Lisa DeSpain

LISA DESPAIN (she/her) (composer) is an award-winning creative at the forefront of contemporary opera and musical theater. She is the recipient of a 2018 OPERA America Discovery Award, Rhinebeck Writers Award, and NEA Challenge America Award for her jazz/blues opera That Hellbound Train, based on a short story by Robert Bloch (Psycho) with libretto by David Simpatico, the 2020 Zepick Modern Opera Commission (Opera Kansas) for Staggerwing about the historic win of female pilots in the 1936 Bendix Trophy Air Race (libretto by Rachel J. Peters), and a 2023 New Music Creator Fund grant for The Albany Garbage War about the women of Albany, CA, who took up arms to save their community (libretto by Tony Asaro). 

Additional commissions include No Ladies in the Lady’s Book (Utah Opera), highlighting the lost stories of women who built the Transcontinental Railroad, and Men I’m Not Married To (Cleveland Opera Theatre), based on a short story by Dorothy Parker (libretti by Rachel J. Peters). Concert works include the oratorio American Nativity (New Haven Symphony Orchestra), Rise & Fall (Barlow Award, Cassatt String Quartet), and The Bicycle Shoppe (US Air Force Band of Flight, honoring the Wright Brothers’ Centennial).

DeSpain’s many honors include an Aaron Copland Fellowship, the ASCAP Commission Honoring the Duke Ellington Centennial, Eugene O’Neill Writer-in-Residence, and the Dramatists Guild Fellowship for Storyville with writing partner Oscar Award-winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez. DeSpain is the choral arranger of Broadway hits (e.g. Hamilton, Funny Girl) for Alfred Music and Professor of Music at LaGuardia Community College – CUNY.

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