Composer Improviser Teacher









NTM Spiral Music 

Full Biography

I'lana Cotton is a composer, improviser and pianist who has written extensively for acoustic instrumental ensembles and choral groups. She has also collaborated with other musicians and artists in visual and theatrical media, and has created several commissions for choreographers and poets. For many years a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she has lived in Southern Oregon since 2003.

She began her piano studies at the age of 4, and was trained in Western classical technique and literature. During her middle school years, she began a life-long exploration of improvisation, which at first led to studying composition. Her undergraduate music study was with John Adams and Alden Jenks at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

She holds an M.A. in composition from the University of California at Los Angeles, where she studied with Paul Reale and Elaine Barkin, and where she also became exposed to the rich world of non-Western music. Here she studied Javanese gamelan with Max Harrell. During this time, she also began extensive work as a pianist for dance classes and choreography.

She then broadened her scope to other arts, in improvised performance with mimes, poets, and visual artists, as well as with other musicians. She wrote several works for chamber ensembles and chamber orchestra as commissions for choreographers. Returning to the San Francisco Bay area, she continued her work with dancers while studying north Indian classical vocal technique with Pandit Pran Nath. Three cassette albums of piano improvisations preceded her 2003 CD release, entitled "Songs for the Journey".

In the 1990s she again focused on composition and since that time she has created nearly 50 works for a broad variety of genres, from solo piano and voice to instrumental chamber and choral ensembles to orchestra. Her concert music has been performed throughout the US and has won several awards. The Rogue Valley Symphony commissioned a work for orchestra honoring its 50th anniversary season, for a 2017 premiere. Other recent commissions include those by Siskiyou Singers, oboist Kristin Kessler and Rogue Valley Music Teachers Ass'n. Recent performances include those by Max Lifchitz and North/South Consonance, SyZyGy, Cascadia Composers, Mazama Saxophone Quartet, Southern Oregon University Percussion Ensemble, Southern Oregon and San Francisco Chapters of NACUSA, Leuwi Asih Gamelan Degung, and SOU Faculty Brass Quintet. Earlier performances include those by Ives Quartet, Menlo Brass Quintet, Pacific Sticks Percussion Ensemble, Masterworks Chorale, and Ernest Bloch Festival Composers' Symposium. She has received awards from the California-based Peninsula Community Foundation, ASCAP, and Britten-on-the-Bay, and was a participant at Oregon Bach Festival Composers' Symposium. Her works have been recorded by PARMA Recordings on Navona Records "Through Glass," Max Lifchitz on North/South Recordings "American Women Composers" and by Menlo Brass Quintet on "A Simpler Life."

For over 20 years, she was on the music faculty of the College of San Mateo, in California, and is the author of "Music of the Moment: A Graded Approach to the Art of Keyboard Improvisation," available from New Music Publications. An active member of NACUSA (National Association of Composers, USA), she helped found its Southern Oregon chapter. She also co-founded and served for many years as music director of Threshold Singers Southern Oregon which serves the hospice community near her Medford home.

Short Biography

I'lana Cotton is a composer, improviser and pianist who has created works for a broad range of genres, from solo piano to small chamber groups to large choral and instrumental ensembles. She holds a Master of Arts degree in composition from the University of California at Los Angeles. As a San Francisco Bay area resident for many years, she was active throughout the area as a modern dance accompanist, composer, and music educator. Since moving to southern Oregon in 2003, she has written over 30 works for Rogue Valley musicians and ensembles, including four commissions for the Siskiyou Singers, a large community choir. The Rogue Valley Symphony commissioned a work for orchestra honoring its 50th anniversary season, which was premiered in October, 2017.