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Ken Thomson

Artist profile

Ken Thomson, NY-based freelance clarinetist and composer with ensembles Bang on a Can, Signal, etc.


B♭ clarinet Superior Plateau


"...simply the best clarinets!"


Ken Thomson, a staple of New York City’s contemporary music and jazz communities, is widely regarded for his ability to blend a rich variety of influences and styles into his own musical language while maintaining a voice unmistakably his own. Ken plays clarinet for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of the world’s preeminent contemporary music ensembles. He has performed and recorded with Ensemble Signal (conducted by Brad Lubman), working directly with composers from Steve Reich to Helmut Lachenmann and performing on CDs for Harmonia Mundi, Mode, Orange Mountain, and Cantaloupe Records. He is a frequent collaborator with many new-composed music groups including Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Novus NY and more. He has also worked as a music director, notably, directing composer Julia Wolfe’s “Traveling Music” at the Bordeaux Conservatory, France, 2009, and has conducted performances of “Music for Airports” with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, choir, and guest musicians from Melbourne to Buenos Aires. As a teaching artist, he is on faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival and has given composer master classes to multiple universities across the globe, and as guest faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Masters program and a composer mentor at the Ensemble Offspring Hatched Academy in Sydney, Australia. As a composer, Thomson has a growing catalog of music written for ensembles of different sizes, and has released a number of albums with groups that he has created. He has released full-length CDs of his compositions in 2013 with JACK Quartet (Thaw) and in 2016 with cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist Karl Larson (Restless). As a composer, he has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the True/False Film Festival, Doug Perkins, Mariel Roberts, and others, and has received awards from New Music USA, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, ASCAP and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He also has created many projects combining the sounds of jazz and through-composed contemporary music. His latest, Sextet, garnered Top of 2018 placement from websites Second Inversion and AnEarful and has toured to Europe and across the US. His previous project, a five-piece group called Slow/Fast, was praised by The New York Times for its “intricate long-form compositions,” and garnered a five-star review in All About Jazz after releasing two albums. He has recently been the subject of profile features in Downbeat, NewMusicBox and Critical Read. He is a F. Arthur Uebel Artist and D’Addario Woodwinds Artist.

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