The music of composer Judah Adashi (b. 1975) is guided by a belief that the creation and performance of new music can bear witness to injustice, create space for empathy, and serve as a call to action.
Dr. Adashi’s compositions are grounded in the classical tradition and imbued with soul and pop influences ranging from Nina Simone to Björk. Tim Smith of The Baltimore Sun has written: “it’s not easy to straddle genres; Adashi does so with naturalness and expressive impact.” His piece my heart comes undone (2014) has been widely performed, receiving attention from Alex Ross in The New Yorker – “a rapt meditation…in my experience, music has never seemed closer to nature” – and from Björk herself, via Twitter: “Judah Adashi…listened to ‘Unravel’ & heard a new song inside it.”
Much of Dr. Adashi’s recent music explores racial injustice: Rise (2015), a 40-minute work for double chorus and chamber ensemble created with poet Tameka Cage Conley, traces America’s civil rights journey from Selma to Ferguson; The Beauty of the Protest (2016), for singing cellist, was inspired by photographer Devin Allen’s images of the 2015 Baltimore Uprising; and Last Words (2017) is a multimedia vocal work about Kalief Browder, a young casualty of mass incarceration and solitary confinement. In all of these pieces, Dr. Adashi aims to bring an intimate, human focus to ethical issues confronting American society.
As an organizer committed to creating meaningful contexts for 21st century classical music, Dr. Adashi is the founder and artistic director of the Evolution Contemporary Music Series, which has made Baltimore a destination for extraordinary new music and musicians since 2005. The Washington Post’s Tim Page writes: “to live in Baltimore is to live in a perpetual state of surprise, and the marvelous and venturesome Evolution Series adds smart new music to the mix…for those of us who remember downtown New York in the 1970s, it is reassuring to find something very much like it happening in Baltimore now.”
Dr. Adashi is also the founder and artistic director of Rise Bmore, an annual concert marking the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s 2015 death while in Baltimore police custody. The 2017 event was named Best Concert in Baltimore Magazine’s annual Best of Baltimore issue, with the following citation: “This yearly performance, which recognizes the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death, gathers artists – from Peabody professors to hip-hop ingénues — who represent a cross section of our city.”
Passionate about introducing students to new music and empowering Baltimore’s youngest artists to make their own, Dr. Adashi has been a member of the composition and music theory faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University since 2002. In addition to teaching composition lessons and courses in contemporary music, he also directs Junior Bach, a one-on-one mentoring program in composition for middle school students, culminating each semester in a concert of their original music. Junior Bach alumnus Tariq Al-Sabir calls the program “a catalyst for growth, not only in music but in life…it taught me how to connect the music in my head to the music on paper and in the concert hall.”
Dr. Adashi holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Peabody, and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. He lives in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood with his wife and frequent collaborator, cellist Lavena Johanson.