OCEAN CALLING from composer Meira Warshauer is a moving trilogy for two pianos dedicated to the ocean. Against the backdrop of large-scale contaminations, overfishing, acidification, and rising temperatures, OCEAN CALLING is an impassioned plea on behalf of Earth’s greatest natural resource.

Today, Meira is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about the post-lesson epiphany that led her to pursue music, and the formative experience that inspired her to advocate and raise awareness for our planet…

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I was on a trajectory to become a clinical psychologist. After graduating from Harvard in Latin America History, I worked at Boston’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center as a B.A. social worker and on-call translator for Spanish and Portuguese speaking families. I enjoyed connecting with people and was interested in becoming a therapist. Pursuing graduate work in psychology seemed appealing, except for one thing.

While at Harvard, I had taken music courses as electives, and studied piano with Alice Wilkinson at the Longy School of Music. Mrs. Wilkinson urged me to spend at least one summer at a music camp or a year at a music conservatory, before making my final choice regarding a career path. She wanted me to experience being immersed in music.

I decided to try that before going into psychology and enrolled as a “special student” at the New England Conservatory of Music. After an uplifting piano lesson on Chopin’s “Harp” Etude with Irma Wolpe Rademacher, I had an epiphany, floating down the steps of NEC: If all the other students there could devote their lives to music, so could I. I threw my hat in that ring, and haven’t turned back since! 

Thanks to Alice Wilkinson for seeing in me something I didn’t recognize — a love and passion for music that could sustain me for a lifetime.

What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?

Each listener brings their personal experiences and emotional receptors to the music. Their attention is a sacred trust. I may be inspired by a specific event and emotion, but I hope my listeners will receive what they need, what touches them most in that moment. 

That said, I do have my personal intentions with OCEAN CALLING. I like to invite the listener to “lose yourself in the music.” Leave your “to do” lists and other distractions behind and let the music carry you where it will. If it’s extroverted, like Waves and Currents, allow yourself to dance with your own inner joy and freedom. If it’s reflective and poignant, as in From the Depths, open your heart to sorrow, wonder, or whatever emotions may surface. And if, like The Giant Blue, it’s powerful, aching, and wild, please enter its world with trust and immerse in the journey.

I hope that somehow, this music and its intention can help move us to protect, value and restore this suffering, magnificent planet upon which we depend.

What were your first musical experiences?

Our next-door neighbor, Sadibel Sternberger, practiced piano in the morning. Her husband Jinx didn’t like the music, so as soon as he left, Sadibel would start to play, and I’d run over to listen. No one had air conditioning, so I could hear the piano through the open windows. My 3-year-old legs didn’t reach the floor from my perch on her sofa.

When I was 4, a grand piano arrived in a big wooden crate. My siblings and I loved playing in that crate, but mostly, I was excited to have a piano in our own living room! The piano was for my older sister to take piano lessons. Sarah was three years older, and I’d have to wait until I was 7 to start. But that didn’t keep me from playing! I picked out songs I knew by ear, and would run from the den to the living room to play a ditty I’d just heard on our new TV. 

My mother, a violinist and president of the Community Concerts series, took us to all four yearly concerts in the high school gymnasium. We sat in the first row, and once, violinist Isaac Stern came to our house for a reception.

Where and when are you at your most creative?

Nature is a primary source of inspiration for me. I love my long summers at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with swims in the ocean, walks on the beach, sunsets on the marsh and sunrises over the sea. Even my suburban neighborhood outside Columbia, South Carolina offers natural experiences in our wooded backyard and sunset skies from the porch and on my walks. 

Retreats at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia have been fruitful places for developing large scale orchestral works such as Living Breathing Earth Symphony and Tekeeyah (a call) for Shofar, Trombone, and Orchestra. 

While I trust what my imagination brings me the most, having a grand piano nearby helps me explore sounds and sonorities. For a large-scale work, I’ll use my favorite mechanical pencil and large manuscript paper for a first draft before transitioning to Finale music software. 

Along with nature, my spiritual journey sustains my creativity. A daily practice of meditation, combined with prayer, opens the channels for music to come through. This spiritual work forms the basis of my composing and my life.

What are your other passions besides music?

Ever since Earth Day 1970, when I first learned of the harm our society brings to the living planet, I’ve been an “environmentalist.” Now, with Climate Change an existential threat, I am passionate about working to safeguard a livable future for younger generations. 

In addition to political activism and lifestyle adjustments, I’ve created several major compositions around this issue. My Living Breathing Earth Symphony takes us to the rainforest of Peru and the majesty of earth’s aliveness. The choral symphony Ahavah (Love) sets biblical texts promising abundance based on love, but with devastation for the earth if we abandon our moral principles. Ocean Calling carries us into the wild sea that can only continue to support life if we protect it.

To help make these connections more accessible, I created “For the Love of Earth,” a power-point presentation built around these compositions. It weaves musical excerpts and nature images along with information about the changing climate and the need and opportunities to embrace healthy change. Presentations at universities and music clubs have shown me that music reaches us in a non-verbal way that can facilitate conversations about the earth and its future. 

I love being outdoors and celebrating this precious earth.

What musical mentor had the greatest impact on your artistic journey? Is there any wisdom they’ve imparted onto you that still resonates today?

While completing a master’s degree in piano performance at NEC, I took an elective: “Composition for non-Majors” with Tom McKinley. The process of following the flow of my imagination, pulled me straight into composing. 

Dick Goodwin was my composition teacher for the doctoral program at the University of South Carolina. In setting the Jewish service for my dissertation, I wanted to use traditional chants while incorporating elements of atonality and tonality. Through Dick’s guidance, I learned to develop a language with a wide palette that suited Shacharit (Morning Service), and has remained useful for much of my music since then.

As I began to orchestrate the score for Shacharit, Donald Portnoy arrived at USC, bringing his Conductors’ Institute, which hired a professional orchestra for student conductors. Observing the sessions provided up-close orchestration lessons for my composing. 

The Conductors’ Institute also brought guest composers and conductors. Jacob Druckman looked at my “in-progress” dissertation and showed me how to create a sustained pedal effect within the orchestra. Sam Adler advised me on Shacharit and has remained an encouraging presence ever since. Conductor Catherine Comet offered lasting advice: Always do your very best, no matter what or for whom you are composing.

Explore Meira Warshauer’s Latest Release



OCEAN CALLING is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the artist and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions held by PARMA Recordings LLC and its label imprints, subsidiaries, and affiliates.