Steven Bodner, 1975-2011

I couldn’t attend the performance of two of my Planets at Williams College Saturday because there was a snowstorm, and the roads leading from the Hudson Valley into northwest Massachusetts are slow two-lane roads up and down mountains behind trucks, uncomfortable driving even in sunshine. So I e-mailed Steven Bodner, the ensemble director, to say I wouldn’t make it, and he e-mailed back that he wouldn’t be there either because of a bad flu. And now Eve Beglarian informs me he died Monday night! I’m absolutely shocked. Steven was a vital, energetic, supremely talented conductor who had great rapport with his students and a creative, progressive approach to programming. He got in touch with me about performing my piano concerto Sunken City, and ably conducted the American premiere; then at my recommendation he was called to Bard on a kind of emergency basis to lead a performance of Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, which he executed beautifully. He was a real up-and-coming conductor, whom I saw potentially playing a national role on the new-music scene. What an inexplicable loss.

Sunken City is a tremendously difficult piece rhythm-wise, with constant changes in the first movement among meters like 17/16 and 11/8; and many of the students in Steven’s ensemble weren’t even music majors. When I asked him how he pulled it off with such precision, he said, “I never let them know it was difficult.”


  1. says


    You may very well have been among the last people to hear from Steven. I had been in contact with him over the past few years because he’s the only other American conductor crazy enough to have taken on Louis Andriessen’s De Materie. His advice and thoughts on the piece were invaluable in my own take on it and I was glad to have had the opportunity (the only one I would ever have, as it turned out) to sit down and spend about 45 minutes with him and a couple of his students chatting about that piece and other new-music ideas running around our heads right before the performance. He’d also been conducting my wind ensemble piece, “Fanfares,” throughout the season and was about to do it again, along with a mixed ensemble piece of mine, at a one day festival of Latin American music at Williams in the middle of next month (I still had an email from him open in my desktop waiting for me to reply when I heard the news of his passing on Tuesday).

    I too saw Steve as having the potential for a major new music career, both nationally and internationally. He had a passion for it and incredibly radical, new ideas about programming. He was also a dedicated teacher whose students simply loved him. What a tragic, shocking loss this is!