About

Photo: Alexander Wätzel

Munich-born German-Austrian composer and conductor Kai Johannes Polzhofer received his first composition lessons during grammar school with Kay Westermann at Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. After graduating with a diploma with high distinction from Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig in 2013, and a Bachelor’s of Arts with high distinction in philosophy from the University of Leipzig, he currently finishes his Doctorate at Harvard University under the guidance of Chaya Czernowin, Hans Tutschku, and Steven Kazuo Takasugi. He studied with Klaus Lang, Wolfram Schurig, Friedrich Schenker, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, Gösta Neuwirth, Michael Pisaro. His music has been performed both in Europe and North America by ensembles such as JACK Quartet, Ensemble Surplus, Ensemble Dal Niente, Parker Quartet, Elision Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, and Ensemble Recherche. Broadcast in Austria and Germany (e.g. Österreich 1, Bayern Klassik), he has won several prizes and fellowships including the Austromechana Composition Prize, the Academy Schloss Solitude Fellowship, Francis Boott Prize, the Blodgett Prize, and a national scholarship (Deutschlandstipendium). He curated conferences and panels about contemporary composition among others at Harvard University, Musikhochschule Leipzig, and the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, and authored several articles on musicology, composition and philosophy and recently co-edited the book Perspectives for Contemporary Music in the 21st Century (Wolke Verlag). In 2010, Polzhofer co-founded the ensemble forma Leipzig, a group focused on linking contemporary music and literature, for which he remains music director. He also served as Music Director of the Dudley Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard), as well as Assistant Conductor of the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, and is co-founder and former Music Director of the Du Bois Orchestra at Harvard (a diverse group focused on social outreach and advocating for social and racial justice through classical music). Polzhofer was selected for masterclasses with Jorma Panula, Daniele Gatti, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, and Sian Edwards, and has served as assistant conductor to Federico Cortese and Ilan Volkov. Besides his work as artistic advisor for forma Leipzig e.V., Polzhofer currently volunteers as executive consultant for The Diakron Institute for Cross-Cultural Exploration and Interdisciplinary Studies. He taught music theory and composition at Harvard College and philosophy at the University LeipzigSince 2013 his compositions are published by Edition Gravis (Berlin).