Museum open online 24/7. 365 (or 366) days/year

NYWC Spotlight: Debra Kaye

We are excited to continue our collaboration with the New York Women Composers. This month, we spotlight composer and conductor Debra Kaye.

Debra Kaye

Debra Kaye. Photo courtesy Debra Kaye.


Heralded as “A new voice on our horizon” by Classical-Modern Music Review, award-winning composer Debra Kaye’s music has been praised by Gramophone Magazine as “an eclectic unfolding of creativity.” With a compositional style that ranges from lyrical to grooving, experimental to coloristic, she is the winner of four Global Music Awards. Her catalog of chamber and orchestral music, art songs, choral, and theatrical works continues to expand through her steady stream of commissions and collaborations.

Kaye’s pandemic-inspired orchestral work, Rising Up, which was chosen for ASCAP’s New Music Friday Playlist on the day of its release, received the Global Music Award for creativity and originality, and was hailed as “a strong and vibrant piece” by Grammy-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta.

Her music has been performed by such acclaimed artists as the Lincoln Trio and Daedalus Quartet, and at premiere venues including Carnegie Hall. Kaye’s debut album And So It Begins (Ravello Records), produced by GRAMMY-winning Judith Sherman was on Ted Gioia’s list of top 100 CDs and described as, “…inspirational, an album that will surely stand the test of time” (

An advocate for new music, Kaye serves on the board of the New York Women Composers and is an Associate Director with Composers Concordance. She is a graduate of Mannes College and New York University and served on the faculty of the Mannes College Preparatory Division from 1991 to 2018.

Featured Work: “Dialogue with the Ghost” for unaccompanied cello


  • Title: Dialogue with the Ghost”
  • Composer: Debra Kaye
  • Year of Composition: 2004
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 6:30
  • Number of Measures: 158
  • Number of pages: 6
  • Tempo: mm 72-88 a piacere
  • Difficulty Level: advanced/professional
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb (for some of the double stops)
  • Techniques Employed: double, triple, and quadruple stops; bass and treble clefs; col legno battuto, pizzicato, and sul ponticello; 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 12/8, 9/8, 6/8, 3/8, 2+2+3/8, 2+3/8; grace notes, fingered harmonics; knocking on the cello, foot stomping, and whispering
  • Publisher: New Music Press (self-published)
  • Where to Purchase the Score: email the composer
  • Cost of Score*: $7.00 (or pay as you wish)

Notes to the Performer

“In the original version of this a piacere piece, there were few expressive markings. Interpretation was left to the performer as in a score by Bach. Since this kind of immersion in the score is time-consuming, I’ve added expressive markings that show one possible interpretation of the score. It’s a good place to start, follow it and it will work.  As you get to know the music, feel free to experiment with the interpretation and consider these markings as suggestions rather than dictates.

The metronome markings are meant to show the relationship among tempo changes. If you start the piece on the slower side (quarter = 72), then you would also stay on the slower side of the tempo changes that follow.” – Debra Kaye


Here are three different recordings of this work:

Program Notes

“‘Dialogue with the Ghost’ is a question and answer with my inner ghost.  It explores the lyric and percussive qualities of the cello in a dialogue of opposites. Composing it was a way for me to search for resolution to my conflicts and questions of the time. The cello, with its wide realm of expression, and pitch that spans the full range of the human voice, seemed a good choice.  In the end, I found the solution was in getting comfortable with the exploration. Commissioned by Martha McGaughey (Mannes College) it was originally written for viola da gamba and later adapted for cello.” – Debra Kaye

Debra Kaye’s Other Work with a Prominent Cello Part


A Collaboration with the New York Women Composers (NYWC)

The NYWC series at the Cello Museum was created to showcase its members who have composed various pieces for cello, informing cellists seeking new music to add to their repertoire, and helping listeners find new favorites. Many thanks to the NYWC for this wonderful collaboration.

Read other installments in the series here.

Enjoying the Cello Museum?

Don’t miss an article, announcement, or exhibition. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

*Prices are accurate at the time of article publication, but the Cello Museum cannot take responsibility for subsequent price changes.