Joseph Rivers is J. Donald Feagin Professor of Music and Film Studies at the University of Tulsa, where he chairs the Department of Film Studies and teaches and coordinates film, film music scoring, and music composition programs. As a university professor he teaches courses in film, film music, and music composition, directs film internships, and advises film studies, film scoring, and music composition students.
Rivers’ compositional projects evidences his interest in storytelling through music, and they encompass concert, stage, and film. Recently he scored original dramatic music for the Emmy-nominated documentary film,High Stakes: The Life and Times of E.W. Marland. His music for the ballet, Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet, portraying the story of the Osage people, has been performed all over the region by the Osage Ballet since 2012 as well as at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.
Rivers’ first symphony, “Echoes of War—Visions of Peace,” was commissioned and premiered by the Signature Symphony at TCC, and was recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra for Vol. 15 of ERMMedia’s “Masterworks of the New Era” series. His Concerto for Oboe, English Horn and String Orchestra is perhaps the first concerto for these two solo instruments with string orchestra.
In addition to Wahzhazhe: Osage Ballet, Rivers has composed a number of Oklahoma-themed works: Symphony No. 2, “Oklahoma Peoples in Trial and Triumph,” which recounts the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, and other events in Oklahoma history, was premiered by the Signature Symphony and Chorale and the Cherokee National Youth Choir in November 2011; Lonely People of the Osage, a choral setting of words by Oklahoma poet and Pawhuska native Winston Weathers, which received its New York premiere by the Gregg Smith Singers; Will Rogers Self-Portrait, for chorus and orchestra, commissioned for the Will Rogers Heritage, Inc. and the Claremore Community Chorus; Prairie Dreams, a one-act opera about pioneer Oklahoma; and Trio for Violin, Violoncello, and Piano, depicting the Oklahoma landscape through the eyes of a native warrior, commissioned by the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association during the Oklahoma state centennial in 2007. The third movement, “Forest Journey,” was featured on NPR’s "Performance Today."
Rivers has recently turned to internationally themed projects, including a commissioned new choral work for the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus (now the Tulsa Chorale) entitled, Every Man’s Land, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I; and the Elegy for Babi Yar for violin, viola, violoncello and piano, commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.
Other works include Portrait of a Cat, for woodwind trio and dancer with narration, commissioned by the Harwelden Institute for the Arts and premiered by the Council Oak trio, who toured it widely in Oklahoma schools, and The Exile's Return, an orchestral ballet premiered by the Mid-Illinois Ballet. He also composed the original score for Bo Bergstrom’s Shakespearean film, Midsummer Night’s Dream.
As Chair of Film Studies for the University of Tulsa, Rivers has helped bring many visiting filmmakers and film music composers to the campus to enrich the experience and education of film and film scoring students. He continues to be a liaison and lecturer for film and film music to the community and to the profession. His research interests involve film music and Italian cinema, and he recently accompanied his students on a cinematic/musical tour of Italy.