has been recognized for decades as a unique composer, pianist, and teacher. He has had the great pleasure to write for soloists and ensembles worldwide and collaborate with an array of notable chamber musicians, orchestras, vocalists, actors, directors, playwrights, dancers, librettists, and poets on the concert and theater stages, including many commissions. His compositions have received special awards and commentary, while his university teaching has been distinguished for its excellence, relevance, and creativity.
Crossman was born into an artistic family in New York City in 1942 and has always been active musically, working with George Rochberg, George Crumb, and Hugo Weisgall at the University of Pennsylvania (Honors BA, MA). His principal piano studies were with Irwin Gelber.
Music for Human Choir (SATB a cappella) shared Top Honors at the Waging Peace through Singing Festival in Oregon; with lyrics by the composer, it portrays the vision of humanity’s final departure from Earth, including a “farewell” chorus. Flyer, for cello solo and string orchestra, was written in 2003 for the centenary of the first Wright Brothers flight and premiered/recorded by the North/South Chamber Orchestra (NYC) under Max Lifchitz, with cellist Nina Flyer. Flyer was also a featured piece by the Kalistos Chamber Orchestra at the Society of Composers national conference in Denison, OH.
Following in the flight series is the piano trio Icarus, written for Trio 180 (San Francisco), based of course on the mythical story in which Icarus flies too close to the sun and falls into the sea. In this new musical version, the sea revives Icarus, and he ascends once again, now fully-formed, harmonizing both youthful and mature qualities of desire, physicality, caution, impetuosity, innocence, hope. The piece uses traditional and modern musical language to reflect the timeless and the new.
The long and fruitful association with North/South Consonance (NYC) has produced more fine recordings: Millennium Overture, with Crossman’s wind-string quintet of the same name, received a GRAMMY nomination. Also on N/S are Gypsy Ballads (based on poems by Lorca) and Street Suite, both performed by pianist Max Lifchitz, and Desiderata, for clarinet and piano, with the noted clarinetist Richard Goldsmith joining Lifchitz.
Other notable performers of his music include pianist Nannette Solomon (Gypsy Ballads, International Lorca Conference in Spain), Quintette à vent de Montréal, guitarist Michael Laucke, vocalists Richard Mix, Shari Saunders, Pauline Vaillancourt, Elise Bédard, Jocelyne Fleury, violist Charles Meinen, flutist Liselyn Adams, pianists Jerry Kuderna, Velma Richter, Genevieve Beaudet, cellist Wolfram Koessel, Quatuor Morency, SF Composers Chamber Orchestra, Oakland Civic Orchestra, Ariel Trio, Eusebius Duo (violin/piano), Composers Choir, New Music Works…
His work has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts, American Composers Forum, and Meet the Composer, among others.
He has performed for many years as accompanist for concert soloists, appearing as fortepianist with vocalist Richard Mix at the Beethoven Center, San Jose, CA, in 2014. He has been active as composer/arranger and music director/pianist for theater companies, among them the Cambridge Ensemble (MA), Goat Hall (SF), Théâtre Quat’Sous, Centaur Theatre, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, Goethe Institute, McGill Players. Productions include Blood Wedding, for which he draws on Lorca’s original music and arrangements of Andalusian folksongs; The Comedy of Errors, for which the acoustic/digital sound texture is more part of the lighting than a traditional theater accompaniment; Metamorphose (in French), Calling for Help (Handke), and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (Stoppard/Previn), for which he arranged Previn’s orchestra score for five instruments.
The musical The Log of the Skipper’s Wife was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and the Kennedy Center, with his music drawn from Irish/Scottish shanties; libretto and direction by Joann G. Breuer, Amy Finegan in the lead role. It also appeared in Montreal, Nova Scotia, Martha’s Vineyard, and at the Camden, Maine Opera House, where Dorothea Balano, the skipper’s wife, saw many operas in the early 20th century; members of her family attended the American premiere. “While writing music for The Log on Monhegan Island, ME, I happened to mention the project to a neighbor, who said that Jim Balano, the grandson, was on the island at that moment, and why not give him a call? So we had a fine chat about his family and their adventures on the high seas. Fortunately, I asked him if his grandparents had any favorite tunes, which he immediately sang; I quickly wrote them down, and they found their way into the musical. One of them, The Leaving of Liverpool, appears throughout the show…”
The Log of the Skipper’s Wife
is a fine, fresh and vital piece of musical theatre that succeeds in bringing new life to a story that dwells in the memories and imaginations of those who have been touched by Balano…The full sound of the musical wove traditional jigs, reels, bells, fog horns and sea chanteys into a rich tapestry of modern composition.(Camden Herald, Maine)
A musical revue, The Border, was produced by San Francisco Cabaret Opera, who will also be presenting his operetta, Mozart! Where Are You?, with libretto by John McGrew. (The show has Mozart himself suddenly arriving at a present-day music colony, upending all its artistic and romantic goings-on.) He has music-directed and accompanied many Brecht/Weill productions, among them The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, and various revues. In 1994, Crossman was music director and arranger for the popular Canadian musical, Anne of Green Gables, with performances in Montreal and Hong Kong, directed by Cheryl Neill.
His wide-ranging interests also include the completion of 10 unfinished early piano works by Schubert, recorded by Laurie Altman and Danielle Bernstein of Montreal, and creation of the soundtrack for the award-winning animated film X man, by Christopher Hinton (National Film Board of Canada). His concertino, Plasticity, was written for instrument inventor Tom Nunn of San Francisco, whose Sonoglyph combines features of percussion and strings, with the score mixing modern improvisation and notated diatonic passages.
Crossman is Professor Emeritus, Concordia University, Montreal and has been on the faculty of San Francisco Conservatory, Wheaton College, Pacific Conservatory, The Crowden School (John Adams Young Composers Program), School of Contemporary Music (Boston), SF School of the Arts. A number of his former students continue to work actively as concert, film, theater, and TV composers.