German American composer Ingrid Stölzel has been praised by NPR as being “a composer of considerable gifts” who is “musically confident and bold.” Her music has been performed worldwide and she has won numerous awards, including recently winning the Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composers Award from Composers, Inc., for the title track of her new release, THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS.

Today, Ingrid is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. In this interview, read about Ingrid’s experience composing with a group of prison inmates…

Who was your first favorite poet?

I grew up in Germany, so my first big poetic love was Rainer Maria Rilke. After I moved to the United States, I started reading poetry in English and for the most part was pretty frustrated because I did not have the same level of understanding of the language as I did in German. It took me many years to feel a similar comfort level with reading poetry in English and even more years before I set an English poem to music. The two poets on this album, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, are among my absolute favorites.

What was your most unusual performance?

My most unusual and also incredibly rewarding performance took place this May at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing KS. My colleagues Sarah Frisof, Hannah Collins, Michael Compitello and I received a grant from New Music USA to bring a composition workshop to inmates through the nonprofit organization “Arts in Prison.” We collaborated and performed together with a select group of inmates for several days and put on a concert at the end of the workshop which featured their compositions as well as a new piece of mine written for the occasion. The whole workshop and performance was a transformative experience for all of us, and it reaffirmed one of my core beliefs that music has the potential to deeply connect us all no matter the circumstances.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I love the mountains and the quiet of nature. It nourishes my creative spirit. Most recently, I spent time in the Rocky Mountains, which was wonderful, but I would love to go back to the Alps sometime soon.

What is your favorite musical moment on the album?

The second song of Gorgeous Nothings, “In this Short Life,” has a special place in my heart. I read the Emily Dickinson poem, which is succinct and incredibly powerful, and went to the piano and wrote the song in one sitting. When I compose, pieces usually go through multiple sketches from the first inspiration to the final version, but this one was just perfect the way it came out.

What does this album mean to you personally?

I am so grateful to all the musicians on the album whose artistry brings life to my music. For this album, I chose compositions that were written over a period of ten years. I feel they are a wonderful reflection of my compositional voice and journey.

Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?

Lately, I have been talking to audiences a lot about emotion in music and being in the moment. I think it has become very important to me as composer to feel like I’m creating a soundworld that has the potential to communicate and connect with a listener. I’m not looking for a specific feeling, but rather a sense of connectedness. I hope we can all find a bit more of that in our lives.


THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS is now available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.

  • Ingrid Stölzel

    IngridStölzel (b.1971) has been hailed “as a composer of considerable gifts” who is “musically confident and bold” by National Public Radio’s classical music critic. Her music has been described as “tender and beautiful” (American Record Guide) and as creating a “haunting feeling of lyrical reflection and suspension in time and memory” (Classical-Modern Review). At the heart of her compositions is a belief that music can create a profound emotional connection with the listener.