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New Music USA Announces Six Composers and US Orchestras selected for its Amplifying Voices Program

New Music USA announces six composers who have been co-commissioned to write new orchestral works through its Amplifying Voices Program, supported by the Sphinx Venture Fund. Composers Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Tania León, Brian Raphael Nabors, Tyshawn Sorey, and Shelley Washington will each write new works to be premiered during the 2021-22 season and performed by a total of at least 24 orchestras. Each of the six composer’s pieces will be performed by a minimum of four orchestras.

Amplifying Voices fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. It was initiated by New Music USA last fall, with support from the Sphinx Venture Fund being confirmed in December 2019. Through a national call launched in January 2020, New Music USA asked orchestras to come forward with proposals for co-commissions and a commitment to promoting existing repertoire that deserves further performances.

Amplifying Voices aims to make major strides in transforming the classical canon. According to the Institute for Composer Diversity’s analysis of 120 American orchestras’ 2019-2020 plans, 94% of music programmed for that season’s mainstage orchestral concerts was written by white composers.

Through Amplifying Voices, New Music USA commits to be a steward and partner in a multitude of projects that foster strong working relationships between American orchestras and composers whose work should be more frequently heard in the concert hall. Amplifying Voices seeks to increase support and promotion of composers of color, bringing them to the table for artistic planning at major national orchestras, and ensuring orchestras’ engagement with repertoire, past and present, that has previously been omitted from major concert programs.

Composer Valerie Coleman says, “At a time when bold solidarity is needed to address both the struggle within the pandemics of now, Amplified Voices is an affirmation that Black Lives do indeed matter and should be represented within this sacred field. The composers selected for this powerful initiative are leaders who have dedicated themselves to not only their craft, but advocate for others for the future of music's sake. I am humbled and proud to be selected by New Music USA to be among them.”

“One of my missions as a composer is to invite musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to feel more included and represented in the beautiful genre that is classical music,” says composer Juan Pablo Contreras. “I’m extremely honored to be a part of New Music USA’s ‘Amplifying Voices’ program, and collaborate with a consortium of American orchestras led by the Las Vegas Philharmonic, to write a new work that will further this mission. My composition will tell a story describing the ‘edge effect’ that occurs in communities that are on the border shared between the United States and Mexico.”

Composer Shelley Washington says, “I am so thrilled to be working with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to write a new piece for them and other orchestras. Having the time and resources to create a large piece for the orchestra is rare in the modern classical world, especially for younger composers. In addition to writing the piece, I am looking forward to sitting down with the orchestra to open up a dialogue on what changes can be made to create a more inclusive space in the orchestral classical realm.”

“This project is impactful in so many ways. I am beyond honored and elated to share and serve as a voice for so many who look like me and share my experience,” says composer Brian Raphael Nabors. “Along with my wonderful colleagues, I believe this groundbreaking work will help to lay the foundation for barriers to be broken and the eradication of stigmas that have plagued our field for many years. To be a part of that change is an affirmation of everything I’ve worked for and continue to work for.”

Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, says, “We created Amplifying Voices at the end of last year to support the programming of composers and repertoire that could and should be more regularly enhancing our experience of orchestral music. Congratulations to the orchestras and composers who’ve been selected for this unique initiative – I can’t wait to hear their new pieces that result from these collaborations as we strive towards an open and equitable future for classical music.”

“At a critical time in our nation's history, Sphinx looks forward to helping to amplify the most important voices in classical music, says Afa. S. Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of The Sphinx Organization. “There is a rich tradition of excellence in repertoire by Black and Latinx composers, ranging from Florence Price, William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, Manuel Ponce, Silvestre Revueltas, and countless other voices who have shaped the fabric of classical music. This is a hopeful avenue to live by our commitment to diversity and profoundly shift our canon. By giving the spotlight to diverse voices, this New Music USA initiative can help to evolve our entire field.”

Read the full press release.

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