Blair McMillen, Piano

...prodigiously accomplished and exciting... new music’s torchbearer...
— The New York Times

Fast Facts

  • Piano Faculty, Bard College Conservatory of Music, and The New School.

  • Core Member, American Modern Ensemble, the six-piano Grand Band; co-founder and co-director of the Rite of Summer Music Festival.

  • Degrees from Oberlin, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School.

Photo: Jim Graham

Blair McMillen has established himself as one of the most versatile and sought-after pianists today. The New York Times has described him as “riveting,” “prodigiously accomplished and exciting,” and as one of the piano’s “brilliant stars.”

McMillen has performed in major venues both traditional and avant-garde: from Carnegie Hall, the Moscow Conservatory, Lincoln Center, Caramoor, Miller Theatre, and the Library of Congress; to (le) Poisson Rouge, Galapagos, and the Knitting Factory. Highlights from recent seasons include the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Bard Music Festival, the Walter Piston Concertino for Piano in Carnegie Hall, and numerous appearances with the New York Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Albany Symphony.

2014 also saw McMillen’s debut at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, where he performed a solo recital featuring Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories (a McMillen calling card; Alex Ross praised his “acute feeling for those remarkable passages…”) right on the heels of a sold-out performance with his tour de force piano sextet, Grand Band. Of his solo performance, the Kalamazoo Gazette wrote, “McMillen played with complete control, meticulously observing Feldman’s tempos, meters, and dynamics, making the high notes sing and the bass resonant…It was like watching the stars come out on a clear night by Lake Michigan, exquisitely played.”

Blair McMillen leads a multifarious musical life as pianist, chamber musician, conductor, and improviser. He thrives on playing a wide variety of musical styles: from medieval keyboard manuscripts to improvisation-based music of all types; from Classical/Romantic-era piano repertoire to the music of young 21st-century composers. Known for imaginative and daring programming, McMillen has premiered hundreds of new works both as a soloist and with numerous ensembles. He constantly collaborates with composers and artists of other genres in commissioning works that stretch the boundaries of the piano and the traditional recital format.

McMillen is pianist for the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, the American Modern Ensemble, and the six-piano Grand Band, among others. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Rite of Summer Music Festival, an alt-classical outdoor concert series. Held on New York City’s Governors Island, Rite of Summer celebrated its fourth season in 2014 with eleven world premieres and concerts by Ethel, Iktus Percussion, Grand Band, and Dawn of Midi.

Blair McMillen holds degrees from Oberlin College, the Juilliard School, and the Manhattan School of Music. He lives in New York City, and has served on the music faculty at Bard College and Conservatory since 2005.