Donald Reid Womack

Donald Reid Womack

Professor of Composition & Theory

Donald Reid Womack is the composer of more than 80 works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo instruments, and voice. His music has been performed and broadcast extensively throughout the United States, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Italy, Germany, France, Poland, Argentina, New Zealand, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and is published by Akamai Music, and C.F. Peters. Dr. Womack holds Doctoral and Masters degrees in composition from Northwestern University, Bachelors degrees in philosophy and music theory from Furman University, and has participated in such festivals as the Conservatoire Americain in Fontainebleau, France, the June in Buffalo Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. The many organizations that have honored his work include ASCAP, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, Sigma Alpha Iota, the Japan Foundation, the National Center for the Korean Traditional Performing Arts (National Gugak Center) in Seoul, the Argosy Foundation, the Viola da Gamba Society of America, Arts Midwest, the Society of Composers, the National Association of Composers, the National Association for Advancement in the Arts, the Oahu Choral Society, the Tampa Bay Composers' Forum, Northwestern University, the Music Teachers' National Association, and the American String Teachers Association. He was also the recipient of a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Japan in 2007-08, where he served as guest composer-in-residence with the Tokyo-based Japanese instrumental ensemble AURA-J.

His work with Japanese, Korean and Chinese instruments has placed him at the vanguard of intercultural composition, and has enabled him to make a significant contribution to the body of new literature for East Asian instruments, both alone and in combination with Western instruments. Dr. Womack's interests lie in enriching a traditional approach to composition with the fertile possibilities of cultural interchange inspired by his home of Hawai‘i. Combining a richly linear tonal language, an intricate use of color and texture, and an exploration of multiple perceptions of rhythm, his music employs both Western and East Asian instruments with the goal of reaching audiences on an intuitive and emotional level. A prime example is his After, a concerto for shakuhachi, koto, and orchestra, commissioned and premiered by the Honolulu Symphony in 2006. The piece received its Japan premiere in 2010 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

The recipient of nearly 100 grants, awards and commissions, Dr. Womack received First Prizes in the Sigma Alpha Iota Inter-American Music Awards, the Leo M. Traynor Competition, and the Oahu Choral Society Composition Competition. He was also awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in 1997 and again in 2002, becoming the only artist in any field to be twice honored. A longtime collaboration with the Honolulu Symphony (now Hawai'i Symphony) has produced five commissions, including three large-scale works.

His major works include a symphony, a violin concerto, the aforementioned double concerto for shakuhachi, koto, and orchestra, an oratorio for chorus and chamber orchestra, and a triple concerto for shakuhachi, biwa and koto with ensemble of Japanese instruments. Performers of his music include the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the Honolulu Symphony, the Honolulu Symphony Chorus, the Salzburg Mozarteum String Quartet, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea, AURA-J, Asia Ensemble, conductors Naoto Otomo, Kazuhiro Koizumi and David Stock, and renowned virtuosi Yang Jing (pipa), Ji-young Yi (gayageum), Seizan Sakata (shakuhachi), Reiko Kimura (koto), Parry Karp (cello), I-Bei Lin (cello), Ignace Jang (violin), Thomas Rosenkranz (piano), and soprano Tony Arnold. His works can be heard on the Albany, Equilibrium, AkdangEban, and Tokyo CMC labels. The Albany Records release Walk Across the Surface of the Sun features eight of his works for Japanese and Western instruments. The upcoming releases Elements 五行 and Breaking Heaven 破天 will feature seven more of his works for Chinese and Japanese instruments respectively.

The subject of critical acclaim, Dr. Womack’s work has been described as "moments of raw energy alternating with a brooding potentiality" by the Honolulu Advertiser, and his work has been hailed as "original, creative, and ingenious" by the Akihata Shimbun (Tokyo), "wonderfully mellow" by the Buffalo (NY) Daily News, and "distinctive, stirring, and exciting" by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which also described his Violin Concerto as "a powerful work, impressively crafted, that impacts listeners on a visceral level."

The German periodical Neue Musikzeitung placed Dr. Womack among a group of American composers who "justify hopes that America should be capable of providing stimulus for a new century". As an active supporter of contemporary music and chamber music nationally and in the Hawai'i community, he has directed numerous festivals and concerts of contemporary music. A faculty member at the University of Hawai'i since 1994, Dr. Womack has chaired the music department and presently serves as professor of composition and theory and head of the composition program.

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