Deborah Kavasch (BMI), educator, composer, soprano, and specialist in extended vocal techniques, became fascinated with music at an early age, sang in choirs as soon as she was allowed, and formally began studying piano and violin at the ages of eight and nine.  Her violin studies led to a music scholarship at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, and her junior year studies at the University of Salzburg and the Mozarteum convinced her that her true love was music.  Although she first earned a B.A. in German with a music minor in 1971, she completed a B.M. and M.M in music composition/theory in the next two years.  By then she had discovered that composition was an art and discipline that could be learned rather than just intuited, and her desire for further study led her to the University of California, San Diego, where she worked primarily with Robert Erickson as well as with Roger Reynolds, Kenneth Gaburo, Pauline Oliveros, and Bernard Rands, completing her Ph.D in 1978.  Awarded a doctoral research assistantship in 1973 at the newly established Center for Music Experiment, she became a founding member of the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, a group of musicians interested in exploring the musically expressive capacities of the human voice through study of other musical cultures and improvisation.  Her first work for the ensemble, a humorous rendition of the Edward Lear poem, The Owl and the Pussycat (1974), was greatly contrasted by her dissertation composition, Requiem (1978), a 12-voice setting of the traditional Latin requiem mass described as “effectively stretching historic approaches to the mass…a strong emotional impact” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) and “a work of deep mystery and, yes, beauty” (New West).

Voice studies in La Jolla with Francis Kelly developed an extensive range and unique vocal capabilities which allow her to assay the traditional repertoire as well as the highly demanding vocal acrobatics of much of the contemporary scene.  Shortly after joining the faculty of California State University, Stanislaus, in 1979, Kavasch wrote her first solo vocal work with extended vocal techniques, Soliloquy (1981), on a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her compositional output has continued to feature much solo and solo vocal chamber music as well as choral works and instrumental solo, chamber, and large ensemble compositions.  First premiered in 1987 in San Francisco, her Double, Double , a “wonderfully sassy setting of the three witches’ scene from Macbeth… splendidly diabolical,” (International League of Women Composers JOURNAL) for three unaccompanied sopranos, continues to delight audiences. In April 2005 her Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano was performed as winner of the chamber music composition award in the Athena Festival at Murray State University, Kentucky.  In the 2005-06 season she premiered with San Francisco Symphony’s Julie Ann Giacobassi and Douglass Rioth her Songs of the Swan Maiden, a song cycle for soprano, English horn and harp at Davies Symphony Hall.  Kavasch was one of several US composer/performers invited to present on the 2008 Beijing International Congress on Women in Music, was featured composer-in-residence for the 9th International Festival of Women in Music at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in March 2010, and was the composer-in-residence for the NOW Music Festival in Columbus, Ohio, in late October 2010.  In January 2011 she appeared in concert with the original Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble at UC San Diego.

An April 2019 tribute concert featuring the music of both herself and her late husband, John Willard Marvin, included her Five Miniatures for Reed Quintet, commissioned, premiered, and recorded by Paradise Winds, as well as her premiere of Flight of the Swan Maiden: The Wildness of Women for soprano and harp. Her first chamber opera, The Race: An Aesop’s Fables Mashup, was commissioned by Opera Modesto for their Summer Opera Institute for teens, to be premiered in summer 2020.  The Covid-19 pandemic precluded any live performance that year, so the opera was made into a film that has won over 80 international film festival awards, including “Best Original Score” (London Independent Film Awards), “Best Musical Film” (Rome International Film Festival), “Best Musical” (New York International Film Awards), and “Best Original Score for Feature Film (Havelock International Film Festival—India).  Following the success of The Race, Opera Modesto commissioned a second chamber opera, Annabel, inspired by the Edgar Allen Lee poem, with eight performances in January 2023.

Recent recordings of Kavasch orchestral works include the London Symphony Orchetra recording of her Desert Storm and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra recording of her Lost Voices, both on the Navona Records label.  She also appears on Soundset Recordings, Cambria Recordings, Troppe Note Classical, Lovely Records, and Composers Recordings, Inc. Kavasch has received grants and residencies in composition and performance from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Barlow Endowment Lecture Series, the California Arts Council, the Ernest Bloch Music Festival and Composers Symposium, and the International Congress on Women in Music, and was a 1987 Fulbright Senior Scholar to Stockholm.  She has had works commissioned and performed in North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom and has appeared in concert in major international music centers and festivals including Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Fairbanks, Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Beijing, Dalian, Amsterdam, Bourges, Bremen, Cologne, Copenhagen, Fiuggi, Ghent, Heidelberg, London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, and Vienna.  She frequently presents on new music and women in music conferences and festivals, has premiered over 75 new works, and has been described as a “multifaceted, multi-timbral vocalist” with “articulate radiance”  (Los Angeles Times) and “astonishing range and agility” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), “blew off the balcony...thrilling” (Journal SEAMUS), “exuberant” (San Francisco Classical Voice).

Deborah Kavasch holds degrees from Bowling Green State University Ohio and the Ph.D. in music from the University of California, San Diego.  She is Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Theory and Composition at the California State University, Stanislaus, where she was Department of Music Chair from 2006-2016.  She was married to composer John Marvin from 1997-2018.

Short bio for concert programs

DEBORAH KAVASCH, BMI composer and soprano, has appeared in concert in major international music centers and festivals, and has had works commissioned and performed in North America, Europe, the United Kingdom, and China. A specialist in extended vocal techniques, she has premiered many new works, frequently presents on new music and women in music conferences and festivals, and is described as a “multifaceted, multi-timbral vocalist” with “articulate radiance”  (Los Angeles Times) and “astonishing range and agility” (Cleveland Plain Dealer).  Her compositions cover a wide variety of genres, including many chamber and solo pieces as well as choral, band and orchestral literature. Kavasch is distributed by Forrests Music and recorded by Navona Records, Soundset Recordings, Cambria Recordings, Troppe Note Classical, Lovely Records, and Composers Recordings, Inc. She holds the Ph.D. in Music from the University of California, San Diego and is Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Theory/Composition at California State University, Stanislaus.

Deborah Kavasch Selected Performance Reviews

May 2004   “was exuberant in [Sibbing’s] Songs of the Prairie…She seemed born to sing such heartland-wry lyrics and tuneful music redolent of mid-century American tonal optimism and honest humor…Kavasch went a step further with her own delightful settings ofBee! I’m expecting you! and Fox and the Grapes,…performed with all the considerable accuracy, charm and dramatic flair they require.”  Jeff Rosenfeld, San Francisco Classical Voice

Jan 1999     “(She) wove in and out of conventional singing...brandished an intriguing, well-honed syntax of mouth manipulations, sound effects and other lovely noises, taken to gleeful, animalistic multi-faceted, multi-timbral vocalist,” Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times

Jan 1998     “sang with articulate and unflappable radiance,” John Henken, Los Angeles Times

Winter 98   “the performance that had everyone buzzing with the spectacular voice of Californian Deborah Kavasch,” Anita Sleeman, IAWM Journal

Sep 1996    (Crumb Madrigals) “worthy successor to the great Jan de Gaetani”.  (Kavasch Bee! I’m expecting you!, The Crow and the Pitcher) “completely charmed---her personality and originality showing through throughout,” Mark Alburger, Twentieth Century Music

Sep 1996    “deftly picked out her entrances from a forest of notes” (Bloch Symposium) Walter Saul, Twentieth Century Music

Sep 1996    (Grigsby The Mask of Eleanor) “a keen sense of acting as well as song”…(Grigsby The Vision of St. Joan) “embodied grace, innocence and spirituality as Joan.”  David Bündler, Twentieth Century Music

Apr 1995    "The amazing soprano Deborah Kavasch was a beautifully controlled and resplendent presence in a brilliant performance."  Peter Terry, Journal SEAMUS

Oct 1994     "leads the audience to touch the Divine Light together with Jeanne d'Arc in the wonderful, magical performance by soprano Deborah Kavasch."  Sanja Shoilevska, International League of Women Composers JOURNAL

Oct 1994     "fascinating dissection of language into component sounds."  Willa Conrad, Toledo Blade

Dec 1989    "used flare and whimsy to 'rhythmically speak' the meandering, often nonsensical poems (Walton Facade Suite)."  Diane Chittock, Turlock Journal

Apr 1988    "She darted around through Crumb's (Madrigals) prickly writing as if the whole thing was an elementary exercise."  Alan Rich Los Angeles Herald Examiner

Feb 1988    "Beverly Grigsby's 'Vision of Saint Joan,' a compelling monodrama (has) more High C's than Brunnhilde sings in all of 'Götterdämmerung'.  Deborah Kavasch easily handled the duties of protagonist."  Daniel Carriaga, Los Angeles Times

Oct 1987     "Kavasch sang the role with authority and passion (Grigsby Mask of Eleanor).  Clarity and precision marked her delivery, and her voice more than filled the theater."  Terry McQuilkin, Los Angeles Times

Feb 1987    "blew the balcony off...thrilling"  Paul Attinello, JOURNAL SEAMUS

Jan 1986     "kudos to sight-reading soprano Deborah Kavasch, a last-minute vocal replacement."  Terry McQuilkin, Los Angeles Times

Oct 1983     "SOPRANO A STANDOUT AS AKI FESTIVAL OPENS.  A soprano of astonishing range and agility, Kavasch's singing was extraordinargy.  (She) skipped around among those jagged, disjunct intervals with superior agility. . . expertly done."  Robert Finn, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Mar 1983    "Cast as (Gluck) Armide was Deborah Kavasch, a slender young woman who looks like Meryl Streep.  She had the requisite stamina and power; her top voice was thrilling."  Stephanie von Buchau, Opera News

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Dr. Kavasch's recordings are available through and numerous other websites as downloadable audio files or as compact discs.