A native of the North Shore of Massachusetts, Julie Cleveland has been playing and composing at the piano for over 40 years. She earned her B.A. cum laude in music performance and composition from Bard College, where she apprenticed with internationally renowned composer and pianist Joan Tower. She also studied performance practice under Luis Garcia-Renart and theory with Benjamin Boretz and Eli Yarden. Ms. Cleveland holds an M.Mus. degree from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she studied composition with composer Malcolm Peyton. Her theory studies were with Robert Cogan and the late James Hoffman and studied interpretive analysis with John Heiss, with whom she also studied the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Bartok. Ms. Cleveland’s compositions have been primarily for chamber ensembles and solo piano. She was commissioned by Christopher Washburne through the American Music Week Foundation to compose a work for him for trombone, which premiered at the Longy School of Music. She was again commissioned by the American Music Week Foundation in Tulsa, OK, where an evening of her works was presented. (Visit Hear Julie’s Pieces to hear these and other compositions.)
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Julie Cleveland began teaching while an undergrad music major at Bard College, when a friend asked her to show her some songs on the piano. After college, she landed a job in publishing at Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston, but soon realized that music was her path and passion in life. She began her graduate studies in composition at New England Conservatory, and, while on a break from studies, was hired for her first piano instructor position at the Saratoga Guitar Workshop, in 1988. After earning her master’s degree in music from NEC, she moved back home to Cape Ann and founded her teaching studio—the Cape Ann Piano Studio—in Gloucester.
Ms. Cleveland sustained serious injuries in the 1990s from over two decades of playing piano with poor technique (teachers who didn’t teach proper technique)—unfortunately a common occurrence for many musicians, injuries such as chronic tendinitis, and carpal/radial/ulnar nerve syndromes. While being treated successfully by renowned neurologist Dr. Charness (now head of the Performing Arts Clinic at BWH in Boston), Julie could not play piano with her right arm for nearly 6 months (while recovering she learned and performed, as well as composed, pieces for left hand alone). After a full recovery, Ms. Cleveland decided to retrain, at the age of 37, so that she could continue to play without injury, and teach her students to do the same. She sought out and had the great fortune of finding and studying with virtuoso pianist Barbara Lister-Sink, professor and artist-in-residence at Salem College in North Carolina, who founded and chairs the Injury-Preventive Keyboard Technique department. She is also the author of the well-known DVD among pianists, Freeing the Caged Bird. (You can see sample videos of Ms. Lister-Sink’s instruction here.) Julie now stresses the importance of a foundation in injury-preventive technique in her own studio, for all of her students, young and old alike. She also studied the Alexander Technique with Corinna Trabucco.
In addition to teaching, Julie Cleveland has also worked as a substitute church pianist at the First Universalist Church of Essex, the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Society in Rockport, MA. She hopes this summer to complete her collection of short piano pieces that she is composing, entitled “Dreaming.” You can hear the prelude here.
Education and Music Training
Master of Music, Composition
Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Music Performance and Composition
Undergraduate studies in music
Emerson College, Boston, MA
Undergraduate studies in acting
Other Professional Music Experience
Please visit Hear Julie’s Music page to hear some of the compositions below.
Mobiles, for voice, horn, piano & percussion—Tuesday Night New Music
Jordan Hall, Boston MA, 1989
Grimalkin, for trombone & double bass—Chris Washburne Plays Boston
Longy Recital Hall, Cambridge MA, 1988
Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa OK, 1987
Avery Center for the Arts, Annandale NY, May 1983
To hear Julie play, click here.