Grammy-nominee Larry Hoffman is an award-winning composer whose works have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe. While earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in theory and composition from the Peabody Conservatory, he received grants from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard and the American Music Center. Upon graduation, Larry was the recipient of Peabody’s Gustav Klemm Award and Otto Ortmann Prize for compositional excellence. Among his other works are Music For Six Percussionists (Subito Music, Inc.) -- a prizewinner in the National Percussive Arts Society Competition, and Three Songs For Bluesman And Orchestra --- commissioned by the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and performed at Symphony Center in Chicago in 2007. That year Hoffman was nominated for a United States Artists Fellowship Award.
His 2012 CD release, Works of Larry Hoffman: Contemporary American Music (dbk 701) featured five of his classical chamber works--three of which are based on blues music. This collection of chamber music reflects this composer’s professional experience in the genres of early country, folk, and blues, as well as his formal training in both jazz and classical music.
Former NEH chairman William Ferris calls Hoffman’s work “an important new chapter for American music,” and this sentiment is echoed in many of America’s music periodicals. Living Blues Magazine cites these works as “outstanding…carefully crafted gems of modern American music…the most successful exploration of blues aesthetic through the classical music lens.” Baltimore Magazine likens Hoffman’s work to that of Bartok, calling it “visionary….combining these seemingly disparate genres with joy and gravitas.” Downbeat cites Hoffman’s “integrity and compositional acumen,” praising his Blues Suite for Violoncello Solo as “a triumph for composer and cellist.” The Baltimore Sun notes Hoffman’s “subtle writing and keen sense of rhythmic motion, characterizing Pages of Anna and Colors for Trumpet and Percussion as “lyrical and moody, filled with imaginatively developed ideas.” The American Record Guide praises Hoffman as a “composer with inspiration and remarkable ability to put across the blues style in classical terms.” He calls the Atlantic String Quartet’s performance of String Quartet #1 as handled with “expertise and conviction,” and Kristin Ostling’s rendering of Blues Suite for Violoncello Solo as “inspiring,” calling all of these performances “engrossing…performed with conviction and polish.”
October, 2013 saw the release of A Celebration of Quintet Music (CRS Artists CD 1393) which included his work, Wind Quintet #2: The Blues (2004)as performed by Chicago's Kallima Wind Quintet.
In March, 2014, Hoffman's Piano Trio #1 (2013)was performed on the Baltimore Symphony's Candlelight Series by musicians of the Baltimore Symphony.
The following year his SummerMusic: Homage to Baseball (2014) for two percussionists, viola, and cello was premiered on the same series.
Since then Mr. Hoffman has completed a number of new works including Wind Quintet #3: Old Time Music (2014) ; Blue Mirrorfor Solo Guitar (2018); ; String Trio No. 1 (2018); Whistlin' in the Dark(2018)(for Flute, Clarinet, and Strings) ; MSD STRONG-in memory of Seventeen Slain-for orchestra(2018) ; String Quartet No. 3: Mo' Better Blues (2019) ; String Quartet No. 4: I. Dance II. Chill III. Get Funky (2019); String Quartet No.5: Through a Glass Darkly (2020); Of Seabirds, Palms, and Waves (2020) for flute/piccolo; violin, viola, and two percussionists ; Antics for Oboe and Clarinet (2020); American Overture (2020) (for orchestra).
His latest performance was of Blues for Harp, Oboe, and Violoncello, at the Breckenridge Music Festival in Colorado; summer, 2019.
BEGINNINGS AS FOLK SINGER/GUITARIST/SONGWRITER
Larry Hoffman started his musical career in his teens as a self-taught folk singer / guitarist / songwriter with a repertoire that included traditional folk, old-timey, bluegrass, ragtime, blues, and originals. During the 1960’s he found his first paying jobs at the Blues Bag Coffee House in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where as house folksinger he opened for top folk artists such as Doc Watson, Kweskin Jug Band, and blues legend Skip James. In 1967 he moved to the West Coast where for five years he headlined clubs in and around San Francisco.
FORMAL TRAINING AND CONSERVATORY CAREER
After returning to the East Coast around 1970, he undertook five years of intensive jazz studies, commuting weekly from Baltimore to Philadelphia to study with Jazz legend John Coltrane’s teacher, Dennis Sandole, while working jazz/blues bands in Baltimore. Mr.Sandole was the first of three private teachers that led Hoffman to classical music and the Peabody Conservatory of Music. While at Peabody he received grants from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard and the American Music Center, as well as Peabody’s Gustav KlemmAward and Otto Ortmann Prize for composition. While earning his degrees - both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Theory and Composition. Before earning his Bachelors degree, he was asked to join the Peabody Preparatory School faculty to teach courses in guitar, music theory, and music history. During his ten year tenure at Peabody, he served as co-chairman of the Preparatory Music Theory Department, director of the inner-city CETA-sponsored Arts Expansion Program, and creator/director of Peabody's first jazz program in many years. During this time he also taught courses at Johns Hopkins Evening College and Goucher College Center.
JOURNALIST / HISTORIAN / PRODUCER / EDUCATOR
He left academia in 1983 to return to the blues--this time as a writer, contributing articles, columns, and reviews about the blues to premiere publications such as The Baltimore Sun,The Baltimore City Paper, Living Blues Magazine, Guitar Player Magazine, the All Music Guide, and King Biscuit Times, as well as writing liner notes for blues recordings both in the US and abroad, for record labels such as Verve, Sony/Universal, and Wolf (Austria).
In 1998 Larry was Grammy-nominated for his annotations to Mean Old World: The Blues From 1940-1994, which he compiled and co-produced for the Smithsonian Institution Press. That year he was named Living Blues Magazine's Liner Note Writer Of The Year, and Best Compiler Of A Historical Compilation. In 2003, he was the chief liner note writer for Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues, an anthology which won two Grammy’s: one for Best Liner Notes Of The Year, and another for Best Historical Compilation Of The Year.
He began producing blues records during this time as well, and was named Living Blues Magazine's Producer Of The Year, most notably for the first Alligator CDs of 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Corey Harris, whom Hoffman discovered and produced in 1994. Fish Ain't Bitin’, his second effort with Harris, won nearly ten awards, including The Blues Foundation’s Acoustic Blues Record Of The Year, garnering artist and producer a W.C. Handy Award. The other CD's cited were renowned steel guitar master Freddie Roulette's first outing as leader, Back in Chicago (DBK), and Chicago bluesman Chico Bank's recording, Candy Lickin' Man (Evidence Records).
As an educator Hoffman has lectured nationally, and taught courses , both in the classroom and on a private basis, in the history, theory, and practice of music, mostly in the Baltimore, Maryland area. He has also acted as advisor to the Smithsonian Institution, the Pocono Blues Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival where he has lectured and helped coordinate events since 1998. He was inducted into the Maryland Entertainers Hall of Fame in November, 2019.