Phillip Aaberg

Creator of Art Without Boundaries

Composer Philip Aaberg writes music that connects a global audience to the sweeping landscape of the West. By translating Montana's farms, ranches, and native cultures into musical concepts, he's forged a unique keyboard style that paints an audible portrait of his home state. Although classically trained, Philip celebrates many traditions with his compositions. He weaves strains of blues and bluegrass as well as rock and new music throughout his melodic tapestries.

Besides playing piano with the Boston Pops and participating in the Marlboro Chamber Music Festival, Philip has appeared on many of the world’s great concert stages from Seville and Stockholm to London and Rome. He has cut eight solo albums, one of which, Live From Montana, received a 2002 Grammy nomination. As a guest artist, Philip has performed on over 200 albums and on PBS’s All-American Jazz, which earned him an Emmy nomination. Another Emmy nomination followed in 2008 for his soundtrack "Class C: The Only Game in Town".  Phil produced Raven with singer-songwriter Kristina Stykos and Native Anthropology with Jack Gladstone, as well as a 2 CD jazz compilation A Night at the Ozark." He is a true composer, as well as a great interpreter,” says fellow pianist George Winston. “His music so deeply captures the essence of Montana, and yet it is so universal.”

"With this music of Eastern Montana, I’ve tried to capture things that are important to me such as the quality of the sound. On the prairie, sound carries a long way. The sense of vision is important, too," explains Philip, whose innovative compositions have been influenced by everything from barbed wire and trains to twilight. "On a clear day, you can see the Rockies a hundred miles away. I try to communicate that sense of distance and loneliness."

A past recipient of the Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, Philip graduated from Harvard, where he received a four-year Leonard Bernstein Music Scholarship. After post-graduate studies, he embarked on a career that included recording studio work and tours with musical giants such as Peter Gabriel, Elvin Bishop, and the Doobie Brothers.

"Phil is the genuine article… a native Montanan with a profound feeling for the wide-open plains and high-country magic that nurtured his childhood and he’s devoted his musical life to exploring that land and its people," writes Keyboard Magazine. "He’s an innovator in a stylistic neighborhood bordered by Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Bruce Hornsby, and Keith Jarrett. It’s a uniquely American sound, at times poignant, brash, pensive, and, bursting with enthusiasm."

Of his many accomplishments, Arts Without Boundaries (AWB) ranks among Philip’s most satisfying. Co-founded in 2000 with his wife, Patty, AWB provides funding to keep the arts alive in classrooms across America. With AWB’s help, communities can now afford to bring touring artists into their schools as instructors and fairly compensate the visiting performers. "These workshops teach kids to listen," says Philip, whose three grown sons all pursued art-related careers. "They give them the opportunity to learn from the example professionals set as teachers and musicians."

Philip, Patty, and their young son, Jake, live in the Chester, Montana home where Philip grew up and picked out his first piano tune—a Gregorian chant—at age four.