Diedre Murray

Last updated
Diedre Murray
BornNew York
Genres Jazz, classical
Instruments Cello
Years active1970s–present

Diedre Murray is an American cellist and composer specializing in jazz and musical theater. She also works as a record producer and curator.


As a performer she has worked with Leroy Jenkins, Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, Henry Threadgill, [1] Muhal Richard Abrams, James Brown, Julius Hemphill, Fred Hopkins, Jason Kao Hwang, and Archie Shepp, in addition to leading her ensembles.


A native of New York, Murray studied at Hunter College and the Manhattan School of Music. [2] In 1993 she received commissions to create: a score for the inaugural concert at the Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine Playhouse entitled "Five Minute Tango", performed by the Manhattan Brass Quintet; The Conversation for the Seattle-based New Performance Group at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota for the Music in Motion program; Flashes, a structured improvised collaboration with choreographer Blondell Cummings and musicians Jeanne Lee and Pauline Oliveros for the Firewall Festival 1993; and music for Helen Thorington's radio piece Dracula's Wives for broadcast. In 1994, Murray's works included The Voice Within, an a cappella theater piece for ten voices with text by Marcus Gardley, at Aaron Davis Hall; a tour of Flashes to the Taklos Festival in Switzerland; and, a dramatized version of Unending Pain, with text by Laurie Carlos, at P.S. 122 in New York City. Her work as a composer was intermixed with an extensive concert schedule as a band leader and concert soloist.

In 1996 her projects included: You Don't Miss the Water, a music-theater piece, in collaboration with poet Cornelius Eady produced by the Music Theatre Group; and the premiere of Women in the Dunes, a dance piece created by Blondell Cummings for the Japan Society and Mu Lan-Pi. Her dance theatrescape commissioned by District Curators and performed in Washington, D.C. by the Ajax Moving Dance Company. In 1998 Murray developed the jazz opera Running Man, for which she wrote the original story, score, and book with collaborators Cornelius Eady and Diane Paulus. Murray also conceived Songbird: The Life and Times of Ella Fitzgerald , for which she wrote the original music. She received a grant from the Commissioning Project to write Eleven Elements of Joy for orchestra, which debuted in June 1999.

In 2000 she wrote a chamber and choral piece for the Commissioning Project. In 2001 she wrote arrangements for the musical Eli's Coming, for which she won her second Obie. In 2002 she composed the score for Brutal Imagination, a verse play by Cornelius Eady. Other works include Strings Attached, a dance piece by choreographer Risa Jaroslow; Best of Both Worlds created by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus; and a collaboration with Sonoko Kawahara on Name of the Flower, a music-theater piece; The Iliad and The Odyssey with Kathryn Walker. Murray collaborated with Paulus on the musical The Best of Both Worlds . Other projects include a collaboration with Carl Hancock Rux on The Blackamoor Angel, a full-length opera, a collaboration with Lynn Nottage on the musical "Sweet Billy and the Zooloos, and a yearlong residency at Harlem Stages with playwright Marcus Gardley. She adapted the music for Tony Award winning production of The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, directed by Diane Paulus. In 2019 she collaborated with Regina Taylor on two productions, "Crowns" and "Oo Bla Dee". In 2020 she's working with Deborah Brevoort on "Loving", a musical based on the love of Richard and Mildred Loving.


Obie Award, Eli's Comin', 2002

Partial Discography

As leader

As sidewoman

With Muhal Richard Abrams

With Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson

With Henry Threadgill

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  1. Layne, Joslyn. "Diedre Murray". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  2. Stearns, David Patrick (1 February 2000). "The Smart Set". American Theatre. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  3. Simonson, Robert (17 May 1999). "Diedre Murray Wins OBIE for Running Man". Playbill. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  4. "The 1999 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Drama". www.pulitzer.org. Retrieved 8 September 2018.