American Composers Orchestra Announces Spring 2022 Programming


Sanctuary at Carnegie Hall Conducted by Marin Alsop, with Violinist Jennifer Koh March 25, 2022 at 7:30pm | Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall Premieres by Lisa Bielawa, Dai Wei, & Paula Matthusen, plus works by Anna Clyne & Hannah Kendall

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout May 7, 2022 at 8pm | Apollo Theater Co-presented with the Apollo & Co-curated with National Black Theatre Conceived & Directed by Jonathan McCrory | Conducted by Chelsea Tipton Premieres by Joel Thompson, Jason Michael Webb, Toshi Reagon, & Carlos Simon, plus Sanctum by Courtney Bryan

ACO EarShot Readings in New York – June 16-17, 2022 Led by ACO Music Director Emeritus George Manahan

EarShot Readings for Emerging Composers with the Houston, Oregon, & Tucson Symphonies

ACO’s Sonic Spark Education Programs Continue Serving New York City Students

Fifth Annual ACO Commission Club to feature Composer Carlos Simon

ACO Gala 2022 | March 22, 2022 at 6pm | Bryant Park Grill

Inaugural Creative Catalyst Awards Honoring Marin Alsop, Denise Young Smith, & Paquito D’Rivera


American Composers Orchestra (ACO) continues its 2021-2022 season, under the leadership of Artistic Director Derek Bermel and President Melissa Ngan, with new and ongoing partnerships with the Apollo, National Black Theatre, and Carnegie Hall in spring 2022. ACO remains committed to the creation, performance, preservation, and promotion of music by American composers with programming that sparks curiosity and reflects geographic, stylistic, racial, and gender diversity. This season’s slate of performances includes eleven premieres of new works by American composers.


ACO’s two large-scale performances in spring 2022 are Sanctuary on Friday, March 25, 2022 at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, led by conductor Marin Alsop; and The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Apollo, co-presented by ACO and the Apollo and co-curated with National Black Theatre in partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players, directed by National Black Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory and conducted by Chelsea Tipton.


“ACO’s 2021-22 season reflects a complex web of musical expression as we emerge from a year of lockdowns into a future that is uncertain yet defined by a determined, collective consciousness,” says ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel. “Sanctuary can reflect our common desire for safety and self-care, and The Gathering touches upon the yearning for community and healing.”

On Friday, March 25, 2022, ACO returns to Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall for Sanctuary, a concert that explores the places, company, and states of mind in which composers seek inviolable refuge, led by conductor Marin Alsop and featuring violin soloist Jennifer Koh. The program includes the New York premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Sanctuary, a concerto written for Koh. Bielawa’s Sanctuary is an extraordinary historical research project around this powerful word, documenting the rhetoric around founding American principles and every important struggle along the way. Anna Clyne’s Restless Oceans from 2018 is inspired by a poem by Audra Lorde; the musicians raise their voices in song and use their feet to stand united in a defiant work that embraces the power of women. Hannah Kendall’s alternately buoyant and serene Tuxedo: Vasco ‘de’ Gama takes its title from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s iconic collection of diagrammatic block pieces. With a nod to the traditional African American spiritual “Wade in the Water,” the work conjures both the majesty and elegance highlighted by the artist as well as Kendall’s own reflective take on the history of globalization and multiculturalism ushered in by the Portuguese explorer. Newly commissioned works by Dai Wei and Paula Matthusen complete this rich musical odyssey. Read more background about the program and composers >

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout on Saturday, May 7 at the Apollo is a sonic quest rooted in the African and African American ritual of the Ring Shout, co-presented by ACO and the Apollo and co-curated with National Black Theatre in partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players. Directed by National Black Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory and conducted by Chelsea Tipton with choirmaster Gregory Hopkins, the program features the New York premieres of Carlos Simon’s Amen! (orchestral version) and Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson, plus Courtney Bryan’s Sanctum. These works are in conversation with new commissions from Herb Alpert Award-winner Toshi Reagon and Tony Award-winner Jason Michael Webb created to honor the present need for a collective space of remembrance. The performance is anchored by a 70-member orchestra and a 60-voice choir composed of singers, professional and amateur, from multiple African American churches and choral ensembles in New York including Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, Broadway Inspirational Voices, Convent Avenue Baptist Church Choir, and Sing Harlem Choir. Read more background about the program and composers >

The Gathering collaboration includes an array of powerful community engagement activities at the Apollo leading up to The Gathering, with the intent of creating space for hope, healing, and the collective exhale:

  • On Sunday, January 9, the Apollo and WNYC, in collaboration with the March on Washington Film Festival, present Uptown Hall: MLK – Activism, Athletics, and the Arts, which will include in a preview performance from Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed performed by The Gathering Quartet (Manna KnJoi, soprano; Patrice Eaton, mezzo-soprano; Ronald Smith, tenor; Victor Chapman, baritone) led from the piano by music director Gregory Hopkins, among many other performances and panel discussions with esteemed guests. The event will be broadcast online on the Apollo Digital Stage and WNYC Facebook on January 17 at 11am and 7pm ET.

  • On Thursday, February 3, the Apollo, WQXR and ACO present Deep River: Black Currents in Classical Music at The Greene Space. Dr. Howard Watkins, renowned pianist and assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, curates a recital delving into the rich repertoire by Black American composers. It will feature internationally acclaimed soprano Karen Slack and baritone Kenneth Overton. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion about the over 100-year tradition of Blacks as creators, conductors, and patrons of classical music.

  • On Tuesday, March 8, the Apollo and CUNY School of Medicine present Healing, Liberation and Joy: A Conversation on Mental Health and the Arts. Thought leaders and creatives will advocate community healing through honest conversations about trauma, its effects, and how to transmute those feelings into opportunities for introspection, creation, and celebration. Audiences will learn how to get, keep, and spread joy in this conversation with panelists composed of mental health experts and artists.

  • On Sunday, April 24, the Apollo, ACO, and the National Black Theatre present Resistance and Healing: Engaging The Ring Shout. First practiced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and in the United States, a Shout (or Ring Shout) is an ecstatic, transcendent religious ritual in which worshipers move in a circle while stomping, shuffling, and clapping to open a space to collectively grieve, awaken joy as a source of liberation, and find love as a form of resistance. A panel of experts, thought leaders, and the creative team for The Gathering explore the historic origins and significance of the Ring Shout, and will then lead audiences through a communal ring shout.

  • On Thursday, May 5, Live Wire: The Social Justice Playlist will discuss how Black artists have been utilizing their musical abilities to bring Black communities together for decades in a myriad of ways. The Apollo will explore the timeline of political performance and discuss Black artists and their musical contributions beginning in the 19th century to the present day. As the conversation focuses on our current moment, a panel will consider what these performances and performers reveal about the systems within which Black entertainment must exist.

For a complete schedule of community engagement activities for The Gathering, visit: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloGatheringCommunity

ACO will hold its 30th EarShot New Music Readings (formerly Underwood New Music Readings) on June 16 and 17, 2022 in New York City, conducted by ACO Music Director Emeritus George Manahan. Through these Readings and EarShot partnerships with orchestras across the country, ACO is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of composers. In what has become a rite of passage for aspiring orchestral composers, eighteen composers from throughout the United States will be selected to receive a reading of a new work. As in the past, commission opportunities will be available to the participants. This season, ACO also partners with the Houston Symphony with mentor composers Derek Bermel, Jimmy Lopez, and Gabriela Ortiz (March 29-30, 2022), Oregon Symphony conducted by Raúl Gómez-Rojas (April 18-20, 2022), and Tucson Symphony with mentor composers Billy Childs, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, and Melinda Wagner (May 17-21, 2022) for EarShot Readings, in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA, and American Composers Forum. ACO Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, Guggenheim, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes. Read more about ACO’s EarShot Readings program >

In 2022, ACO opens its EarShot Professional Development Sessions to the public as a series of free, virtual programs. Presented in partnership with the American Composers Forum, last season’s virtual Professional Development Sessions reached over 1,100 participants since spring 2020. Orchestral Unions 101 (January 19) will cover the basics of orchestra unions and how their procedures affect composers, with ACO President and CEO Melissa Ngan and business management consultant WolfBrown’s Joe Kluger. In “Tricks of the Trade (January 26), ACO’s Artistic Director Derek Bermel leads a session on orchestration rooted in ideas explored in Steven Gerber's 2003 article for New Music Box. In Creating Meaningful Creative Relationships (February 9), ACO’s Melissa Ngan and New Music Gathering organizers Lainie Fefferman and Mary Kouyoumdjian discuss practical approaches to collaboration in new music and how to nurture those creative relationships. In Self-Publishing Nuts & Bolts (February 16), Ngan and composer Dan Visconti present a practical guide to self-publishing for composers. Ngan and ACO Director of Development Lyndsay Werking discuss topics related to fundraising tailored to small ensembles and other artist-led performing groups in Fundraising for Small Ensembles (March 2). ACO President & CEO Melissa Ngan discusses the basics of contracts and procedures for new orchestral commissions and commissioning consortia, focusing on the composer’s perspective, in Commissioning and Consortia Contracts 101 (March 9). This expanded series is made possible through a first-time, multi-year commitment from the Steven R. Gerber Trust in support of EarShot this season. Read more about ACO’s EarShot Professional Development Sessions and Enroll >

ACO’s Sonic Spark education programs will reach at least 500 students in New York City this season. Sonic Spark, led by ACO’s Education Director Kevin James, uses composition as a platform to unlock students’ creativity. Sonic Spark Lab is offered for middle and high school students. These courses teach students to engage with their creativity, harness their curiosity, and collaborate to complete original musical works. Four composer teaching artists teach the curriculum, including Jess Marlor, Lucy Yao, Trevor New, Madison Greenstone, Fabian Beltran. Sonic Spark Ensembles engage students with active music-making, whether through song, percussion, or other instruments. This school-based program is customized to enhance and magnify the educational and social objectives of the school and is taught by a dedicated team of accomplished professional Teaching Artists. Compose Yourself provides advanced curriculum both in-school and out-of-school. The program serves approximately 50 high school age musicians with direct instruction in music composition. Classes help young composers develop their creativity and learn professional standards in a supportive, hands-on environment; the program has a strong record of preparing students for the rigors of college and beyond. In Fall 2021, ACO’s high school composers focused on non-traditional notation, including graphic and text scores. On January 23, 2022, the students will have their work read by a professional ensemble in the next Compose Yourself Reading Session. Read more about ACO’s Sonic Spark education programs >

Now in its fifth year, ACO’s Commission Club invites individuals to follow the creative process from start to finish, from discussing the composer’s first creative spark, through the process of composing, and finally to the premiere. Membership fees support expenses related to composer commission fee, printing, rehearsal, and performance costs. In return, members are invited to exclusive events to interact with the artists. This season, the Club will support the new orchestration of Carlos Simon’s work Amen!, to be premiered at the Apollo in May 2022. Preview events, including a cocktail reception, short musical performances, and Q&A with the composer, are taking place over the course of the season. For the first time this season, ACO links its Commission Club to its national composer advancement programs, offering members the opportunity to attend EarShot readings and world premiere performances in cities nationwide. Read more about ACO’s Commission Club >

The next ACO Gala is on Tuesday, March 22 at Bryant Park Grill. The Gala launches the inaugural year of ACO’s Creative Catalyst Award, which recognizes artists and leaders who exemplify its core values of discovery, diversity, disruption. In 2022, the ACO Creative Catalyst Award Recipients are American conductor and violinist Marin Alsop; one of the most prominent African-American female executives in Silicon Valley and current executive-in-residence at Cornell Tech, Denise Young Smith; and Cuban-American fourteen-time Grammy winner Paquito D’Rivera. Read more about ACO’s 2022 Gala >

American Composers Orchestra – 2022 Spring Schedule

Apollo Uptown Hall: MLK - Activism, Athletics and the Arts

Sunday, January 9, 2022 at 3pm ET

Presented by the Apollo and WNYC, in collaboration with the March on Washington Film Festival

Apollo Mainstage | 253 W 125th St. | NYC

Monday, January 17 at 11am and 7pm ET – Apollo Digital Stage, WNYC Facebook – Virtual Broadcast

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloUptownHallMLK (Advance tickets available beginning on January 3; free and required for entry)

Gregory Hopkins, Music Director and Piano

THE GATHERING QUARTET

Manna KnJoi, Soprano

Patrice Eaton, Mezzo-soprano

Ronald Smith, Tenor

Victor Chapman, Baritone

JOEL THOMPSON: Diallo from Seven Last Words of the Unarmed

Professional Development Session: Orchestra Unions 101

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 4pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevOrchUnions

Compose Yourself Reading Session

Sunday, January 23, 2022 at 2pm ET

Location TBD

Professional Development Session: Steven Gerber’s “Tricks of the Trade”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 3pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevGerbersTricksTrade

Deep River: Black Currents in Classical Music Thursday, February 3, 2022 at 7pm ET

Presented by the Apollo, WQXR, and American Composers Orchestra A community engagement activity of The Gathering

Broadcast Live on WQXR from The Greene Space | 44 Charlton St. | NYC

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloDeepRiver (Free with RSVP)

Howard Watkins, piano

Karen Slack, soprano

Kenneth Overton, baritone

Professional Development Session: Creating Meaningful Creative Relationships, featuring New Music Gathering

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 3pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevCreativeRelationships

Professional Development Session: Self-Publishing Nuts & Bolts

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at 3pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevSelfPublishing

Professional Development Session: Fundraising for Small Ensembles

Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 3pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevFundraising

Healing, Liberation and Joy: A Conversation on Mental Health and the Arts

Tuesday, March 8, 2023 at 7pm ET

Presented by the Apollo and CUNY School of Medicine

A community engagement program of The Gathering

Apollo Soundstage | 253 W 125th St. | NYC

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloHealingLiberationJoy

Professional Development Session: Commissioning and Consortia Contracts 101

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 3pm ET

Zoom Webinar

Registration: https://bit.ly/ACOProfDevContracts

ACO 2022 Gala

Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at 6pm ET

Bryant Park Grill | 25 West 40th St. | NYC

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACO2022Gala Sanctuary Friday, March 25, 2022 at 7:30pm ET Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall | 57th St. & 7th Ave. | NYC Marin Alsop, Conductor Jennifer Koh, Violin Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACO2022Sanctuary ANNA CLYNE: Restless Oceans (2018) HANNAH KENDALL: Tuxedo: Vasco 'de' Gama (2020) DAI WEI: New Work (ACO Commission, World Premiere) PAULA MATTHUSEN: New Work (ACO Commission, World Premiere) LISA BIELAWA: Sanctuary (Co-commissioned by ACO, New York Premiere)

Houston Symphony EarShot New Music Readings

Tuesday, March 29 – Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Houston, TX

Mentor Composers: Derek Bermel, Jimmy Lopez, Gabriela Ortiz

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOEarShotHouston

JOSÉ G. MARTÍNEZ R.: En El Otro Lado/On the Other Side

PATRICIA MARTÍNEZ: PHOSPHORUS

MARCO-ADRIÁN RAMOS RODRÍGUEZ: Rehén de tus labios, o Escena de telenovela

DIANA M. RODRIGUEZ AGUILAR: Mudai

Oregon Symphony EarShot New Music Readings

Monday, April 18 – Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Portland, OR

Raúl Gómez-Rojas, conductor

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOEarShotOregon

Resistance and Healing: Engaging The Ring Shout Sunday, April 24, 2022 at 3pm ET

Presented by the Apollo, the American Composers Orchestra, and the National Black Theatre A community engagement activity of The Gathering Apollo Soundstage | 253 W 125th St. | NYC

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloResistanceHealing (Free with RSVP)

Live Wire: The Sound of Social Justice

Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 6:30pm ET

Presented by the Apollo’s Education Department

A community engagement program of The Gathering

Apollo Soundstage | 253 W 125th St. | NYC Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloLiveWire

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 8pm Co-presented by the American Composers Orchestra and the Apollo Theater Co-curated with National Black Theatre In partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players Creative concept and direction by Jonathan McCrory Chelsea Tipton, conductor Gregory Hopkins, choirmaster Featuring: American Composers Orchestra with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players, Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, Broadway Inspirational Voices, Convent Avenue Baptist Church Choir and Sing Harlem Choir Apollo Mainstage | 253 W 125th St. | NYC Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOApolloTheGathering JOEL THOMPSON: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (New York Premiere) JASON MICHAEL WEBB: New Commission (World Premiere)  COURTNEY BRYAN: Sanctum for orchestra and recorded sound TOSHI REAGON: New Commission (World Premiere) CARLOS SIMON: Amen! (New York Premiere of orchestral version)

Tucson Symphony EarShot New Music Readings

Tuesday May 17 – Saturday, May 21, 2022

Tucson, AZ

Mentor Composers: Billy Childs, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, Melinda Wagner

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOEarShotTucson

ACO EarShot New Music Readings & Commission

Thursday, June 16 – Friday, June 17, 2022

Venue TBD | NYC

George Manahan, Music Director & Conductor

Tickets & Information: https://bit.ly/ACOEarShotNYC

About American Composers Orchestra

Founded in 1977, 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, middle school through college composer 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, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age 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, InstantEncore, Amazon, Spotify, and Apple Music.

ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual New Music Readings in New York City, which has served over 150 composers since its inception in 1991, and EarShot Readings, which since 2008 have been offered in partnership with orchestras across the country in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum. These Readings provide the rare opportunity for emerging composers to hear their original works played by a professional orchestra; the residencies, performances and composer-development programs speak directly to the orchestras’ communities and leverage local resources. Annually, ACO-produced Readings support 15-20 emerging composers, who receive mentorship and a professional orchestra reading and recording of their work. ACO’s New Music Readings in New York include a multi-performance commission awarded to the most promising participant through the Composing a New Orchestra Audience platform. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.

Since 1999, ACO has brought composers and musical teaching artists into New York City public schools through Sonic Spark (formerly known as Music Factory). Sonic Spark aims to leverage composition as a platform for creativity, and creativity as a platform for achievement in all areas of student’s life. 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 and college composers participate in hands-on composition classes, culminating in a performance of student compositions played by ACO’s professional musicians.

ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council.

More information about American Composers Orchestra and resources about American orchestral composers is available online at www.americancomposers.org.

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