Wearing the three hats of a composer, organist, and pianist, Justin Rubin (b.1971) maintains an active career in music on both sides of the performance stage. Initially educated under the tutelage of his father, he pursued formal training at the Manhattan School of Music Prepatory Division between 1986 and 1989, studying piano under Philip Kawin. He graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1992 with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude where he studied composition and organ. Continuing at Purchase, Rubin graduated in 1994 with a Master of Fine Arts in composition.
Following a 1994 Fulbright Scholarship in organ musicology to Denmark, Rubin was appointed Interim Choir Director and Organist at New York City’s prestigious Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, where he also began composing numerous choral and ensemble pieces for liturgical and concert usage. It was during this time that he started to bring together the rigor of his academic compositional training and a writing style that could communicate with a diverse audience.
This new tonal language was further developed during his three years in residence at the University of Arizona (1995-98) under the guidance of Daniel Asia while completing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. One piece exemplifying Rubin’s compositional concerns which was completed during this period, the cantata David and Absalom, was distinguished with a BMI Student Composer Award (1997).
In 1998, Dr. Rubin was appointed Assistant Professor of Theory/Composition and Organ/Piano at the University of Minnesota, with additional responsibilities including the construction and supervision of a computer music center. In 1999, he spearheaded the formation of a New Music Festival at the University, with its first week-long concert series in 2000. The success of the Festival has made it an annual event, of which he is the artistic director.
It is as a composer that Justin Rubin defines himself, receiving over one hundred performances of his works across the country and in Europe over the past decade. He has received numerous commissions and his published catalogue includes works in almost every genre. Performance highlights include productions by the Minnesota Orchestra, Zeitgeist, Duo46, Newband, Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, THUD, The John M. Corps, Group! for New Music, Heavy Metal Brass Quintet, Ensemble Singers (Plymouth Music Series), The University of Arizona Symphony, The University Singers (at the University of Arizona), the San Diego Contemporary Ensemble, The University of Southern California Contemporary Players, The University of Arizona Sax Quartet, California State University at Hayward Concert Artists, The Chamber Music Society of Sacramento, The Holy Trinity Choir, Lake Superior Youth Chorus, UMD Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the SUNY Purchase Contemporary Players. As well, his music has been choreographed by Kim Nofsinger and Dorothy Massalski.
Most recently, Rubin’s cantata, From the Sonnets of Apology, was selected for the Plymouth Music Series’ Essentially Choral (2001-02). Production highlights include a chamber oratorio, Old Turtle, commissioned by the Matinee Musicale of Duluth, which had its première in April, 2000, and ten performances of Euripides’ Bacchae by the UMD Theatre Department in 2001, for which Rubin has composed Odes, Dances, and Airs. He has been chosen in consecutive years as a Minnesota Orchestra Perfect Pitch Composer by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis for his Passacaglia Tenebrosa (1999) and Symphonietta I (2000). Also in June, 1999, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra commissioned and premièred his Four Sketches of an American Past. He has also been a featured composer at the Aspen Composers’ Conference, the Hermoupolis Guitar Festival, and the Guitar Foundation of America Conference. This Fall, Richard Stoltzman will perform the première of his Dedication and Fanfare for the opening of the Weber Music Hall in Minnesota. His works are published by Harvey Music Editions, Zalo/JP Publications, and Mnemes – Alfieri &Ranieri [Italy].
As a performer, he has been the pianist in residence with the ST/X Ensemble Xenakis USA since 1994, recording two CD’s with the group (including solo works and concertos to critical acclaim) on the Mode and Vandenburg Wave labels and giving a live broadcast concert at Radio France in Paris in 1998. In May, 2000, he performed Xenakis’ first piano concerto, Synaphaï, with the Gulbenkian Festival Orchestra in Lisbon. Other composers Rubin has given premières of in the United States include Kaikhosru Sorabji, Dary John Mizelle, and numerous student works as well. Rubin has also concertized widely on organ, specializing in works of less heralded composers and always performing new pieces. In May, 1996, he was invited by Gerre Hancock to give an all-Hugo Distler organ recital at famed St. Thomas Church in New York City. In November, 2000, he was also invited by the American Guild of Organists to perform selections of J.S.Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge as part of the 250th Memorial Minnesota Bach Festival co-sponsored by National Public Radio’s Pipedreams. In 2002 he was chosen to perform three times at the Church of St.Louis, King of France, noontime recital series, including the 2002-03 season opener.