In the United States, Joel Cohen is best known as the long-tenured helmsman of the Boston Camerata, and understandably so; but travel east across the Atlantic and you'll find him equally highly regarded as a lutenist, a radio broadcaster, and a producer of music films.
Cohen was born in Providence, RI, in 1942 and attended Brown University and Harvard University. After leaving Harvard, he spent two years in Paris, honing his skills as a composer under the wing of Nadia Boulanger. In 1968, just one year after returning to the U.S. from France, Cohen took up the directorship of the then-14-year-old Boston Camerata, which he has since built into a truly first-class organization. Cohen has never maintained a lengthy permanent academic post, but he has lectured at many universities (especially those in or near the metro Boston area, like Harvard University and Brandeis University).
Cohen has not really followed up on his training as a composer save by making arrangements of already-existing music; he has instead focused on directing, organizing, and to a lesser extent, performing. With the Boston Camerata, Cohen has made several dozen recordings (mostly of early music), some of which have earned prestigious awards. His 1989 disc of Tristan et Iseult won the grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros in Paris. In 1990, Cohen founded a new group, the Camerata Meditarranea, to perform early music from the Mediterranean area. Cohen is the author of Reprise: the Extraordinary Revival of Early Music (Boston, 1985).