Howard Hersh was born in Santa Monica, California in 1940. He studied piano in Los Angeles and composition at Stanford University, where he received Bachelor's and Master's Degrees.
Mr. Hersh has composed concert and dramatic works for voices and instruments ranging from solo violin to full orchestra. His major works include Shrapnel in the Heart for soprano, seven instruments and four-channel surround tape, based on writings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and performed at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as in concert settings that include the Los Angeles County Museum's Monday Evening Series, a violin concerto inspired by the American folksong "Down to the River to Pray", and Early Harvests, a set of orchestral songs based on the recollections of a Holocaust survivor and premiered at the 2000 Music in the Mountains Festival. After the 1993 premiere of his song cycle Earthly Prayers, the critic for Sacramento's National Public Radio station called the work "an important contribution to the music world. Hersh has always given us thoughtful music of great depth that is filled with drama and beauty. Earthly Prayers....should be heard around the world." Other recent works include his Sonata for violin and percussion (with string bass obbligato), commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento and introduced in March of 2000, and The History Lesson, a theater piece for soprano, tenor, chamber ensemble and high school choir, commissioned by the 2001 Festival of New American Music.
Mr. Hersh has also composed graphic scores; his three-part graphic composition Three Songs on Poems of Apollinaire is in the collection of Middlebury College.
Hersh's music has been presented at venues that include the Tanglewood Festival, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Monday Evening Concerts, Florida State University's Festival of New Music, Stanford University's Summer Festival of the Arts, Grace Cathedral, the CSUS Festival of New American Music and Spring Festival of the Arts, Music in the Mountains and Bear Valley Festivals, UCLA, the Stuttgart State Theater, and the Bavarian Radio.
He has received commissions from the San Francisco ISCM, percussionist Nebojsa Zivkovic, the Twin Cities Concert Association, the Jovan Percussion Group, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, Music Now, the Festival of New American Music, Music in the Mountains Festival, the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento, the American Composers Forum, and Dale Scholl Dance/Art, which has choreographed several of his works.
Hersh's awards include grants from Music Alive, a national composer-in-residency program administered by the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer, the American Music Center's Composer Assistance Program, Meet the Composer's Creative Connections Program, the Puffin Foundation, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum, the Stanford University Composition Prize, a Villa Montalvo Art Foundation Residency, and a Rex Foundation (the charitable wing of the Grateful Dead) Award, as well as consecutive ASCAP Standard Awards since 1992; in 1997, he was featured on the syndicated radio program "Social Thought." In the fall of 2004 he was a fellow at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California.
Mr. Hersh has also acted as mentor to young musicians. He designed and directed a Young Composers Program as part of his Music Alive Residency, and, during the 2002-2003 school year, directed a cross-generational project that created a middle school composition and performance ensemble.
Together with his composing, Hersh has contributed to music through his work as a broadcaster, conductor, writer, and producer of contemporary music concerts. He has served as founding director of the San Francisco Conservatory's New Music Ensemble and the Nevada County Composers Coalition, Music Director of KPFA-FM, where he produced a series of programs profiling American composers and their work, and Program Annotator for the San Francisco Symphony. He is currently Music Director of Music Now, a Sacramento-based performing ensemble.
Mr. Hersh lives with his family in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.