Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America has become one of the most-played recent American works for orchestra ... it’s well crafted and emotionally resonant.

— The Dallas Morning News

Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is a work of rare authenticity and directness.

— Los Angeles Times

Boyer writes in a fluent, powerful style that fuses conservative American currents with Hollywood-ish size and populist sentiment.

— Gramophone

Boyer’s writing draws from the traditions of Williams-esque Hollywood film scores, Broadway musicals, and American neo-Romanticism.

— The Boston Globe

Boyer is, without question, a serious talent and a composer to watch.


More Critical Acclaim

RECORDING REVIEWS: Symphony No. 1 / Orchestral Works with the London Philharmonic Orchestra

“Peter Boyer’s love affair with American orchestras continues with his second Naxos recording, dedicated to celebratory works composed for five American orchestras over a period of 15 years. Boyer, who claims more than 300 performances by more than 100 orchestras, writes in a fluent, powerful style that fuses conservative American currents with Hollywood-ish size and populist sentiment… Three Olympians… demonstrates the composer’s orchestration gifts in a tour de force that evokes Apollo, Aphrodite, and, in a brilliant finale, Ares. [On Symphony No. 1:] “…the three-movement work is dominated by an 11-minute long third movement, an absorbing, eventful Adagio with beautiful, written-out solo riffs… eloquent, spaciously recorded performances…”
— Laurence Vittes, Gramophone

“Classical music listeners apprehensive about ‘new music’ have nothing to fear, and everything to love, about Peter Boyer. The 44-year-old American composer writes music in a neo-romantic style with an unabashedly direct and popular appeal… His Symphony No. 1, a tribute to his muse Leonard Bernstein, is a stirring work, filled with soaring, ‘American sounding’ themes and propulsive rhythms… a recording that’s sure to win him many new fans.”
— Mark Pinto, WRTI (Philadelphia), New Releases

Three Olympians… must rank among Boyer’s finest pieces. It has great tunes and exploits the timbres of the string orchestra in a very fetching and vivid way… Silver Fanfare, Festivities and Celebration Overture are all short, splashy, tuneful occasional works, and probably great fun to play. The London Philharmonic under the composer’s confident direction does a fine job with them… Like all of the music on this disc, the symphony is tuneful, expertly crafted, colorfully scored… Boyer knows what he wants, and how to do it. This very well engineered disc is lots of fun, and a really good listen.”  (9/9 Artistic Quality/Sound Quality)
— David Hurwitz,

“Peter Boyer is an American composer with a steadily increasing reputation… [On Festivities:] Boyer certainly has an ear for melody and orchestration, and this is a definite success… [On Symphony No. 1:] The final Adagio has an evocative melody that slowly builds up, making full use of the different harmonic effects of the orchestra. This is wide-screen music to play at full volume and become immersed in; it has the strong feeling of being a theme to an epic film… The playing and recording are first class… More please.”
— David R. Dunsmore, MusicWeb International

“This delightful concert work [Silver Fanfare] has a sort of Bruce Broughton/John Williams-esque style with great writing across the orchestra… ‘Aphrodite’ [from Three Olympians]… allows for some repose and a more lyrically romantic theme that is simply beautiful… The result is an almost cinematic essay. Of primary interest will be the concluding work on the disc, Boyer’s first symphony… [on the Adagio third movement:] The theme itself is very romantic in nature, and equally stunning as it develops.  The performances here are simply superb, showing off his engaging and easily accessible cinematic style. This is certainly a recording that should have broad appeal, and one which you will likely find yourself returning to time and again. The music is brilliantly orchestrated with engaging thematic ideas and a fine sense of dramatic shape.”
— Steven A. Kennedy, Cinemusical

“Well crafted, brilliantly scored works… [on Silver Fanfare:] Highly cinematic with rousing brass flourishes and over-the-top percussion… it immediately commands the listener’s attention… ‘Aphrodite’ [from Three Olympians] is a gorgeous offering with an extended romantic cantilena. [On the symphony’s Adagio third movement:] It’s based on an extended meandering melody, which appears in a colorful variety of orchestral guises that ebb and flow in cinematic fashion… These performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer’s direction sparkle… Boyer instills his Technicolor scores with a captivating energy and drive…”
— Bob McQuistion, Classical Lost and Found

“Peter Boyer offers accessible and well-made works… A new Naxos CD shows him to be a very effective conductor of his own music, and shows that music itself to be pleasant and generally forthright… There are three overtly celebratory works that come across particularly well: Celebration Overture, Silver Fanfare, and Festivities…. the London Philharmonic delivers them with considerable panache. [On Symphony No. 1:] …it does have things to say, and it communicates them in a musical language that is characteristically modern without being at all off-putting — indeed, it will remind some listeners of the music of Leonard Bernstein, to whose memory it is dedicated.”
— Mark Estren,

The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers

“The main event of the evening was the premiere of The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, commissioned by the Pops and composed by Peter Boyer. This piece… provides a musical frame for uplifting excerpts taken mostly from famous speeches given by John, Robert, and Edward [Kennedy], recited last night by Robert De Niro, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman, respectively… Boyer’s work accomplishes the goals he described in preconcert interviews of amplifying the texts by these three American icons. His writing draws from the traditions of Williams-esque Hollywood film scores, Broadway musicals, and American neo-Romanticism.”
—Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe

The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers received its world premiere to much media fanfare.  Commissioned for the 125th anniversary of the Boston Pops, this multi-media piece by composer Peter Boyer is a deeply felt homage to what Mr. Lockhart called ‘the 50-year legacy of the Kennedy brothers’… Boyer, best known for Ellis Island: The Dream of America, is no stranger to inspirational music. After being asked to compose this piece, he traveled to Arlington National Cemetery where he studied the inscriptions of John and Robert Kennedy’s gravesites, many of whose words are set in this piece… On this night of fervent musical patriotism, to love and admire the Kennedys was, it seemed, equated with love of America. Mr. Boyer’s music served this goal well. It was reminiscent of the more ‘serious’ music of John Williams.”
—Susan Miron, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

REVIEWS & TESTIMONIALS: Ellis Island: The Dream of America

“From its opening video images of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island to the final shots of the Statue of Liberty, Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is a work of rare authenticity and directness. Boyer’s music… does the job with consistent emotional sweep.”
—Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times

“Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is a sweeping opus masterfully chronicling, in words and music, the disparate experiences of seven European immigrants… It is at turns horrifying, whimsical and heart-rending. But it’s always palpably engaging… Boyer’s moving composition is eloquently symphonic and very digestible for its sheer emotional wallop. I noticed one of the ushers shedding copious tears at the end of the performance.”
—Harold McNeil, The Buffalo News

“Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island is an ambitious blending of narration, slide projection and orchestral writing that highlights seven immigrants who came to these shores in the period 1910-1940… Boyer’s orchestration is expert, and his conducting is remarkably precise… The work, stirringly played by the orchestra, proved to be a searing emotional experience for many in the Bushnell audience.”
—Gerald Moshell, The Hartford Courant

“At the end of composer Peter Boyer’s multimedia tribute to immigration, Ellis Island: The Dream of America, which premiered last month at the Bushnell, the audiences at all performances leapt to their feet. No wonder. They had been primed by 40 minutes of stirring original music… The Bushnell’s timing couldn’t have been better in commissioning Mr. Boyer, a Hartt School alumnus and rising American composer, to create this wonderful tribute.”
The Hartford Courant Editorial

“Given Boyer’s sweepingly lyrical but nicely varied score… the effect was predictably moving and tear-inducing. Whether performed as an unadorned concert piece or in this more elaborate multimedia staging, Ellis Island will likely be repeated on pops and patriotic concerts across the country for years.”
—Wayne Lee Gay, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Boyer’s Ellis Island and its narratives are a powerful testament to the experience of thousands of immigrants who entered America through that iconic portal. The piece is a timeless and timely tribute. It reminds us that, for so many who have come here, America has been a symbol of freedom and opportunity for a new life.”
—Eric Sean Weld, Daily Hampshire Gazette (Massachusetts)

“Over the years, millions of immigrants arrived on America’s shores with bags laden not just with belongings but with ardent hope, faith, fear and dreams of a better tomorrow. The Fox Valley Symphony evoked and celebrated that grand journey with its dramatic and emotionally charged season finale performance of Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America. The full-house audience at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center responded. They laughed, they wept, they remembered and they got on their feet and cheered. …It was impossible not to be deeply moved.”
—Heather LaRoi, The Post-Crescent (Wisconsin)

“People entered the Hemmens not knowing what to expect, yet they finished the evening with standing, cheering ovations for Ellis Island and Boyer, who was a guest of the [Elgin Symphony]. Nobody left for home disappointed. …Ask anyone who experienced Ellis Island: The Dream of America if he or she was not moved deeply by the performance. It was a journey of discovery well-rewarded.”
—Bill Gowen, The Daily Herald (Illinois)

“Last night, Boyer returned to his native Rhode Island a master of his craft. …The last-minute crush for tickets was so great that the start of the concert had to be postponed a half-hour so that everyone could be seated. …Of the two scores [the other being Titanic], Ellis Island is the more conservative, but also the more mature and confident. …There are strains of John Williams in this sweet, often heroic music, and echoes of Aaron Copland, but it also has a voice of its own.”
—Channing Gray, The Providence Journal

“The Recording Academy, in recently choosing nominations for the best contemporary classical competition category… brought the harmonics of multiculturalism all the way home in nominating Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America. …Having researched the Ellis Island Oral History Project’s archive of thousands of interviews with immigrants who were “processed” at Ellis Island, Boyer takes his seat on a pew with Aaron Copland, whose 1942 Lincoln Portrait for speaker and orchestra set a dramatic standard for this kind of concert pageantry. Boyer’s music underneath and between the spoken sections of the work is inspiring, sometimes bracing…There’s so much to be learned from those who have become Americans by choice and by struggle… We’re lucky to have both [Golijov’s Ayre and Boyer’s Ellis Island].”
—Porter Anderson,

“[Boyer] accompanies the dramatic monologues with an orchestral score that provides both subtle mood setting and vivid evocation. …Boyer has learned well how to conjure sonic images of America’s wide-open spaces and bustling cities. …Boyer’s music is nearly upstaged by some of the compelling narratives it frames, yet it adds the kind of emotional resonance that only music can provide, and the uplifting quality of the whole arises from the skillful way the two are woven together.”
—Scott Paulin, Barnes and

Ellis Island: The Dream of America is a dream of a piece, honoring the immigrant experience with a compelling combination of music, narration and photography. The multimedia work, written by Peter Boyer in 2002, celebrates the stories of seven immigrants who passed through Ellis Island beginning in the early parts of the past century. It has become one of the most popular contemporary pieces in the symphonic repertoire, having been performed by more than 40 orchestras. Yesterday, the Winston-Salem Symphony joined the list. …Boyer’s music is in a very tonal, accessible style. Each note perfectly suits the situation at hand. Often, there is a moment of triumph… But Boyer can do more than write uplifting sounds. He is also gifted at capturing a range of personalities.”
—Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal

“Having conducted performances with two star actors (Barry Bostwick and Kate Burton, with the Brown University Orchestra) and seven actors from a community theatre company (with the Pioneer Valley Symphony), I can attest that Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is an equally moving work either way. In both cases, the work attracted extremely large audiences that greeted the work with ecstatic responses. At the Pioneer Valley Symphony, we received so many requests to repeat Ellis Island that we did—the only time we have ever performed a major work in consecutive seasons. The power of Ellis Island: The Dream of America, which was immediately apparent from the moment I first heard it on NPR’s SymphonyCast, is even greater in the concert hall, where the combination of orchestra, actors and visual images with Peter Boyer’s beautiful and evocative music stirs in the listener a strongly emotional response virtually unmatched by any other orchestral composition, contemporary or otherwise.”
—Paul Phillips, Music Director, Brown University Orchestra and Pioneer Valley Symphony

“Every now and then, an artistic project comes along that not only thrills the audience, but also feeds the spirits of those who are privileged to perform in it. Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is that kind of project.”
—Harry Parker, Chair, Department of Theatre, Texas Christian University

“Mr. Boyer was a great success in both roles [as composer and conductor]. His music, so warm and evocative, was ideal for the setting; it drew in our most diverse audience of the season and brought tears to many eyes. Combined with the powerful narrated text and the stirring projected images, the music of Ellis Island was truly a hit. Premieres are our stock in trade, but rarely has a premiere been such a popular success with such an audience. As conductor, too, Mr. Boyer proved himself a highly capable leader of musicians who can be very critical. It is not at all surprising that Ellis Island and Mr. Boyer are both making appearances with a wide variety of orchestras all season long.”
—Catherine M. Cahill, CEO, Brooklyn Philharmonic

“Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America is one of those works that clutches the heart and won’t let go… The seven real tales of real immigrants are marvelously diverse, and each one is preceded by an orchestral interlude that establishes the mood. The whole is brilliantly paced, with a welcome infusion of humor at just the right moment. There won’t be a dry eye in the house at the end of this inspirational work.”
—David Daniels, Music Director, Warren Symphony Orchestra (Michigan)

“The blend of symphonic music combined with words taken from actual oral histories makes Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America a uniquely moving experience. This is a piece to be enjoyed, not only by the Americans who trace their heritage back to an ancestor who first set foot on American soil at Ellis Island, but by their children and grandchildren. It is surely a work for the generations.”
—Peg Zitko, Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation

RECORDING REVIEWS: The Music of Peter Boyer with the London Symphony Orchestra

“Peter Boyer makes a most impressive debut on disc as composer and conductor of his own music. …At its finest, his music is attractive, finely crafted with a genuine humanity, refreshing for being nondidactic in these times of preachy self-importance. …Boyer shows himself an assured podium figure, eliciting playing of tremendous drive and sympathy from a very engaged London Symphony Orchestra. This marks a most auspicious debut for a young composer we will definitely hear more from in the future.”
—Lawrence Johnson, South Florida Sun–Sentinel

“Boyer is, without question, a serious talent and a composer to watch.”
—David Hurwitz,

“Peter Boyer seems to have swallowed much of 20th-century American music whole and spit it back out with a gift for melody, a sense of wonder, fine craftsmanship and a solid foundation in works that came before.”
—Daniel Buckley, Tucson Citizen

“Crowd-pleasing, tuneful music, confidently realised and sumptuously engineered… A burgeoning cinematic and theatrical flair informs the earliest piece here, the 1995 tone-poem Titanic… Ecstatically received by American audiences, it exhibits a formidable technical assurance… readily approachable and expertly scored… his versatility and skill are not in doubt… the LSO (and their superb brass in particular) have a field day under the composer’s lead… Spectacularly vivid sound, too.”
—Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

“The ability to tell a story or paint a scene in music has been scorned for a while in academic circles, but it has never lost its fans among ordinary music-lovers and in Boyer it has found a skilled, vigorous new champion.”
—Joe McLellan, classical music critic emeritus of The Washington Post, for

“…The sparkling and sure-handed music of Peter Boyer…expressed in characteristically exuberant, ingenious orchestration.”
—Steve Metcalf, The Hartford Courant

“…he can set a scene or create a mood rapidly and unambiguously; he writes with great flair for big orchestras. His manifest destiny is to compose music for Hollywood blockbusters. But, while waiting for the call from the major studios, he has composed several pieces for various American orchestras of unarguable effectiveness…”   **** (for performance)
—Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine

“Peter Boyer’s style…is American to the marrow: rock-solid in technique, brimming with energy… The best works—the coruscating Celebration Overture, and the strongly inventive Three Olympians—are excellent. …the LSO is impressive throughout.”
—Malcolm Hayes, Classic FM Magazine

“Peter Boyer sums up laid-back American eclecticism… He conducts the London Symphony Orchestra (in brilliant, ebullient form) in his unashamedly accessible music, from a bouncy Celebration Overture to evocations of Greek myth.”
—Martin Hoyle, The Mail on Sunday (UK national newspaper)

“…at least three of the pieces here strike me as potentially having a long life in the concert hall. Not bad for a composer barely out of his twenties. …His tone poem Titanic…is far and away the most adventuresome music here harmonically, and, for a composer at that stage of his career, it is a remarkable work. …The performances under the composer’s direction are wonderfully sonorous, and he gets splendid playing from the London Symphony, once again at the forefront of London’s virtuoso orchestras. Certainly a voice worth keeping an eye on…”
—John Story, Fanfare

“From that latter category [film composers] Boyer has embraced the value of making his music easily accessible, of speaking in large rhetorical and melodic gestures, of setting mood directly and unequivocally, of clothing his ideas in resourceful and colorful orchestration. From that former category [concert hall composers] he has learned to deploy the unexpected harmonic move, the clever juxtaposition of disparate melodic or rhythmic elements, the value of sound symphonic development… [On Three Olympians:] His string writing is resourceful, and, like everything else on this release, effective… If you are a fan of film music, then by all means acquire this one. It is beautifully conducted and performed by a most informed young composer.”
—William Zagorski, Fanfare