About Durwynne

Durwynne Hsieh grew up in Upstate New York, but for many years has lived and composed music in the San Francisco Bay Area. His compositions have been heard throughout the region, across the U.S., and in Europe, and they cover the range from solo works to chamber music to orchestra and vocal music, and have included commissions/performances from the Toledo Symphony, Tassajara Symphony, San José Chamber Orchestra, Marin Symphony, Sonnet Ensemble, and the Mendocino, West Marin, and Music in the Mountains music festivals, as well as community, school, and youth groups. An extensive collaboration with violinist Rick Shinozaki has produced a growing number of works, most notably a concerto for marimba, violin, and orchestra, and the solo violin suite Five Friends, part of which was featured in Stringwreck, a modern dance work staged by Garrett + Moulton Productions. His chamber music piece Broken Dances was one of three western region semi-finalists in the nationwide 2012 Rápido Composition Contest, and received its premiere by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Other works include the ballets Prisms and Legacy, both commissioned by Benicia Ballet Theatre.

Also of note are commissions from the Farallon Quintet (featured on their Farallon Quintet Originals album) and Black Cedar Trio (the triptych Miscellaneous Music featured on their debut album A Path Less Trod). In addition, his music has been put to other diverse uses as incidental music, wedding ceremony music, musical theater pieces, and as underscore for cooking webisodes and science tutorial programs.

Most of Durwynne’s works show a fondness for tonality and traditional forms, but they also draw from disparate influences, and one is likely to find crunchy atonality alongside lyrical melodies, minimalistic textures followed by romantic excess, and the use of effects of questionable taste. One of the common threads throughout his music is his desire to tell a story, although listeners (as well as the composer) are sometimes unsure what that story is.


Durwynne received an eclectic mix of music education, with a great start from excellent public school music programs in New York State in the 1970s and 80s. He subsequently accumulated musical coursework in his travels through MIT, UC Berkeley, and Los Medanos College, and also received private instruction, including composition studies with Elinor Armer, and cello studies with Luis Garcia-Renart and Colin Hampton. Some of his most meaningful lessons, however, have come from the composing process itself, listening to his works in the hands of real musicians.

With decent grades in math and science in high school, Durwynne began his college studies intending to go into medicine, but after several years shifted his focus. He obtained a Ph.D. in molecular biology and has worked as a college biology teacher and also as a technical writer. In his choral work Four Biological Pieces, and in his solo piano work Four Short Pieces About Math, he was finally able to combine both music and science.