboration with lighting designer Jeff Bartlett.

Childs also composes “purely musical” concert works and has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, The Kitchen, the Walker Art Center, two commissioning grants from Lila Wallace/Meet the Composer (1992, 1996), and three commissions from the prestigious Rockefeller Multi-Arts Fund (1998, 2003, 2006). One of her favorite instruments to write for is the accordion, and as a result of her close working association with accordionist Guy Klucevsek, she has created nearly a dozen works that include the instrument. “Mary Ellen Childs’s quiet pointillistic Oa Poa Polka had notes peeping from all over the accordion,” observed the New York Times of one performance, “with the oompah just barely winking into view.” (Jon Pareles). She has composed two works for concert band, Zephyrus and Green Light. Her recent full-length works include Dream House for string quartet (written for ETHEL) and multi-image video, based on images of destruction and construction, cycles of time, and rhythms of construction work; and Wreck, created for the Black Label Movement Company, for which she won a 2008 Sage Award. Her current projects include a new opera Propeller commissioned by Nautilus Music Theater with funds from MAP and Opera America.

Full evenings of her work have been presented at the Walker Art Center, The Southern Theater in Minneapolis, Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York, and at Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts (SECCA) in North Carolina. She has received performances at the Bang On A Can Festival, Lincoln Center, New Music America – Miami; The Other Minds Festival (San Francisco), and elsewhere around the U.S. Her music has been performed in Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, and Australia, and three times her group CRASH traveled to Russia, presenting full evenings of her percussion compositions. She has received artists fellowships from the McKnight Foundation and the Bush Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. From 2001-04 she participated in an innovative 3-year composer residency at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis and St. Olaf College, supported by Meet The Composer (NYC). Compact discs of her work include Kilter (XI label) and Dream House (innova recordings) and a remix of Dream House, titled Chamberhouse (Sugarfoot Recordings)[1]

Works for Percussion

And So Percussion Quartet
Better - Percussion; Chorus
Crash - Percussion Sextet
Click - Percussion Trio
Drumroll - Percussion Quartet
Kolokol - Multiple Percussion
Missing Link - Percussion Trio
Sagitta - chorus and percussion
Sight of Hand - Percussion Trio (Body Percussion)
SixSticks - Percussion Trio
Still Life – Percussion Trio
Swing Shift - Percussion Trio
Talking Stick - Percussion Trio
Three - Percussion Trio
Timeframe - Percussion Trio
Tri-Cycles - Percussion Trio
WildDrum - Percussion Trio; Voice