Eric Whitacre

Grammy-Winning Composer
Conductor and creator of the ground-breaking Virtual Choir, Deep Field

Fostering collaboration, community, and creativity

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Biography

Grammy-winning choral composer and conductor Eric Whitacre is known for working at the nexus of art and technology. In this intensely humanistic — yet highly code-dependent — space, he finds profound, universal wisdom about leadership, collaboration, community building, and nurturing the creative process. Charismatic and captivating, he has been commissioned by NASA for a far-reaching project soon to be revealed.

He was recently appointed the Los Angeles Master Chorale's first Artist-in-Residence. The two-year post begins with the 2016-2017 season.

Eric is best known for creating technologically innovative musical arrangements, like the Hubble Space Telescope-inspired Deep Field, and his groundbreaking Virtual Choirs, which have been heard by tens of millions of people around the globe. Beautifully composed, gorgeously performed, and imaginatively wrought, Eric's haunting, complex works exemplify his message that technology can be used to foster connections and help broaden the reach of art and human expression.

The inspiration for the Deep Field choral composition, commissioned by the BBC for their annual series of concerts, was the Hubble's pictures of our early universe. To accompany the singers, Eric conceived of an app to engage the audience as collaborators. At a critical juncture in the performance, the theater goes dark and listeners' smartphones emit sound and light to complement the voices and create the cosmos-like atmosphere.

Eric's Virtual Choir projects connected thousands of Internet-sourced voices via video, challenging him to virtually replicate the very physical conductor-choir intimacy. Immediate international sensations, these performances afforded unprecedented inclusion — to all races and nationalities, the geographically remote, the physically challenged, the emotionally vulnerable, and even those under restrictive political regimes. They inspired self-organising groups, where teams helped each other audition, rehearse, and work out tech problems.

Though virtual, these "spheres of magic" provided the emotional satisfactions of connection, belonging, and accomplishment and teach lessons about inclusion, global team building, and how to motivate diverse people to collaborate toward a common goal.

Eric continuously explores the nature of creativity. He speaks to art and vulnerability, to code as a medium for human expression, to the Golden Mean as the perfect creative structure, and to what he terms "the Golden Brick" — the first kernel of any creative endeavor. His work at this intersection of science and art includes a study with the Centre of Performance Science at the Royal College of Music and Imperial College, which helped prove music's role in stress-reduction and building the immune system.

Whether speaking about successful collaboration, or the stages of the creative process, Eric imparts inspiration and valuable insights for creators, technologists, project managers and general audiences.

Eric's own musical journey started comparatively late when, as a college freshman, he joined the choir to meet "hot sopranos" — and was forever transformed by Mozart's Requiem and by the shared emotional connection of choral singing. Soon, he was composing his own works, and was eventually accepted to the prestigious Julliard School.

Eric has written for many of the world's most prestigious orchestras and artists, including Stephen Schwarz, Annie Lennox, and Laura Mvula. His musical, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, won the ASCAP Harold Arlen Award and the Richard Rodgers Award. His album Light & Gold won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance and his album Water Night went straight to #1 on the iTunes Classical Music chart on its day of release. As a conductor, Eric has performed on five continents and was been a Composer in Residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, UK. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Topics

Eric tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Bringing people together in new ways to create great things

Intuition as a creative force - how to access, nurture and develop it

The composer/conductor as communicator and builder of communities

The Virtual Choir and the humanism of technology

Creativity and Connection

Eric is the creator of the Virtual Choir, a digital project that combines thousands of user-submitted videos into a single stunning choral performance. This global choir transcends geography, class, and background: it is a testament to the power of leadership and technology to foster creativity and connection, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Eric draws on this experience to speak inspiringly about the possibilities that open up when people are invited to contribute creatively and share their talent with their peers. He explains how the drive to create and share, which have always lain at the heart of choral music, can be harnessed in professional contexts, and he shares the strategies and sensibilities that allow leaders to unlock that drive in the teams they manage.

With his warm, engaging style, Eric is an ideal speaker on this subject, creating an inclusive, encouraging space where creativity and connection are within everyone's grasp.

Videos

Dare to Explore and Discover | NAIS

"Deep Field": Creative Connections in Science and Music

Virtual Youth Choir Commonwealth Games 2014

Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise

Virtual Choir Live | TED

A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong | TED

Feedback

A Swedish commercial music streaming service company:
We are really happy with the whole event, and definitely super happy with Eric’s presentation and workshop. He did an amazing job with the choir and the 240 participants. The participants gave us really good feedback both on the presentation and the workshop.

A major US university:
Eric was marvelous!
 He stayed and met students one at a time, signing and taking photos. Eric was very thoughtful, candid and charming during the Q & A. I cannot express effusively enough what a wonderful experience this was for so many.
 This will be one of the events I cherish forever.

A network of senior marketers:
Dear Eric — Huge thanks for taking part in our Annual Conference last week. The feedback overall has been outstanding with many people saying that it has been our best ever Conference. We really appreciate the time and effort you took to come and contribute, and happily our delegates really endorse that. For many of our delegates your talk was the outstanding one of the day and I am sure you have won many new fans. Comments specifically about you included:

  • Eric Whitacre - INSPIRATIONAL
  • Eric was very special. Thanks so much - wonderful day.
  • Eric Whitacre was best speaker.

A major travel organisation:
What can I say about Eric? He exceeded our expectations and got a standing ovation after his presentation from the audience. Many have told me best presentation they have ever attended! THANK YOU!!

Comments from a global consulting leader's meeting:

  • Excellent way to round the day off and inspirational
  • Eric — I thought he was AMAZING. Some really good messages from his session – as a leader, if you empower people, they will reach their own potential, rather than being limited by your (the leader's) potential. And that people mirror what you do – being a good role model is key.
  • Eric's session — enjoyable, but good strong messages about leadership
  • Out of the box look at leadership through the eyes or Eric Whitacre
  • Eric Whitacre gave some really interesting insights and another way to look at the familiar
  • Eric Whitacre — a great end to the day in terms of the experience and messages/themes around leadership
  • Eric Whitacre was very entertaining and I like the message of "People mirror your behaviour"

A cosmetic dentist group:
Beautiful talk this morning.

A major UK recording studio:
When putting together the [...] Anthem competition I needed a judge with an international reputation who would not only bring credibility and integrity to the competition but would also be a major part of the prize. Eric was simply incredible. His energy helping with the promotion and allowing us to tap into his social network was matched by his wonderful musicianship, conducting and interpretation of the winning anthems with his world-class singers. As a composer and performer he is unique in crossing so many musical styles at such a high level, which for me was essential for the variety of music this competition attracted. He made the project very special and a joy.

An Asian digital forum:
With an embracing smile and charisma, accompanied by the sheer beauty of the Virtual Choir's voices, Eric charmed every single person that he spoke to, came across and smiled at.

A major US medical school:
On a fine fall afternoon in Boston, Eric Whitacre shared his inspiring life story of resilience and boldness, and conducted a choir of 50 young Boston-area singers, performing the closing act for 550 physicians, psychologists, executive coaches, and health and wellness coaches at the annual Coaching in Leadership & Healthcare conference offered by [...]. The singers sang a hauntingly beautiful piece called "Sleep" with all of their hearts, demonstrating the power of our life force to motivate us to perform at our best. Eric’s virtual choir on YouTube is in a class by itself, capturing the power of the web to connect us to each other and to wonderful music. Attendees reported the performance as blissful, awesome, amazing, and brilliant, and many were moved to tears. Can’t top that!

A major US university:
The students all commented on how they felt it was one of the best and most informative evenings they've ever had. Your willingness to share your knowledge and experience, and the humorous and articulate way in which you did so was inspiring for everyone — myself included.