American Composers Orchestra

"American Composers Orchestra has brought to the city a repertory of music of our time which leaves all the major American orchestras far behind." - The New York Times


"If orchestras are more accommodating to living composers today, ACO can rightfully claim at least some of the credit." - Time Out New York


"the organization exists to upend the status quo with symphonic magnitude"

The Philadelphia Inquirer


"A brilliant and unpretentious showcase for music in the new millennium." - The Guardian

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, K-12 education programs, and emerging composer development programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.

ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those who are lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records,, and iTunes. 

The 2019-2020 season brings two concerts presented in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall with programming that reflects the innovative ways new American orchestral music sparks curiosity through geographic, stylistic, and gender diversity. Highlights include major premieres of works by 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams, Mark Adamo, Matthew Aucoin, as well as two alumnae of ACO’s emerging composers programs, Hilary Purrington and 2015 Rome Prize winner Nina C. Young. Featured soloists include guitarist JIJI, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton.

Through the Underwood New Music Readings each year, ACO selects up to six emerging composers to travel to New York City to meet with artistic staff, orchestra members — including the conductor and mentor composers — and spend three days working with the orchestra. At the program’s conclusion, two composers are awarded commissions to write new works to be performed by ACO in a future season. Nationally, EarShot enables orchestras across the country to identify talented young composers. With guidance from ACO, partner orchestras – such as the Detroit Symphony, the Sarasota (FL) Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra – undertake readings, residencies, performances and composer-development programs that speak directly to their communities and leverage local resources. In the 2019-2020 season, ACO partners with Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra (Mexico), Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Houston Symphony for EarShot readings.

For nearly two decades, ACO has brought composers and musical teaching artists into New York City public schools through Music Factory. Students in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, work directly with professional composers to create and perform original music. ACO also offers the intensive Compose Yourself seminars, during which high school composers will participate in hands-on composition classes, culminating in a performance of student compositions played by ACO’s professional musicians.



Photo by Yvonne Albinowski

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