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Announcing Voters' Broadcast - a transformative Election Year musical work by Lisa Bielawa

Commissioned as part of the Democracy & Debate theme-semester by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and developed in partnership with Kaufman Music Center and Brooklyn Public Library in New York

To be premiered in three virtual events online on September 30, October 14, and October 28, and one day of outdoor performances in New York on October 24, 2020

Lisa Bielawa’s Voters’ Broadcast is a broadly participatory musical performance for an unlimited number of voices and instruments made up of choral and instrumental ensembles. The work is directed, conceived and composed by Rome Prize and American Academy of Arts & Letters Award-winning composer Lisa Bielawa, with text excerpted from celebrated artist Sheryl Oring’s I Wish to Say.

The new work will be premiered in three virtual events hosted by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Kaufman Music Center in New York on September 30, October 14, and October 28, and one day of outdoor performances presented by Kaufman Music Center and Brooklyn Public Library at BPL’s Central Library on Grand Army Plaza on October 24 at 11am, 12:30pm, and 2pm, as part of the Library’s crowd-sourced 28th Amendment Project. All events are free and open to the public. Updates will be posted at

Lisa Bielawa’s mission with Voters’ Broadcast is to stimulate voter engagement, political awareness, and community participation in challenging lockdown conditions, through the act of giving voice to the concerns of fellow citizens, during the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election. 

She says, “The project is poised to energize and inspire people in a unique way, inciting them to think, to vote, to consider their relationships to their political leaders and to each other. It is designed to deliver equal parts beauty and mobilization. In German when one votes, one ‘gives one’s voice’ (‘I voted’ = ‘Ich habe gestimmt’ [I gave my voice]). Voters’ Broadcast is dedicated to all of those who give their voices, through singing and by voting.”

Bielawa’s Voters’ Broadcast is commissioned as part of the Democracy & Debate theme-semester by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with support from its School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and developed in partnership with Kaufman Music Center in New York, where Bielawa is a 2020 Artist in Residence. The socially distanced live performance on October 24 will be hosted by Brooklyn Public Library and performed by Kaufman Music Center students. Voters’ Broadcast is providing voting information via HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy.

Multiple University of Michigan, Kaufman Music Center, and Wayne State University ensembles will participate in the 15-minute musical composition. The October 24 live presentations at BPL’s Central Library will feature vocalists and instrumentalists from Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School performing in socially distanced groups. Special Music School is a unique public/private partnership between Kaufman Music Center and the New York City Department of Education and is New York City’s only K-12 public school that teaches music as a core subject during the regular school day.

The text for Voters’ Broadcast is excerpted from Sheryl Oring’s ongoing project I Wish to Say, which uses vintage typewriters for social change. I Wish to Say consists of performances in which Oring and a pool of typists work on vintage manual typewriters and invite the public to dictate postcards to the U.S. President. In the current circumstances, Oring and the typists are holding Zoom sessions, during which participants dictate their messages to the next President. Launched in 2004, the project has garnered nearly 4,000 postcards to President Bush, President Obama, and President Trump, all of which have been mailed to the White House on behalf of the participant as part of the performance. 

Bielawa’s music for Voters’ Broadcast is composed and constructed in ways that makes it perfect for broad participation by musicians who are isolated and not able to gather together to make music. The piece will unfold in sections based on the nature of the postcards that Bielawa selects to include in the work: Salutations; Petitions (statements starting with the word “Please”); Exhortations (requests and demands without the word “Please”); Questions; and others. It does not focus on the qualities or identities of the Presidents and candidates addressed, but on the feelings and views of American people addressing their elected leaders. 

​Objectives of Voters’ Broadcast:

  • To “broadcast” the thoughts, hopes, fears, passions, petitions, and questions of a wide spectrum of Americans, raising awareness of the diversity of voices – both figuratively and literally – that make up our society.

  • To bring a transformative artistic experience to online audiences, opening a space for heightened awareness, sensitivity and compassion at a vulnerable time in our country.

  • To stimulate voter engagement leading up to the 2020 elections.

  • To serve as an example for ways to bring music-making communities into civic life in ways that have great social and artistic impact.

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