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Nathaniel Philip May

Title: Adjunct Instructor

Nate May is a Cincinnati-based composer whose music draws on research and imagination, often treating contemporary issues of place, migration, environment and identity with textural intricacy, rhythmic drive and a taste for repurposed sounds. Raised in Huntington, West Virginia, much of his work stems from a “fascination, love and respect for the people” of Appalachia (Soapbox), including his oratorio State, premiered by singer Kate Wakefield, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir—MUSE, and a percussion ensemble in April 2016, and his monodrama, Dust in the Bottomland—set in present-day West Virginia and sung by lyric bass Andrew Munn—which has been performed 12 times in seven states and broadcast on radio and television.  Large-scale collaborations include the world-touring work Spiral by choreographer/dancer Wanjiru Kamuyu and Kalahari Waits, the debut album of indigenous poetry and music trio Khoi Khonnexion, produced during a year in South Africa.

Trained in piano improvisation, he has played in the bands Baby Houdini and Firemaggot and with Anna Roberts-Gevalt of the old-time duo Anna & Elizabeth. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (B.F.A., Jazz and Contemplative Studies) and CCM (M.M., Composition), where he studied with Geri Allen, Ellen Rowe, Stephen Rush, Miguel Roig-Francolí and Michael Fiday. His work has received support from the Telluride Association, ArtsWave, People’s Liberty and the Berea College Appalachian Sound Fellowship.


  • BFA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2011 (Jazz and Contemplative Studies).
  • MM, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, OH, 2016 (Composition).