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New Music USA's Amplifying Voices Announces First of Nine New Co-Commissioned Works

New Music USA's Amplifying Voices Announces First of Nine New

Co-Commissioned Works from Program to be Premiered this Spring

New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices Program Fosters Collaboration Toward Racial and Gender Equity in New Orchestral Music Over 30 Orchestras will Perform New Works Commissioned from Women and BIPOC Composers between 2022-2025 Co-Commissioned Composers are Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Brian Raphael Nabors, Nina Shekhar, Tyshawn Sorey, and Shelley Washington

New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, which fosters collaboration toward racial and gender equity in new orchestral music, has over thirty orchestras from across the United States signed up to premiere new works co-commissioned from nine of today’s leading composers: Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Brian Raphael Nabors, Nina Shekhar, Tyshawn Sorey, and Shelley Washington. Each of the composer’s pieces will be performed by a minimum of four orchestras. The first premieres of these new works begin this spring. On April 9 and 10, 2022, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Akiko Fujimoto will premiere Tania León’s new work Pasajes (“Passages”) in Little Rock, Arkansas. On May 7, 2022, Juan Pablo Contreras’ piece MeChicano will be premiered by the Las Vegas Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director Donato Cabrera. On July 10, 2022, Shelley Washington’s new work Both will be premiered by the Aspen Music Festival and School, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. Tyshawn Sorey’s new piece, a saxophone concerto for Timothy McAllister, will be premiered on August 20, 2022 by the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra led by Elena Schwarz, in Lucerne, Switzerland. The new orchestral works reflect the composers’ life experiences: Tania León's Pasajes recalls scenes from her life growing up, including a song reminiscent of the melodies of Latin American cultures, rhythms indicating the pulse of Caribbean culture, and the dances of carnaval. Of his new piece, Juan Pablo Contreras says, "MeChicano (a combination of Mexican and Chicano) – is the first piece that I composed as a Mexican-American composer, having finally become a U.S. citizen after living here for the past 15 years. The work is a celebration of Mexican-American communities that have flourished in the U.S., particularly honoring those in Las Vegas, Fresno, Tucson, Louisiana, Richmond, and Walnut Creek, cities whose orchestras co-commissioned MeChicano." Amplifying Voices fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. This long-term program aims to increase the support and promotion of composers who have been historically marginalized, create space for their contributions to artistic-planning at major national orchestras, and make major strides toward transforming the classical canon for future generations. In addition to facilitating co-commissions, Amplifying Voices also asks orchestras for a commitment to sharing existing repertoire by BIPOC composers. Alongside the co-commissioning program, participating orchestras, composers and industry guests are coming together through the Amplifying Voices Learning Lab. Anticipated focal points of these regular conversations include best approaches to co-commissioning, centering existent repertoire by BIPOC composers, and enabling audiences around the country to discover the most exciting music of our time. Amplifying Voices is made possible by funding from the Sorel Organization and The Sphinx Organization, which kickstarted this initiative with a generous contribution from the Sphinx Venture Fund in 2019. Additional funding is provided by ASCAP, Wise Music and The Wise Family Charitable Foundation, and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation; Toulmin is providing support for an additional two Amplifying Voices consortia that will be established by the end of April 2022.

The orchestras participating across the country include:

  • Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioning Tania León, with co-commissioners the Auburn Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic, and National Symphony Orchestra

  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival commissioning Tyshawn Sorey, with additional co-commissioners to join

  • Berkeley Symphony commissioning Brian Raphael Nabors, with co-commissioners Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, ROCO, and Seattle Symphony

  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra commissioning Jessie Montgomery (Sorel Fellow) with co-commissioners the Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, and Seattle Symphony

  • Las Vegas Philharmonic commissioning Juan Pablo Contreras, with co-commissioners California Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Tucson Symphony, and Richmond Symphony

  • Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioning Shelley Washington, with co-commissioners Aspen Music Festival and School, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Kansas City Symphony

  • Oregon Symphony commissioning Vijay Iyer, with co-commissioners Boise Philharmonic, Fresno Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Las Vegas Philharmonic, and London Philharmonic

  • The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioning Valerie Coleman, with co-commissioners the New World Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and San Diego Symphony Orchestra

  • YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) commissioning Nina Shekhar (Sorel Fellow), with additional co-commissioners to join

Amplifying Voices aims to make major strides in diversifying orchestral repertoire. 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. For the 2021-2022 season, which includes the first set of Amplifying Voices premieres, that number is 83%. Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, says, “The orchestras participating in Amplifying Voices are programming new music by some of the most talented composers in the US while recognizing that our musical canon will only evolve if these pieces are played more than once. I’m so pleased that this program gives more audiences across the country a chance to discover the power of these composers’ work as we all strive towards a more open and equitable future for classical music.” The Amplifying Voices program continues New Music USA’s legacy of connecting living composers and orchestras in the US to create new works. From 2011-2019, New Music USA ran the Music Alive Composer in Residence program with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This built on the work of one of New Music USA’s founding organizations, Meet The Composer (MTC), which launched its breakthrough Composer In Residence program in 1982. In its 20-year span, Music Alive, which was run in partnership with the League of American Orchestras, supported 116 composers, 79 orchestras, and 121 distinct residencies. For more information, visit the Amplifying Voices program page.

About the Composers

Described as one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by critic Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, Valerie Coleman is among the world's most played composers living today. Whether it be live or via radio, her compositions are easily recognizable for their inspired style and can be heard throughout venues, institutions and competitions globally. The Boston Globe describes Coleman as having a “talent for delineating form and emotion with shifts between ingeniously varied instrumental combinations” and The New York Times observes her compositions as “skillfully wrought, buoyant music.” This is Coleman’s second work for The Philadelphia Orchestra – her piece Umoja was premiered last September. With works that range from flute sonatas that recount the stories of trafficked humans during Middle Passage and orchestral and chamber works based on nomadic Roma tribes, to scherzos about moonshine in the Mississippi Delta region and motifs based from Morse Code, her body of works has been highly regarded as a deeply relevant contribution to modern music. Coleman has received awards and/or honors from the National Flute Association, The Herb Alpert Awards, MAPFUND, ASCAP Concert Music Awards, NARAS, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund, Artists International, Wombwell Kentucky Award, and Michelle E. Sahm Memorial Award, to name a few. Juan Pablo Contreras, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, is a Latin GRAMMY®-nominated composer and Universal Music recording artist who combines Western classical and Mexican folk music in a single soundscape. His works have been commissioned and performed by orchestras throughout the Americas including National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra. Winner of the BMI William Schuman Prize, Presser Music Award, and the Young Artist Fellowship of Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and the Arts, Contreras holds composition degrees from California Institute of the Art, Manhattan School of Music, and is pursuing his DMA at University of Southern California. Described by The New York Times as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway,” Vijay Iyer has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, shape-shifting presence in twenty-first-century music. A composer and pianist active across multiple musical communities, Iyer has created a consistently innovative, emotionally resonant body of work over the last twenty-five years, earning him a place as one of the leading music-makers of his generation. He received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a United States Artist Fellowship, a Grammy nomination, the Alpert Award in the Arts, and two German “Echo” awards, and was voted Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Artist of the Year four times in the last decade. He has been praised by Pitchfork as "one of the best in the world at what he does," by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” A longtime New Yorker, Iyer lives in central Harlem with his wife and daughter. He teaches at Harvard University in the Department of Music and the Department of African and African American Studies. He is a Steinway artist. Born in Havana, Cuba, composer and conductor Tania León settled in New York in 1967. She has played important roles at Dance Theater of Harlem, Brooklyn Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic (as New Music Advisor). León is the founder and artistic director of Composers Now. Notable commissions include works for the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. León’s honors include induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters; recognition from the Fromm, Koussevitzky, and Guggenheim Foundations; ASCAP’s Victor Herbert Award; and a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship. Her works have received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. In May 2021, she began a three-year appointment as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post). Some recent highlights from her growing body of work include Five Freedom Songs, a song cycle conceived with and written for Soprano Julia Bullock, for Sun Valley and Grand Teton Music Festivals, San Francisco and Kansas City Symphonies, Boston and New Haven Symphony Orchestras, and the Virginia Arts Festival; I was waiting for the echo of a better day, a site-specific collaboration with Bard SummerScape Festival and Pam Tanowitz Dance; Shift, Change, Turn (2019) commissioned by the Orpheus and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, Coincident Dances (2018) for the Chicago Sinfonietta, and Banner (2014)—written to mark the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner”—for The Sphinx Organization and the Joyce Foundation, which had its UK premiere at the BBC Proms on 7 August 2021. Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African American and Latinx string players and has served as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi. Jessie holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a PhD Candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University. She is Professor of violin and composition at The New School. Brian Raphael Nabors, originally of Birmingham, AL, is a composer of emotionally enriching music that tells exciting narratives with its vibrant themes and colorful harmonic language. Nabors draws from combinations of Jazz Funk, R&B, and Gospel. His music has been performed by the Cincinnati, Atlanta, Nashville, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, as well as ROCO. Nabors is also a 2020 Fulbright scholarship recipient to Sydney, Australia, studying with composer Carl Vine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He earned both a Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degree in Composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Nina Shekhar (b. 1995) is a composer who explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works. Described as “tart and compelling” (New York Times), “vivid” (Washington Post), and “surprises and delights aplenty” (LA Times), her music has been performed by leading artists including the LA Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, JACK Quartet, ETHEL, New York Youth Symphony, The Crossing, and Alarm Will Sound. Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, and Library of Congress. Current projects include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic (with soloists Nathalie Joachim and Pamela Z), Minnesota Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), and her Hollywood Bowl debut with the LA Philharmonic. YCA represents composer Nina Shekhar for worldwide engagements. Newark-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. The Wall Street Journal notes Sorey is, “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas.” The New Yorker recently noted that he is “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.” Sorey has received support from The Jerome Foundation, The Shifting Foundation, Van Lier Fellowship, and was named a 2017 MacArthur fellow and a 2018 United States Artists Fellow. He received a B.Music in Jazz Studies and Performance from William Paterson University, an M.A. in Music Composition from Wesleyan University, and a D.M.A. in Music Composition from Columbia University. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music and African American Studies at Wesleyan University. Shelley Washington is a composer, performer, collaborator, and educator who writes music that draws elements from jazz, rock, American folk and other musical spaces. She also performs as a saxophonist and vocalist, and doubles on flute, piccolo, and clarinet. She is a founding member of the composer collective Kinds of Kings. Her music explores emotions and intentions, and it uses intricate rhythms with grooves, melody, and harmony. It sometimes confronts social injustices. Washington has a B.A. in music and an M.A. in education from Truman State University, a Master of Music in composition from NYU, and is currently working on a PhD in composition at Princeton. About New Music USA New Music USA supports the sounds of tomorrow by nurturing the creation, performance, and appreciation of new music for adventurous listeners around the world. We empower and connect US-based music makers, organizations, and audiences by providing funding, fostering new connections, deepening knowledge, and working as an advocate for the field. New Music USA works in collaboration with its community in response to pressing needs and to amplify the diverse voices of music creators. New Music USA envisions a thriving and equitable ecosystem for new music. Amplifying Voices is the next step in New Music USA’s 20 years of support for the orchestra sector in the US. It builds on New Music USA’s Music Alive Composer residency program, which was supported by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and run in partnership with the League of Orchestras. The program also continues New Music USA’s work to create racial and gender equity in the music industry, alongside programs such as Next Jazz Legacy and Reel Change: The Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring.

Photo top row, L-R: Shelley Washington; Vijay Iyer; Valerie Coleman; Tania León; middle row: Juan Pablo Contreras; bottom row: Jessie Montgomery; Tyshawn Sorey; Nina Shekhar; Brian Raphael Nabors.

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