about marisa

Composer | Singer MARISA MICHELSON is a multi-award winning writer of interdisciplinary music-theatre, choral work, and musicals, and is the founder of Constellation Chor, an immersion in voice, movement and spirit. She is also a sought-after voice teacher who works with singers of all levels and genres from beginners to Broadway stars. 

Marisa’s compositions have been called “exquisite” (The New York Times) and “otherworldly” (Steven Suskin). Her “sonic expressions, from ethereal sounds to primal screams, animalistic wails and simply breath” have been likened to “vocal innovators like Kate Bush, Bjork, Florence Welch and even Yoko Ono.” (StageBiz). 

With her ensemble, Constellation Chor, Marisa premiered Ashley Fure’s commission for the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center in September 2018.

Marisa’s interdisciplinary music-theatre piece, Song of Song of Songs (Part One of her Desire/Divinity project), won a 2017 Creative Engagement Award from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.  It was developed with support from acclaimed opera company Heartbeat Opera and historic Judson Memorial Church. Part Two of the Desire/Divinity Project is Sappho Fragments, a music-theatre, body and voice-based exploration of Sappho’s poetry fragments as translated by Anne Carson.  Sappho and SOSOS premiered together in February 2018 with tour dates TBD. Of the Desire/Divinity Project, StageBiz said: “The experience is truly transcendent, in a time where such expressions of love and spirituality vary, if they exist at all. Marisa Michelson and the Constellation Chor have created a sacred space through the openness of their hearts and voices, starting with themselves.” 

Naamah’s Ark, her oratorio written for five choirs/150+ singers which tells the story of “Noah’s Ark” from his wife’s point of view, headlined 2018’s River to River Festival and starred Tony Award Winner Victoria Clark in the title role.  Naamah’s Ark (libretto by Royce Vavrek) was originally commissioned by Ted Sperling for MasterVoices as part of their inaugural community outreach initiative providing an opportunity for a community to make music regardless of their abilities or backgrounds.

Called “heavenly” by Time Out Magazine where it was also a critics pick, Marisa’s musical One Thousand Nights and One Day – an adaptation of Jason Grote’s acclaimed play,1001, was produced by Prospect Theatre off-Broadway at the new ARTNY Theatre in April, 2018.  One Thousand Nights and One Day was workshopped with York Theatre in May 2013 after previous residencies at Theaterworks, Palo Alto, New Dramatists, and Montclair University’s New Works Institute. 

Tamar of the River, her experimental musical (written with Joshua H. Cohen) was produced by Prospect Theater in 2013, nominated for two Drama Desk Awards, and released as a cast album on Yellow Sound Label in 2014. About Tamar of the River, Vox Magazine wrote “Tamar sometimes sounds like it hails from a world where pop music followed a very different evolutionary path. Its Asian-influenced sounds are the opposite of Hamilton’s contemporary tones but it’s just as adventurous” and New York Magazine called Tamar “one of the most extraordinary scores in years.” Tamar of the River was also produced as a theatrical oratorio for Choral Chameleon.

In 2014, Marisa collaborated with librettist Mark Campbell on The Other Room (Barrow Group Theatre, Inner Voices) which starred Phoebe Strole as Lena, a woman reflecting on her profound love for her friend Steve during the AIDS crisis in NYC in the 1990s. 

Marisa is currently developing a new musical with director/choreographer Chase Brock, and playwright Jillian Walker.

With her ensemble Constellation Chor, Marisa researches the intersection of mind/body/spirit practices with virtuosic singing and performance practices.  www.constellationchor.com

Marisa is a MacDowell and Ucross fellow.  

Awards: 2018 National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient; 2017 Creative Engagement Award (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council); Winner of a Jonathan Larson Award; American Musical Voices: The Next Generation; St. Botolph Award for Composition; Grant to study Indian Hindustani singing in India. Residencies: MacDowell; Ucross; Blue Mountain Center; Theatreworks Palo Alto; New Dramatists; Montclair University; Millkin University. Recordings: Tamar of the River (Yellow Sound Label); Broadway Lullaby Project (“All New “ singer: Nikki M. James). Marisa sang with Meredith Monk in Songs of Ascension at BAM. As a voice teacher, she maintains a private studio in Washington Heights and has taught at The Performing Arts Project (TPAP), The American Theatre Wing, Millikin University, the University of the Puget Sound, the Signature Theatre, and Montclair University. www.marisamichelson.com


2018 – Inaugural Eric Salzman Award for New Music Theatre for Song of Song of Songs 

2018 – Winner (with co-writer Jason Grote) of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Grant for the new musical One Thousand Nights and One Day 

2017 – Winner of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Creative Engagement Grant for Marisa Michelson’s Desire | Divinity Project

2016 – Residency at the Blue Mountain Center

2015 – MacDowell and UCross Fellowships 

2014 – Weston Playhouse Writer’s Residency 

2012 – Winner of a NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre) Writer’s Residency award to work on The Grid at Millikin University.

2011 – Winner (with Joshua H. Cohen) of the Jonathan Larson Award

2011 – Theatreworks Palo Alto Writers Residency

2010 – Commissioned by Montclair University´s New Works Initiative to create a new musical adaptation of Jason Grote´s play, 1001

2009 – Winner of the American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation commission from the Shen Family Foundation to create an original full-length musical for the Tony-Award Winning Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA): First full workshop, Tamar of the River, July 2010

2008 – The Shen Family Foundation Developmental Grant, in conjunction with the Signature Theater´s “American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation” – Honoree

2008 – New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Workshop. `

2007 – Fellowship to Compose Music and study Indian Hindustani singing in India

2006 – Winner of St. Botolph Grant-in-Aid for Composition