Gabriel Bolanos

Nicaraguan-American composer Gabriel José Bolaños joins ASU School of Music

By

Lynne MacDonald

From classical to electronic, a new professor at Arizona State University School of Music said he composes music for all, which is one reason why he is excited to join the school in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“I was drawn to the eclecticism and openness of the composition program at ASU, Nicaraguan-American composer Gabriel José Bolaños said. “I was particularly impressed with the diversity and breadth of the faculty's creative work with no single dominant aesthetic or style. This kind of creative freedom is very appealing to me.” 

A composer of solo, chamber, orchestral and electronic music, Bolaños said he likes to write music that explores unusual timbres and structures. He is also interested in computer-assisted-composition, auditory perception and linguistics, and he said his recent music engages with theories of ecological listening — how our sense of hearing evolved primarily to interpret our environment.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Gabriel Bolaños to our faculty,” said Heather Landes, director of the ASU School of Music. “As one of the few recognized Nicaraguan-American composers of chamber and orchestral music since the 19th century and one of the few multimedia and electroacoustic sound artists from the region, Bolaños brings a unique voice and eclectic compositional style that addresses contemporary political and social issues to our program.”

Bolaños began formally teaching composition as a 2016-17 Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Nicaragua, where he was composer-in-residence and visiting conductor for the UPOLI Conservatory Orchestra and visiting professor at the UPOLI Conservatory of Music.

“Helping students hone their craft, broaden their ideas and become more aware of their creative process was very rewarding,” Bolaños said. “It also had a tremendously positive impact on my own creative work — teaching composition helps me grow as a composer.” 

Bolaños describes his musical background as eclectic from studying classical guitar, Latin American folk music, playing in rock bands, performing as a flamenco dance accompanist and with free improvisation collectives. He has composed music for film, dance and theater and has collaborated on multimedia and installation work.

He received a PhD in composition from University of California, Davis and a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University. He is co-founder and artistic director of Proyecto Eco, Nicaragua’s first new-music ensemble, and has also helped organize artistic and cultural exchanges between U.S. and Nicaraguan musicians.

Bolaños said he is very excited about having access to such a large community of talented performers and about the prospect of collaborating with new performers and ensembles at ASU.  

“I hope that these eclectic experiences, along with my formal training in western concert music and electroacoustic music, will help contribute toward the diverse and pluralistic composition program at ASU,” Bolaños said.