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Debra Kaye

New York, NY      

The sound world of New York composer Debra Kaye merges her eclectic background and interests. Her natural impulse to storytelling, training as a classical and jazz pianist, dalliances in the world of traditional folk music and dance, from Dylan to mambo; Bulgarian to Celtic–and studies in momentum and flow (Dalcroze Eurhythmics) that add a visceral quality to her music.


Recent highlights include commissions from the Howland Chamber Music Circle and Portland Youth Philharmonic, and five premieres in 2020 including three zen poems for shakuhachi, viola and cello commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An Arts. Time is the Sea We Swim In for the Lincoln Trio, and a deafening silence – an elegy for flute and piano, commissioned by Carl Gutowski, premiering at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall.


Debra Kaye has been acclaimed for her “sensitivity and raw power” (New Music Connoisseur).  In 2018, New Music USA’s New Music Box published a series of Kaye’s articles about the process and inspiration for her music. Other selected media credits include Chicago’s WFMT, WPRB Princeton’s Classical Discoveries, and Berkeley’s KALX. Kaye has been featured in interviews on WMHT, Albany; WRUU, Savannah; and a featured composer on WFCF, Flagler College’s “Music of our Mothers”.  Italian publisher Odoyo included her in their book, “A Guide to Women Composers”.

Debra’s catalogue of chamber and orchestral music, art songs, choral and theatrical compositions, continues to expand through her steady stream of commissions and collaborations.


Recognized with numerous ASCAP Plus Awards, Debra has been selected for awards from Meet the Composer, Mannes College, Harpsichord XXI, New School University, Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, and Edward T. Cone Foundation, and she has been in residence at the Millay Colony and Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. An advocate for new music, Debra serves on the board of New York Women Composers and is an associate director with Composers Concordance. Her debut album And So It Begins (Ravello Records), produced by GRAMMY winner Judith Sherman, was on Ted Gioia’s list of top 100 CD’s and recognized as “…a beautiful exhibition of the art of musical flow” (sonagrama.org), and “…an album that will surely stand the test of time” (babysue.com).


Debra is a graduate of Mannes College and New York University and served on the faculty of the Mannes College Preparatory Division from 1991-2018. When not composing, she is an avid reader, enjoys the company of friends, the outdoors, and is a life-long diarist.

Articles by Debra Kaye:

Articles November 26 2018 | By Debra Kaye
Music Can be a Counterbalance to Hard Times

Sometimes music is a counterbalance to tragedy. And in times of personal grief, I also turn to composition.  It’s the role of the artist to dream beyond the borders of...

Articles November 19 2018 | By Debra Kaye
Music and a Sense of Place

A sense of place can be the impetus for a piece, motion can be the catalyst.  Sometimes a place can affect the music more indirectly. 

Articles November 12 2018 | By Debra Kaye
Toward a Music of the Spheres

It’s August and I can finally turn my head to a collaboration with Polish violinist Kinga Augustyn for a concert in mid November—a piece for solo violin influenced by Bach’s...

Articles November 5 2018 | By Debra Kaye
Musical Experiences in Daily Life

Looking at life through a musical lens, I see many correspondences that are perhaps easier to see in a city like New York, where the counterpoint of life is omnipresent.