is the only woman composer/conductor to receive commissions from major organizations and also hold music director positions with leading ensembles. Her extensive catalog includes works written for the Houston, Shanghai, and Richmond Symphony Orchestras, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Audubon String Quartet, among others. She was recently honored with the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Walter Hinrichsen Award, established by the C.F. Peters Corporation for the publication of a work by a gifted composer. As a conductor, she has led more than a dozen major orchestras and opera companies throughout the U.S., plus several in China. In every genre she undertakes, from opera to chamber music, her consummate musicianship serves to enrich a musical language that is beautifully crafted and deeply expressive.
Born in Los Angeles into a family of professional musicians – her grandfather was a liturgical composer, her mother a concert pianist, and her father an operatic bass – Victoria Bond began her musical training with piano pieces by Bartók, with whom her mother had studied in Hungary. She began to improvise while still a pre-schooler, “making up stories on the piano” and committing them to memory. As a young child she moved with her family to New York and entered the preparatory program at the Mannes School of Music, studying piano with Nadia Reisenberg.
At the University of Southern California, Bond studied composition with Ingolf Dahl and voice with William Vennard. As a soprano, she recorded with Bethany Beardslee and appeared on the premiere recording of Harry Partch’s
Delusion of the Fury
. Her conducting studies began at Aspen, where she trained with Leonard Slatkin, later serving as assistant conductor to James Conlon.
Upon graduating from USC, Bond assisted film composer Paul Glass in creating filmscores for Universal and Metromedia Studios – a rare opportunity for a young composer to write for orchestra on a regular basis, and have the resulting scores recorded by expert musicians. With a portfolio of such recordings in hand, Bond was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music to study composition with Roger Sessions.
She continued studies in conducting, assisting Pierre Boulez with the Juilliard New Music Ensemble and working with an array of distinguished teachers, including Herbert von Karajan. In the face of skepticism from male colleagues, Victoria Bond became the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in conducting from The Juilliard School.
Appointed by Andre Previn as Exxon/Arts Endowment Conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1978, Bond quickly rose to prominence as both composer and conductor. She composed a trio of ballet scores for leading companies, collaborating with noted choreographer Lynne Taylor Corbett:
for Pennsylvania Ballet (1976), Trio: Other Selves
for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (1979), and
Great Galloping Gottschalk
for American Ballet Theater (1981).
In 1986, Bond was invited to conduct the Houston Symphony as part of the state’s sesquicentennial celebration and to premiere her own composition,
, commissioned for that occasion. In that same year, she was appointed Music Director and conductor of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and shortly thereafter became artistic director of Opera Roanoke, holding both posts until 1995. She has also served as Music Director of The Bel Canto Opera, Harrisburg Opera and the New Amsterdam Symphony, and as Music Advisor of the Wuhan Symphony in China.
Bond’s mastery of orchestral writing stems directly from her extensive experience at the podium. Her scores in the medium include
(1981), for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Black Light
(1988, rev. 1997), premiered by pianist Paul Barnes and the Martinu Philharmonic, and recorded on Koch Records;
(1993), an alto saxophone concerto commissioned by the Women’s Philharmonic;
< (1994) for narrator and orchestra, co-commissioned by the Shanghai, Billings, and Elgin Symphonies;
A Modest Proposal
(1999), for tenor Paul Sperry and the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra; and
(2002), commissioned by pianist Paul Barnes and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
Her catalog also includes family concert pieces for narrator and orchestra,
among them or and orchestra,
among them i>The Frog Prince and What’s the Point of Counterpoint
?, both written for TV personality Bob McGrath (Sesame Street) who recorded the works and toured with them throughout the United States.
Bond’s chamber works are among her most widely performed: her string quartet Dreams of Flying
(1994), commissioned by the Audubon String Quartet, has been played by at least six ensembles.
(2005), for violin and harp, draws inspiration from three Biblical women – Esther, Ruth, and Rebecca – and uses musical motives from Hebrew cantillation, connecting Bond to her grandfather’s legacy as a composer of Jewish music.
(1990), for soprano and string quartet, was described by Allan Kozinn in
The New York Times
as “by turns wistful, angry, caustic, rhapsodic and nostalgic… Ms. Bond has woven an expressive, dynamic quartet score… The language is pervasively chromatic, yet it takes in influences of all sorts, including blues, a waltz and fragments of popular songs mentioned by [James] Joyce."
Bond is also active as an music-theater composer. Scenes from her chamber opera
(2002), based on the life of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, were performed by New York City Opera in 2001 as part of the company’s Vox reading series. One of her most innovative works is
A More Perfect Union
(2002), which tells the story of the United States Constitution through music, dance, and verse, with a satirical libretto by Isaiah Sheffer.
(1994), a full-evening work based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver tale, was praised by
for its “sparkling, tuneful score.”
Victoria Bond’s stylistic influences include Bartók, with his rhythmic liveliness and sense of play, and Berg, who Bond admires for his lush yet rigorously structured Romanticism. Her music is tonally based; while passages may range from richly consonant to tartly dissonant, there is always an overarching sense of harmonic motion. Above all, Bond’s writing is highly thematic, often subjecting a germinal motive to a series of gripping transformations that unfold with a sure sense of pacing. All of these elements stem naturally from the dramatic impulse that is central to her music.
Bond is now at work on Frescoes and Ash
, commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the Xtet ensemble, inspired by the paintings and mosaics of Pompeii. Scored for flute, clarinet, string quintet, percussion, and piano,
Frescoes and Ash
will make its debut at LACMA in May 2009.
Victoria Bond has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and on NBC’s Today Show
, featured in
and in the New York Times
. Her music is published by Theodore Presser, G. Schirmer, Subito Music, Southern Music and Protone Music, and recorded on the Koch International, Albany, GEGA, Protone, and Family Classic labels.
Download Short Bio as PDF