The music of award-winning composer Chris Opperman sounds like your best dream being poured into a glass. For the past twenty years, Opperman has been carving his own niche in today's modern music scene. His music is extremely varied in terms of genre and style and over the years has become increasingly ambitious in scope. Thanks to decades of study and practice, Opperman is equally comfortable composing music for rock bands and jazz combos as he is composing for symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. Opperman also loves to laugh and his compositions often benefit from his sense of humor.
Some of Opperman's recent serious works include The Cribbage Variations, which was commissioned by former Zappa bass player Scott Thunes, and is a set of fifteen variations strictly based on the tone row from Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments, op. 24 and also features the same instrumentation. The work received its world premiere under the baton of Maestro Kynan Johns in November, 2017. An a capella choral work, "Tales from the Bizarro World," casts the colorful characters from the DC Comics in a music lesson led by Bizarro #1 and has had successful performances both by Ekmeles and C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective. Finally, a Pierrot ensemble piece "The Fermi Paradox" asks the questions, "If aliens exist - what kind of music would they make?" Opperman's answer is, "Be-bop, obviously." Opperman's latest work, a solo piano piece called "Bitter Branches, Taller Trees," will receive its world premiere in September by renowned pianist Ruth Rendleman.
In addition to his own music, Opperman has performed with and/or orchestrated music for such industry luminaries as Grammy-award winning guitarist Steve Vai, virtuoso musician Mike Keneally, Indian classical music masters L. Shankar (a.k.a. Shenkar) and Zakir Hussein, and former Duran Duran/Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, among many others. Opperman played piano on two of Steve Vai's Grammy-nominated compositions, "Lotus Feet" from Real Illusions: Reflections and "The Attitude Song" from Sound Theories, Vols. I and II, both with the Metropole Orkest and both nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Opperman's orchestration of "For the Love of God," also from those sessions, has exceeded 33 million views on YouTube.
“Chris Opperman is not only a great player and composer, but a fine improviser and a talented bandleader as well.”
—Sean Westergaard, The All-Music Guide
Someday, Opperman will be remebered as one of the greatest composers of the 21st century.
—Jedd Beaudoin, Sea of Tranquility
While growing up in Clifton, N.J., Opperman was first inspired to become a composer by hearing the music of Frank Zappa. Once ignited, that early passion was fanned into a raging bonfire when Opperman was accepted into Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.
In 1998, Opperman put together a 15-piece band to record Oppy Music, Vol. I: Purple, Crayon, which became a popular favorite on local college radio stations. The album was produced by Mike Keneally, who commented that “Opperman’s music occupies a hitherto unexplored region between rock, jazz and contemporary classical music.”
After graduating from Berklee, Opperman moved to Los Angeles and began working at Universal Music Publishing Group. In 2001, he released the critically acclaimed Klavierstücke, a solo-piano album that piqued the interest of Steve Vai. Vai observed, “These days it’s rare to hear a person squeeze the most out of the performance potential of a non-electronic instrument. On this album, Chris explores harmony, melody and virtuosity on the piano with a lofty and magnificent insight.”
In 2003, Keneally was commissioned by Co de Kloet of NPS Radio Holland to compose a piece for full orchestra, to be performed by Holland’s Metropole Orkest. Keneally tapped Opperman to be his co-orchestrator, and the collaboration yielded the album The Universe Will Provide, which was named one of the Best Albums of 2004 by the Internet’s All-Music Guide, a definitive resource widely utilized within the industry.
In 2008, Opperman returned to New Jersey where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Music Composition from Montclair State University. While there, he studied with Grammy award-winning composer Robert Aldridge as well as Dean Drummond, who ran the Harry Partch Instrumentarium at the campus until his death in 2013. He is currently completing his Doctorate in Music Composition at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize finalist Charles Fussell. Since 2011, Opperman has taught courses on music composition, music business, music history, and music technology at both campuses, and has inspired hundreds of students to begin creating their own music.
Performing “Elemental Storm” on the hydronica at Alexander Kasser Theater, April 2011
For all of his multiple-genre excursions into rock and jazz, Opperman nonetheless sees himself first and foremost as a classical composer. “If Beethoven were alive today,” says Opperman, “he would be pushing the envelope with his musicians, utilizing the latest technology, and embracing many styles of music to create his own inimitable sound. That’s the standard I am striving to achieve.”