Called, “one of the truly exceptional musicians of his generation,” a mandolinist about whom it has been said, “there has never been a mandolinist with greater technical skills,” and a composer whose music, “touches and communicates the essence of what it means to be an alive, feeling human being,” Joe Brent has forged a career as both mandolin virtuoso and instrumental composer with unparalleled fluency across multiple genres.
As a classical mandolinist, Mr. Brent has worked closely with many of the great modern composers, premiering works by Elliot Carter, Pierre Boulez, Magnus Lindberg, Olga Neuwirth, David Loeb, and Nathan Davis, among many others. He has performed with many well-known chamber ensembles, including The International Contemporary Ensemble, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Argento New Music Project, Speculum Musicae, Fireworks Music, Art of Élan, Tres Americas, and nunc. Concurrently, he is thoroughly versed in the traditional orchestral repertoire, having performed with The Boston Symphony, The Chicago Symphony, The San Francisco Symphony, The New World Symphony, The American Symphony Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet and City Opera. As a solo artist, he has given recitals and clinics in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, made his Carnegie Hall solo debut in 2001, has lectured on contemporary music at New York's Museum of Modern Art, and was the 2017 artist in residence at Marble House Project. In 2007, he was featured soloist with the Orchestra a Pizzico Ligure in several performances throughout northern Italy, and performed in the Miller Theatre portrait of Elliot Carter, conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky, in celebration of the composer's 99th birthday. In 2008 and 2011, he was a featured performer and clinician at the Classical Mandolin Society of America annual convention, and performed in an all-Carter program at the Tanglewood Music Festival under the direction of James Levine. In 2009 he headlined the Hildener Meisterkurs für Mandoline und Guitarre in Düsseldorf, Germany, and performed with Tres Américas Project at the Festival Internacional de Música Clásica Contemporánea in Lima, Peru. That same year he and harpist Bridget Kibbey were named amongst the first artists to participate in the Weill Music Institute's Carnegie Hall Musical Connections program. In 2013 he performed as soloist with Michael Tilson Thomas and The San Francisco Symphony as well as with Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. A recent solo tour took him across Ireland and England, and in 2016 he performed at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, UAE. In 2011, he joined the faculty of the Mannes School of Music, and he maintains an active international concert schedule.
Simultaneously, Mr. Brent has maintained an active career in popular and improvising music. He has performed and/or recorded with Regina Spektor, Woody Allen, Jewel, Stephane Grappelli, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Tommy Tune, Sam Moore (from Sam and Dave), the Alan Ferber Nonet + Strings, Jillette Johnson, and Kishi Bashi. He has been featured in dozens of Broadway and off-Broadway pit orchestras, including Tony Award winners and nominees Spring Awakening, Everyday Rapture, Big River, Urban Cowboy, and the 2014 Shakespeare In The Park production of Much Ado About Nothing.
In 2012 he founded the improvising chamber ensemble 9 Horses, which features his own compositions for an ever-changing improvising new music ensemble, with a core of himself (on several instruments), Sara Caswell on violin and Hardanger fiddle, and Andrew Ryan on bass. 9 Horses was a finalist in the 2014 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, the only improvising ensemble to do so. 9 Horses released its debut album, Perfectest Herald, in 2015, and was the 2016 winner of the 21CM LAUNCH: Emerging Artists competition. Brent has received commissions for new works for 9 Horses to perform in 2017 with ensembles from University of Arkansas Little Rock/ACANSA Festival, DePauw University/21CM, Colorado Mesa University, and Southern Illinois University, with residencies at each.
In 2007, Mr. Brent published two books of mandolin pedagogy, Scales and Arpeggios for the Mandolin and Orchestral and Chamber Excerpts for Mandolin. That same year, he released his debut album, Point of Departure, featuring duets with Ms. Kibbey. In 2010, he recorded the complete mandolin works of David Loeb for Vienna Modern Masters, and in 2014 he released a recording of John Dowland’s lute music arranged for himself and Israeli mandolinist Alon Sariel for paladino media. He is a prolific recording artist, as a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and producer.
Mr. Brent plays custom-made 8-string and 10-string acoustic mandolins by Brian Dean of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and a 5-string electric mandolin by Adam Buchwald of Burlington, VT.