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Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Nico Muhly graduated from Columbia University in 2003 with a degree in English Literature, and graduated in 2004 with a Masters in Music from The Juilliard School for composition, where he studied with Christopher Rouse and John Corigilano.
The American Symphony Orchestra under Leon Botstein premiered his Fits & Bursts at Avery Fisher Hall in February 2003, and the Juilliard Orchestra, under Jeffrey Milarsky, premiered Out of the Loop (winner of a 2004 ASCAP Award) at the Juilliard Theater. In April 2004, his So to Speak was premiered by the Juilliard Orchestra under Jeffrey Milarsky at Alice Tully Hall.
In 2004, Muhly also orchestrated the movie The Manchurian Candidate for composer Rachel Portman and played on Björk’s album Medúlla. He has collaborated with Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, including conducting a performance with chamber orchestra and Antony at the Arnhem Mode Biënnale 2005 in Holland. In 2005, he also prepared and conducted Björk’s score for Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, and composed a series of nine songs, in collaboration with illustrator Maira Kalman, based on Struk & White’s The Elements of Style. The song cycle was performed to great acclaim in the main reading room of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.
As a performer, he has played piano and celeste with the Juilliard Orchestra and played celeste in the opening concert of Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall under John Adams. His involvement with the performance group VisionIntoArt has brought his music to multiple venues in New York City and the United States. He has worked at M&Co., a graphic design firm, and has also, for the past six years, worked extensively with Philip Glass as an editor and keyboard player for numerous stage works and film scores. He was recently named a Charles Maikish Scholar by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
In 2004, his small ensemble work By All Means was played at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and his evensong canticles were sung at Clare and Girton colleges, Cambridge. The Clare College Choir broadcast these canticles live on BBC3 in 2005 and performed another commissioned work, A Good Understanding, at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York.