Kevin Salfen - Composer, Scholar, Writer

On the beach, Aldeburgh, England (2014)

Brief Bio:

Kevin Salfen (Professor of Music, University of the Incarnate Word) is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and producer. His principal composition teachers were Martin Mailman, a student of Howard Hanson, and Cindy McTee, a student of Krzysztof Penderecki. Major research interests include twentieth-century British music and Japanese music in film and theater. Salfen has written a music appreciation e-textbook, Pathways to Music (Kendall-Hunt, 2nd ed., 2018), and his writing on Britten has appeared in multiple academic journals and essay collections. He has presented papers at numerous academic conferences, including the national meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society of Ethnomusicology, and he is currently President of the American Musicological Society, Southwest Chapter. He curates and writes for the blog Sound Trove.

Salfen lived in Japan for almost two years, and he is a Company Member of international performing ensemble Theatre Nohgaku. With them he has performed traditional noh and newly written (shinsaku) noh. Salfen was executive producer of the multi-year performance and education project Where Rivers Meet, which brought together the classical noh Sumida River, Benjamin Britten's Curlew River, and the newly commissioned Song of the Yanaguana River by 2015 Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla.

Salfen's music has been performed in Japan, England, China, and throughout the U.S. He was a finalist for the ASCAP Young Composer Award, was nominated for the 2019 Artist Foundation of San Antonio People’s Choice Award, and has been recognized twice for his music by the American College Theater Festival. Salfen was executive producer for two film projects: Made in SA: New Performers, New Musicians (2020) and SA24: Two Dozen Songs from Now (2021), and his intercultural work Phoenix Fire received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Recent Works:

  • "How Great Thou Art," arr. (2017), for choir (SATB) and organ; written and performed for the visit to San Antonio of The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
  • Preces and Responses (2017), for choir (SATB) and organ.
  • New Year Canticles (2015), I. Magnificat, II. Nunc dimittis, for choir (SATB) and organ; performed at the National Cathedral, Washington, D. C., in July 2016, by the Choir of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, dir. Russell Jackson (with organist Robert McCormick).
  • Super flumina Babylonis (2015), a Psalm-Mandala (setting of the Latin version of Psalm 137 and excerpts from the journal of Jonathan Trouern-Trend, U. S. Marine stationed in Iraq), for tenor solo and SSAATTBB; premiered in October 2015 by Richard Novak (tenor) and choir under the direction of William Gokelman.

  • Song Cycle for Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (2017), for mezzo-soprano, tenor, and piano: I. Prologue, II. Epithalamium, III. War, IV. Wake, V. Remembrance and Epilogue
  • Psalm-Trope for a Cloudless Brightness (2016), for soprano and piano (on the Latin version of Psalm 8, an excerpt from Primo Levi's If This Is a Man, and W. H. Auden's poem "Make this night lovable, Moon"; premiered by YooSun Na (voice) and Ara Koh (piano).
  • Song of the Yanaguana River, a "Texas kyogen" by 2015 Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, with music by Kevin Salfen. Premiered November 2015 as the interlude for Where Rivers Meet
  • Three Songs from Sonnets to Human Beings (2012), premiered in 2013 by Jennifer Piazza-Pick (voice) and Ray Tamez (guitar) on concert Poemas y Música: A Celebration of Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio's First Poet Laureate.
  • Icarus (2012), one-act music theatre work inspired by Japanese noh theater; libretto by Elise Forier-Edie, music by Kevin Salfen. Premiered at Central Washington University in production under the direction of George Bellah III. Selected as featured production for Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region VII (March 2013).

Solo Piano:
  • A Flat Accident (2014), available for purchase in Made in SA: A Piano Book Series (Book II):
  • Blue Music Box Addition (2014)
  • Dust Devil in an Empty Lot (2014), available for purchase in Made in SA: A Piano Book Series (Book III):
  • Ice Crystals in the Night Sky (2014)
  • Lonely Stroll, Autumn Garden (2014)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 "Steppenwolf"(1997)

  • Skyscraper Serenade (2017), for piano, four hands; performed for Made in SA III: Music Composed for and Performed by Young SA Pianists.
  • Two Inventions on a Theme (2015), I. Canonade, II. Recitative and Aria after Plath and Hughes, for flute and clarinet. Premiered in May 2015 by Laura Salfen (flute) and Gary Fair (clarinet) on concert Bells and Whistles.
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano (1999), I. The World Inside, II. The World Outside.
  • Flute Sonata No. 1 (1999; rev. 2021).

To request music, please contact Kevin Salfen at


For baritone and piano. Poem by Octavio Quintanilla, used by permission. Andrew White, voice; John McGinn, piano. Performed September 2019 as part of SA24: Two Dozen Songs from Now
Piano Sonata No. 1 "Steppenwolf," I. "Steppenwolf"
Inspired by Hermann Hesse's novel, this three-movement piano sonata explores a lyrical serialism shot through with references to jazz and Mozart. The first movement is a sort of character study of the novel's protagonist, Harry Haller. (Emily Boyce, piano)
Sonata for Cello and Piano, I. "The World Inside"
The meditative first movement of a two-movement cello sonata, in a live performance by Shea Kole (cello) and Emily Boyce (piano).
Lonely Stroll, Autumn Garden
A piece intended for young pianists. Performed by Dr. Ara Koh, piano.