Matthew Aucoin (b. 1990) is a composer, conductor, and poet. He is a 2012 summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, where he is the recipient of the Louis Sudler Prize, Harvard’s highest arts honor; the Hoopes Prize for outstanding senior thesis; and a rating of Highest Honors in English. Aucoin is currently composing a new opera for the American Repertory Theater; he recently served as Assistant Conductor for the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Thomas Adès’s The Tempest, conducted by the composer; and served in the same capacity at the Rome Opera for Shostakovich’s The Nose. He will make his Rome Opera debut in a concert with the Rome Opera Orchestra in October. Aucoin is also Music Director and composer-in-residence at the Peabody Essex Museum, where he will conduct the Encounters Ensemble in a premiere of his own new orchestral work on May 25th. He is a Masters of Music student at Juilliard, working with Robert Beaser.
In addition to his work as an assistant at the Metropolitan Opera and the Rome Opera, Aucoin recently debuted with Boston’s Longwood Symphony and will debut with the Rome Opera Orchestra in October. He is music director of the Encounters Ensemble at the Peabody Essex Museum, and he served as music director of Harvard’s Dunster House Opera from 2010-12, where he conducted Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (in a new English translation he co-wrote with Stewart Kramer) and Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. For two summers, he has been assistant conductor of Italy’s Spoleto Festival, and recently worked as a pianist at the Berliner Staatsoper (The Rake’s Progress). Aucoin was a répétiteur/coach at New York’s Caramoor Festival for two years, and he has served as assistant conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and the Boston Youth Symphony. He music-directed Opera Boston Underground twice (including Trouble in Tahiti, 2010) and toured with the Boston Lyric Opera as pianist and lecturer in 2010. He has studied at Tanglewood, Milan’s La Scala, the Rome Opera, Florence’s Maggio Musicale, and Salzburg’s Mozarteum. Recent performances include the premiere of his own opera Hart Crane at the Loeb Drama Center and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (featuring Aucoin’s original cadenzas) with violinist Keir GoGwilt.
Aucoin’s new opera Hart Crane, for which he also wrote an original libretto (featuring fragments of Crane’s poetry, used by permission), was premiered on the mainstage of the Loeb Drama Center this past spring. His work includes the opera From Sandover, premiered at Harvard in 2010 and performed through the New York Composers’ Collaborative in New York later that year; Poem for Violin, premiered by Keir GoGwilt in Cambridge and New York; a string suite premiered in 2012 by the Brattle Street Chamber Players; and cadenzas to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed by Keir GoGwilt at the Bowdoin International String Festival. Aucoin’s works have been performed by orchestra and chamber ensembles, including the Rivers Symphony Orchestra, since he was nine. He is the first undergraduate ever commissioned to write the annual premiere for Harvard’s First Nights course, a work for string orchestra performed in 2011. Upcoming commissions include an opera in development at the American Repertory Theater, an orchestral work for the Peabody Essex Museum, and a song cycle for bass-baritone Davone Tines and the Werner Cello Quartet.
Aucoin’s poetry has appeared in The Harvard Advocate, The Gamut, and Plain China; his Hoopes Prize-winning senior thesis is a collection of poems entitled Aftermusic, advised by Jorie Graham. His poetry has also been awarded the Roger Conant Hatch Prize (for the most outstanding lyric poem written in the Harvard English Department in 2011-12) and two Edward Eager Memorial Fund Prizes. He collaborated with Graham to curate Harvard’s 375th-anniversary poetry celebration, for which he co-created a collage of the work of four centuries of poets tied to Harvard, performed at the ArtsFirst Festival in April. He has served as poetry editor of The Harvard Advocate, he is the author of the libretto of his new opera Hart Crane, and he is the co-author of a new English translation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. His prose pieces have appeared in The Boston Globe, The Colorado Review and The Harvard Gazette.
As a pianist, Aucoin regularly performs both as a soloist and in collaboration with singers and instrumentalists. This summer, he performed at Italy’s Spoleto Festival, both in a quintet conducted by James Conlon and in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, conducted by Johannes Debus. He has appeared in recital at the Caramoor Festival, Harvard University’s Paine Hall and The Signet Society, the Worcester Palladium, Rivera Hall at the Rivers School Conservatory, New York’s Cornelia St. Café, the Dante Alighieri Society, the MacMullen Museum, The Boston Globe, the Zullo Gallery, in Sanders Theater as pianist with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (for the New England premiere of John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls), and with the Dunster House Opera Orchestra as continuo player (and conductor). He has performed with Opera Manhattan, including complete performances of Menotti’s The Telephone and Wolf-Ferrari’s Il Segreto di Susanna. As a jazz pianist, he was an award-winning soloist at the 2008 Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center and a soloist at venues including the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. As a repetiteur/rehearsal pianist, he has worked at the Caramoor Festival, the Spoleto Festival (Italy), Boston Lyric Opera, and Opera Manhattan. He has worked professionally as a vocal coach throughout his college years and performed with singers including Emily Hindrichs, Vanessa Cariddi, Robert Honeysucker, Jennifer Rowley, Reyna Carguill, and Brian Landry. He has performed in master classes for Renée Fleming, Philip Gossett, Roberto Poli, Ursula Oppens, and A. Ramon Rivera. Upcoming performances include recitals with violinist Keir GoGwilt in New York and Toronto.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Aucoin is a John Harvard Scholar (top 5% of his class at Harvard College), a two-time winner of Harvard’s Boylston Prize for Elocution, and the recipient of the Hoopes Prize for Outstanding Senior Thesis, the Louis Sudler Prize (awarded to the senior with “the most outstanding artistic accomplishment”), the Roger Conant Hatch Prize (for the Harvard English Department’s most outstanding poem of 2011-12), the Helen Choate Bell Prize (for the Harvard English Department’s most outstanding essay of 2011-12), the Detur Book Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Traveling Fellowship, two Edward Eager Memorial Fund Prizes in Poetry (in 2010 and 2012), two MacColl Prizes for Music Composition (in 2010 and 2012), the Booth Fellowship, and an Artist Development Fellowship.
He is a founding member, composer, and keyboardist of the indie rock band Elephantom, which has performed throughout the northeast since 2005 at venues including the Worcester Palladium, Cambridge’s T.T. the Bear’s and All Asia Cafe, and New York’s Trash Bar and Bushwick Music Studios. He composed many of the songs on Elephantom’s debut album Swim Toward the Sun.
Aucoin regularly lectures on the history of music around Boston at venues including Newbridge on the Charles; these lectures are half recital, as Matt performs selections of the music at hand. His programs include a 25-part series on the history of opera and lectures before each Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast.
He has studied conducting with Federico Cortese and Stefan Asbury, poetry with Jorie Graham and Helen Vendler, composition with Robert Beaser, piano with Sharon Schoffmann, and chamber music with Robert Levin and Daniel Stepner.