Jake Runestad, composer
Riceland Hall, Fowler Center
Jake Runestad is an award-winning composer and conductor who believes in the power of music for positive change. Jake’s “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works have been featured in thousands of performances worldwide and have earned a 2022 EMMY® Award for Musical Composition and a 2020 GRAMMY® Award nomination. Having collaborated with leading ensembles and organizations around the globe, Jake has a versatile and prolific career creating works for orchestra, wind band, chorus, chamber ensembles, and opera. His visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and speaking engagements, establishing him as “one of the best of the younger American composers” (Chicago Tribune).
Steeped in a belief that music has the power to initiate positive change, Jake creates musical works that are socially conscious and explore authentic human emotions and experiences. The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that Jake has “…a particular knack for marrying powerful music to texts that speak to some of the most pressing and moving issues of our time.” Recent projects explore themes such as suicide awareness and prevention, immigration, gender equality, disabilities, loss, and the climate crisis — all presented through a widely-researched, inclusive, artistic, and imaginative lens. In a desire to make an impact beyond the music itself, Jake uses a portion of the proceeds from his music sales to donate to non-profit organizations connected with the themes of his works including: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the NAACP Empowerment Programs, the Clean Air Task Force, and Ka Joog (a Minnesota-based nonprofit that enriches the lives of Somali-American youth through education, mentoring, employment, and the arts).
Conductors, performers, and audiences continue to praise his music for its originality and expressivity, and its ability to connect with the head and the heart. As a result, Jake was one of the youngest composers ever awarded the coveted Raymond W. Brock Commission from the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in 2018 — the foremost commission available to composers of choral music in the USA. For this honor, Jake wrote the ground-breaking, dramatic choral work A Silence Haunts Me which conducting legend Dale Warland hailed “a masterpiece.” Considered a “choral rockstar” by American Public Media, Runestad has also received a 2020 Outstanding Graduate Award from Johns Hopkins University, a 2017 McKnight Fellowship, a 2016 Morton Gould Young Composer Award from the ASCAP Foundation, as well as awards from the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, the Peabody Conservatory, New Music USA, VocalEssence, the Virginia Arts Festival, the National Association for Music Education.
The first full album dedicated to Jake’s choral music, “The Hope of Loving,”was released in 2019 by Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare and subsequently received a GRAMMY® Award nomination. Jake’s monumental choral symphony Earth Symphony garnered a 2022 EMMY® Award for Musical Composition and is being performed by choirs and orchestras around the globe. In his relatively short career, Jake has already worked with leading ensembles such as VOCES8, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Swedish Radio Symphony, the National Chorus of Korea, Seraphic Fire, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, the Phoenix Chorale, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Pro Coro Canada, the Taipei Philharmonic Choir, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and many more. Jake’s music is often featured at national and regional conferences of the American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA), Chorus America, Podium (Canada), and the Association of British Choral Directors. Reaching audiences around the world, his compositions have been heard in thousands of performances from Taiwan to Finland to Argentina to Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Los Angeles’ Disney Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
In-demand as a guest conductor, Jake Runestad has collaborated with student, community, and professional ensembles around the world. His dynamic presence on the podium, focus on building community, and attention to expressivity and meaning engage performers and audiences in compelling musical experiences. Recent and upcoming engagements include New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles’ Disney Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, the Sydney Opera House, as well as residencies with ensembles and institutions across six continents.
A rising star in the national opera scene, Jake was commissioned by Washington National Opera for his third opera, Daughters of the Bloody Duke— a collaboration with award-winning librettist David Johnston. Daughters of the Bloody Duke had its premiere performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and was met with rave reviews from critics including Anne Midgette of the Washington Post. One of the few comedy operas written in recent years, this new work was “as much fun for the singers as it was for the audience” (Washington Post).
Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, in addition to formative mentoring from acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. Originally from Rockford, IL, Jake is currently based in Minneapolis, MN. For more information and to purchase scores, please visit JakeRunestad.com