Bio

Cynthia Stillman Gerdes

I was born in Seattle, Washington, and my childhood was spent in several places around the northwest — Tacoma and Pasco, Washington; then Boise, Idaho for most of my growing up. I spent the last three years of high school in Coos Bay, Oregon.


After getting a BS from the U of Oregon I married and raised a family while teaching piano. My nomadic lifestyle continued as I moved to Seattle, then near San Francisco in Pacifica, California, back to Coos Bay, and finally to Portland since 1976 – a return to the Columbia River where I can claim a few of my great grandparents lived and are buried. I received my Masters in Teaching Music from Portland State University in 1981 where I then taught piano for twenty years.

Homer Keller was my main composition teacher at University of Oregon. In the late 1980’s I had several months of private composition lessons with Eric Funk, and subsequently over a number of years I had a few sessions with Portland composer and former colleague at PSU Tomas Svoboda.

All of the places I’ve lived have an influence on my music: From the sagebrush and wild west of Pasco and Boise in the “Idaho Toccata Trio” to the more cosmopolitan influences of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland in “Tango for David,” “Three Songs from the Tao Te Ching,” and “Love Love Wind Dust.”

The joyous aspects of life and some commiseration with the vagaries of the human condition have influenced such works as the “Six Short Pieces for Piano,” “Crazy Jane,” “Waking Up Slow,” “Looking For Drive,” “Correspondence” and “Fanfare for Elizabeth.” A visceral correspondence with a few moments in nature showed up in “Backyard Toccata”.

These days I’m having a wonderful time writing music for very accomplished musicians who are good friends. How lucky is that! Most of them are performing on the 2011 CD “Solo and Chamber Music.” In the late Spring of 2010 I joined the Cascadia chapter of the National Association of Composers/USA (NACUSA) who exist “to promote the composition and performance of contemporary classical music by regional composers.” Their concerts are organized around member submissions and the selected pieces are performed by outstanding professional musicians. I’m delighted that this year my music is scheduled to be in four of their concerts. Like local food, local music –northwest icons.