Peter Nocella at a Philadelphia Art Alliance Lecture

Dr. Peter Nocella was born into a musical family which includes Philadelphia composer, Joseph Nocella, He attended South Philadelphia High School, then known for its exceptional music program. During that time he was concertmaster of the All-City Orchestra. Upon graduation, Nocella won a Philadelphia School Board Scholarship to University of the Arts. During his college years, Nocella won fellowships to the Tanglewood Music Center and to the Temple-Ambler Music Institute. After receiving his Bachelors in Music with a double major in composition and viola, he pursued his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Temple University.

Nocella’s doctoral dissertation was unique in musical academia in being simultaneously a commission from the Pennsylvania Ballet Company. The ballet, Poems of Love and the Seasons, was favorably reviewed in the New York Times (3/2/1979), Philadelphia Inquirer, and Dance Magazine which all helped, thereby, to gently persuade Temple’s Doctoral Committee to approve his dissertation! Nocella studied viola with Leonard Mogill, associate principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He studied composition with Michael White (Juilliard), Clifford Taylor (Temple), Robert P. Morgan (Temple), and Joseph Castaldo (University of the Arts). He also participated in graduate composition seminars with Vincent Persichetti, George Rochberg, and Roger Sessions.

As a composer, Nocella has had numerous commissions including the 157th US Army Infantry Brigade, 307th Army Band, American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Philadelphia Composers Alliance, Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association, The Commission Project, Pennsylvania Orchestra, Cherry Hill Mayor’s Fund, John Thyhsen, Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Nittany Mountain Arts Festival, Stockton Chamber Players, Le Nouveau Ensemble, as well as two Philadelphia Orchestra members, Edna Phillips and Anthony Orlando.

He has composed music under grants from such institutions as the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Dietrich Foundation, Pennsylvania Arts Council, Penn State Dean of Arts and Architecture Fund, New Jersey Arts Council, Atlantic City Town Council, and the Swedish Heritage Foundation. Nocella’s music is published by E.C. Schirmer. Inc. His music is also included in the Edwin A. Fleisher Orchestral Music Collection at the Philadelphia Free Library.

As a violist, Nocella has performed with such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Philly Pops, Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Meiravi Quartet, Opera Philadelphia, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, and under such conductors as Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Eric Leinsdorf, Sir Adrian Boult, Aaron Copland, and Sir Wilfred Pelletier.

For fifteen years (1974-89) Nocella composed and arranged scores for the American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and the Swedish State Ballet in Malmo. Notable choreographers for whom Peter has composed include such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Benjamin Harkarvy, Jean-Paul Comelin, Peter Anastos, Robert Weiss, and Lar Lubovitch.

In the 1990’s Nocella composed, among other works, The Green Violinist, based on the art of Marc Chagall and Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra, premiered by acclaimed violist, Karen Dreyfus. During this time, he also served as Music Director of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the Atlantic City Boy’s Choir. In 1998, he was a principal in establishing a scholarship at Temple University in memory of his teacher and mentor, Leonard Mogill.

In 2000, Nocella was commissioned by the Holy Family of Nazareth, an international religious order, to compose Missa Brevis for premier at the Vatican during a special beatification ceremony celebrated by Pope John Paul II.

In 2001, he was commissioned by the American Swedish Historical Museum to compose Eight Candles in the Darkness in celebration of the museum’s 75th anniversary. In 2003, Nocella was commissioned to compose the Rose Tree Concerto by The Commissioning Project of Rochester, New York. In 2008, he was commissioned by the Nazareth Chorale to compose Psalm 98.

A highly regarded violist, Nocella is a founding member of the Meiravi Quartet, an ensemble devoted to giving superlative performances of the traditional and contemporary repertoire. Since its inception in 2010, the Meiravi Quartet has premiered his String Quartet No.1 in Blue, String QuartetNo.2 in Red, and String Quartet No.3 in Green.

Nocella is/has been a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, American Federation of Musicians, National Association of Composers-USA, and the College Music Society. Currently, he is working on his String Quartet No.4 and an opera based on the events leading up to the Holocaust. A senior lecturer at Penn State University, Nocella also teaches at Nazareth Academy, while still maintaining an active composing and performing schedule.