Inside The Perfect Circle:
The Odyssey of Joel Thome
A documentary film by Chris Pepino, 2011
Photo by Peter Vidor
A Grammy Award recipient and Pulitzer Prize nominee, Joel Thome has been acclaimed
internationally as an accomplished conductor and composer of classical and contemporary orchestral music, as well as a strikingly effective conductor of opera and other music/theatre works. His conducting credits include many prominent and international orchestras. He has worked with such noted artists as pianists Vladimir Feltsman and Lorin Hollander, violinist Jaime Laredo, and Metropolitan Opera singers Florence Quivar and Roberta Alexander. His modern opera performances include the Weill/Brecht Threepenny Opera with the Opera Company of Boston and the Thomson/Stein Four Saints in Three Acts at Carnegie Hall.
For 13 years, Thome led the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico in concerts of classical and contemporary works. He has also conducted numerous other orchestras, including the Orchestra of Our Time (artistic director), Israel Chamber Orchestra, Group L’Itineraire in Paris, Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Orquestra Municipal of Caracas, and the Milwaukee Symphony, and has been a regular guest conductor of the “Monday Evening Concert Series” in Los Angeles.
A composer and conductor of many disciplines, Thome conceived and conducted Zappa’s Universe at the Ritz Theatre in New York City, and provided critically acclaimed arrangements of Frank Zappa’s wide-ranging repertoire for symphony orchestra, rock musicians, classical soloists, and a capella singers. Thome’s Polygram/Verve recording of Zappa’s Universe received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental in 1994. Thome conducted a sold-out program of the “Music of Frank Zappa and Edgard Varèse” at the Great Performers Series in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and conducted the Seattle and Oregon Symphony Orchestras in “An Evening of the Music of Frank Zappa.”
Thome’s major compositions include Savitri Traveller of the Worlds (Pulitzer Prize nomination); the score for Picasso’s play Catch Desire by the Tail; Book of Beginnings V for Benny Reitveldt (bassist for Miles Davis and Carlos Santana); and Time Spans, the first work to use actual radio signals from space. His recordings include the Thomson/Stein opera Four Saints in Three Acts (Nonesuch), which received Stereo Review’s Recording of the Month and Recording of the Year; a critically acclaimed recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire for Vox; and Satyavan: Dream Twilight for World Sound. His honors also include an ASCAP award in 2004, recognizing his achievements as a composer, and the Music Has Power Award in 2002.
Thome has served as a member of the board of directors of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Mexican Institute for Culture in New York, Erick Hawkins Foundation for Modern Dance, and the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function. His collaborations with visual artists include Alexander Calder, Francoise Gilot, David Hockney, and Red Grooms. He has also collaborated with filmmaker Robert Fulton and choreographer Anna Sokolow. Thome has held a number of prestigious positions in academe and was the head of the Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University for several years.
Thome received his BA from the Eastman School of Music, MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and Certificate from the Ecole Internationale for Music and Dance in Switzerland. He also studied with Pierre Boulez at the Concours Internationale in Switzerland.