Paul Safar

Portrait of Paul Safar at piano
Based in Eugene, OR

“The impetus to compose a new piece usually begins for me with quiet; both physical silence and a quiet state of mind. Nature often gives that gift to me. Being in a landscape either familiar or very new and soaking up the elements through the senses, lets me connect back to that landscape with musical composition.”


Paul Safar is a versatile composer/performer and private piano instructor living and working in Eugene, Oregon. A long time member of Cascadia Composers (NACUSA), he performs regularly and thrives on collaborative projects. Paul was the Oregon Music Teachers Association Composer of the Year for 2013-14. He has had commissions from ensembles such as the Delgani String Quartet. His music has been performed in cities from New York to Havana.

Paul is a Composing in the Wilderness (2016) alum and his piece “Refugium (Snapshots of Denali),” begun during that field seminar, is scheduled to be performed by the Octava Chamber Orchestra in summer 2021. Paul loves the Oregon desert and has written a choir piece “The Vast Expanse” directly influenced by the Oregon outback. A new project also connected to the high desert inspired by a residency at PLAYA is in the works.

Having a background in both classical and jazz/rock, one of Paul’s goals is to coherently combine these influences in his compositions. When not engaged in musical activities, he might be seen hiking, traveling or spending time with his family.

Paul’s ambient music release Homeostasis (2021) features two structured improvisations meant for meditation and relaxation, including a work titled “Landscape” (listen here). Inspired by closing ones eyes and opening ones ears to the sounds around us, this piece incorporates original field recordings captured in Oregon.

Work Samples

The Vast Expanse (2010) for SATB choir and organ. Performed in 2013 by the Resonance Ensemble; Katherine Fitzgibbons, director and Greg Homza, organ.

“The inspiration to write The Vast Expanse came while staying two nights at Summer Lake Hot Springs in Eastern Oregon. This occasion brought some especially unique occurrences. The first night I saw my first “moonbow”, a night rainbow created by moonlight and rain or snow vapor. The following night I experienced an incredibly powerful and rather scary wind storm. The biggest impression upon me, however, came from talking to the caretaker of the grounds who reminded me how many different types of people come to this remote place and how the differences seem to wash away in the expansiveness of the desert. I was immediately taken to writing a poem.”

Refugium-Snapshots of Denali (2016/2023) for orchestra. Performed by Orchestra Next (Brian McWhorter, conducter). Expanded from the chamber version originally composed for the Composing in the Wilderness concert at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.

“Refugium-Snapshots of Denali was inspired by and begun in 2016 as part of the Composing in the Wilderness Field Seminar in Denali National Park. Paul later expanded the small chamber music piece to a full orchestra version. Photos taken during the field seminar make up this video presentation edited by Natalie Myking. The piece begins with a poem by Paul Safar. The term Refugium refers to an isolated geographical area that contains flora and fauna that has survived over long periods of time. The tradition of composing music inspired by special natural places helps create awareness for the importance of conservation efforts.”

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