Robert Sirota’s “Assimilations” will be performed Thursday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m. during the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, part of the Bowdoin International Music Festival, in Bowdoin College’s Studzinski Recital Hall, 6300 College Station.

The performers, all participants in the festival, will be Chung Yoo, clarinet; Yefim Romanov, violin; Jamie Clark, cello; and Minju Kim, piano. The Short Stories concert program also includes music by composers Kati Agócs, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Marc Evans, Mason Bates and Martijn Padding.

New York City-based composer Sirota is a seasonal resident of Searsmont. An amateur painter, he often depicts the landscape around Muzzy Ridge and Levenseller Mountain near his home in Maine in his little spare time. His wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota, is Canon Pastor and Vicar of the Congregation at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. They frequently collaborate on new works, with Victoria as librettist and performer. At times they also work with their two children, Jonah and Nadia, both world-class violists. Music is a family affair for the Sirotas.

Composed in 2010, “Assimilations” was premiered in New York by the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society. In the work, Robert Sirota explores his Jewish heritage although, he said, “On the surface it would appear that I am the most ‘assimilated’ of Jews.” His paternal grandparents left the shtetl almost a century ago, and his maternal grandparents were in America well before that. He has been married to a Christian woman for 40 years, converting to Christianity himself some 23 years ago.

“I embrace my Christian faith with conviction and enthusiasm. So why the deep pull back to a past about which I know very little, and from which I essentially walked away,” he said.

His Jewishness is defined by many things, he said — culture, food, mysticism, among others — but one strong personality trait he has always had is a distinctly Jewish sense of urgency, of preparedness.

“Psychologically, my bags are always packed … This piece is an attempt to express the poignant beauty and the sadness linking the world of my heritage with the person I have become,” he said.

Over four decades, Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernable in all of his work whether symphonic, choral, stage or chamber music. His chamber works have been performed by many ensembles, conservatory orchestras and at many festivals worldwide. His liturgical works include three major commissions for the American Guild of Organists, as well as works for solo organ, organ and cello, and organ and piano.

Recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer and the American Music Center, Sirota’s work is recorded on the Capstone, Albany, New Voice and Gasparo labels; and his music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Boelke-Bomart (Hal Leonard), Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser and To the Fore.

A native New Yorker, Sirota’s earliest compositional training began at the Juilliard School; he received his bachelor’s degree in piano and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory, then a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed him to study and concertize in Paris, where his principal teacher was Nadia Boulanger. Returning to America, Sirota earned a doctorate from Harvard University.

Before becoming Director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 1995, Sirota served as Chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and Director of Boston University's School of Music. From 2005-2012, he was the President of Manhattan School of Music, where he also was a member of the School’s composition faculty.

Suggested donation for the concert is $10. For more information on the event and the festival, visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or