New Music USA Announces Composer Awardees for Ravinia’s 2024 Breaking Barriers Festival

Written By

Kate Dreyfuss

For the second consecutive year, New Music USA has partnered with Highland Park, IL’s Ravinia and the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship to offer an orchestral reading opportunity for three women, non-binary, and transgender composers at the 2024 Breaking Barriers Festival. The festival will take place Wednesday, July 24 – Saturday, July 27 and will focus on women leaders in music and science.

New Music USA is proud to announce the three composer awardees whose works will be played at the festival on Saturday, July 27 as part of a collaborative workshop entitled “Inside the Composers and Conductors Studios.” The awardees were chosen through a call for scores opportunity that was open to women, non-binary, and transgender composers from across the entire Midwest region, following last year’s focus on the greater Chicago area. 

Congratulations to this year’s awardees!

Soomin Kim (she/her) of St. Paul, MN
Work title: star / ghost / mouth / sea

Autumn Maria Reed (she/her) of Delafield, WI
Work title: ROBIN’S EYE VIEW

Huan Sun (she/her) of Bloomington, IN
Work title: Stem

Genevieve Knoebel (she/her) of Urbana, IL received an honorable mention for her work Ophis and will also attend the festival.

During the workshop, Kim, Reed, and Sun will collaborate with three conductors from the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship to bring their works to life. Under the direction of Ravinia Chief Conductor Marin Alsop and Augusta Read Thomas with musicians from the Chicago Philharmonic, the workshop will give each composer the opportunity to receive guidance and support as they hear their piece performed.

The weekend’s activities will also include a brunch roundtable on July 27 co-produced by New Music USA with Marin Alsop, Amanda Lee Falkenberg, Stacy Garrop, Augusta Read Thomas, Vanessa Reed, the three composer awardees, and leading space specialists, plus mentorship and networking opportunities for the awardees. Funding for this partnership is provided in part from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music and legacy contributions to New Music USA’s organization endowment.

“We at New Music USA are delighted to partner with Marin Alsop and Ravinia’s Breaking Barriers Festival for the second consecutive year to facilitate new opportunities for Midwest-based composers, in collaboration with the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. Supporting women, non-binary, transgender, and other marginalized music creators is fundamental to New Music USA’s mission of nurturing a vibrant and inclusive new music community. Facilitating meaningful peer mentorship and connections is also central to many of our initiatives. I look forward to witnessing the outcome of this collaboration which we’ve opened up to encompass composers from the entire Midwest region following our focus on the greater Chicago area last year,” President and CEO of New Music USA Vanessa Reed said.

Read the full festival schedule details here.

More About the Composer Awardees and Their Pieces:

Soomin Kimstar / ghost / mouth / sea

In the beginning of her book of poetry called Soft Science, author Franny Choi lists the four keywords—star, ghost, mouth, and sea—that she uses repeatedly throughout the poems in which she explores the themes of identity, technology, gender, and violence, among many. These keywords are used not literally, but metaphorically;  “star,” for example, stands for “bright, ancient wound I follow home”; “sea” means “cold ancestor; bloodless womb.

star / ghost / mouth / sea is a set of four miniatures for orchestra that explore these four metaphors. The miniatures are not literal translations, but my interpretation of Franny’s words. Her poems not only inspired me but comforted me in times when I struggled to make sense of what it means to look like me, to sound like me, and to be me in this world, in this country.

-Soomin Kim

“I am thrilled to be a part of this year’s Breaking Barriers Festival!” adds Kim. “I look forward to working with exceptional artists such as Marin Alsop and Augusta Read Thomas.”

Composer and singer Soomin Kim enjoys discovering herself and the world deeper through music. Soomin is a three-time winner of the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. In 2024, she won the University of Florida Call for Scores by Women Composers with her orchestral work, star / ghost / mouth / sea. In 2023, she was the guest artist at the annual Art Festival at NLCS Jeju in Seogwipo, South Korea. In 2022, her orchestration of Helen Hagan’s Piano Concerto in C minor was premiered by pianist and musicologist Samantha Ege and the Yale Philharmonia. Her work has been featured by Sydney Festival, WQXR, Aspen Music Festival, Norfolk New Music Workshop, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, among many others. 

Autumn Maria ReedROBIN’S EYE VIEW

ROBIN’S EYE VIEW, a pun on “robin’s egg blue,” draws inspiration from the magnificent migration of a small robin, a journey encompassing a variety of landscapes and climates. What began as a brief composition, initially sparked by the visual art of a canyon, has evolved into this symphonic work.

-Autumn Maria Reed

“It is an honor to be selected for and to participate in this program,” shares Reed.

Autumn Maria Reed is a Wisconsin-based composer and Berklee alumna. Her composition, “RESILIENCE” for string orchestra, was debuted by Brazil’s Orquestra Sinfônica Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro (OSTNCS) with Maestro Cláudio Cohen in 2023. She plays the string bass with Dayvin Hallmon’s The Black String Triage Ensemble, performing trauma and violence victims. A PBS-distrusted documentary short, “Black Strings (2023)”, was produced by filmmakers Marquise Mays and RJ Smith. She advocates ending the stigma of mental illness. Furthermore, she also values spending time with her family.

Huan Sun – Stem

Rooted in the exploration of sonic landscapes, my composition draws inspiration from the imagery of a “stem,” symbolizing both strength and depth. Through my music, I endeavor to paint a rich tapestry of sound, capturing the intricate dynamics of attack, sustain, release, and the profound beauty found in moments of silence. The development of the music unfolds as a powerful force, embodying bursts of creativity and unexpected revelations within musical motifs. Amidst the robust themes, intricate textures intertwine with the backdrop, creating a compelling narrative. Moments of reflective silence punctuate the composition, allowing for contemplation and deeper emotional resonance. Together, these elements form a cohesive journey through the sonic landscape, inviting listeners to explore and experience its depths. 

-Huan Sun

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have been chosen as one of the three composers to participate in the Breaking Barriers Festival,” says Sun. “As a Chinese-born composer, it’s incredibly important to me to showcase the multicultural aspects of my music to a wider audience. This opportunity allows me to do just that. ”

She continues, “As an early-stage composer, having my orchestral piece workshopped with a professional orchestra and receiving feedback from established composers is an invaluable experience. It not only helps me grow as an artist but also provides me with insights that will shape my future compositions. I’m deeply grateful to New Music USA and the Ravinia Festival for believing in me and providing this platform for emerging composers like myself. ”

Huan Sun is a Chinese contemporary music composer, drawing inspirations from installations and fine arts to explore the boundaries of diverse cultures. Notable achievements include being a finalist for the 2024 SEAMUS/ASCAP Award, a finalist in BMP’s “Next Generation” program, and winning first prize in “The 9th Yanhuang Composition Competition.” She has been featured as a composer at esteemed festivals such as the SEAMUS National Conference and IRCAM’s CIEE Summer Contemporary Music Creation + Critique Program. Huan Sun has received commissions from institutions like the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music and IU Percussion. She holds a BM from the Central Conservatory of Music, a MM from the Mannes School of Music, and is pursuing a doctoral degree at Indiana University Bloomington.

Genevieve Knoebel (honorable mention) – Ophis 

Two years ago, I found myself obsessed with a short series of notes. It could hardly call itself a melody, but yet I thought of it daily, and even dreamt of it. I knew I had to explore it and I was eventually led to four familiar voices – the string quartet. 

Ophis is the finale of a two movement work, Ouroboros for String Quartet – which is both near to my heart and my most intimate work yet. My lived experiences influenced a great deal of this work and the melody of obsession is its cornerstone (it can be heard in the opening bars, played by bassoon and cello). 

Ophis, the serpent, weaves throughout the score in chaos, calm, and triumph. Its winding melodies bind together a rapidly changing emotional landscape. The serpent is a symbol of the eternal and universal cycle of destruction and rebirth. The cycle is (depicted with) sharp accents in the brass, breaking into eerie melodies stemming from the depths of the double bass up to the english horn. Ferocious strings and winds carry us to the breaking point of rebirth- sung at first by two single voices, a violin and viola.

-Genevieve Knoebel

“My heart jumped at the news that I was invited to participate in the Breaking Barriers festival this year,”  adds Knoebel. “As a woman in music and a Chicagoland native, I’m thrilled to be involved with a program that uplifts voices like my own. I look forward to meeting new faces and forging new professional connections this summer at Ravinia.”

Genevieve Knoebel is a young American composer of melody-driven, compelling works that fuse traditional classical music and contemporary technological innovation. Utilizing effects pedals such as harmony, delay, and looper, she creates intricate, complex soundscapes in her compositions. Genevieve’s experience as an orchestral, soloist, and chamber musician, as well as her appearances in Bluegrass, Hip-Hop and various World and Folk music groups, has lent a universal appeal to her music. A graduate of the University of Illinois in Music Education, Genevieve continues to play a leading role in that institution’s electric strings program, mentoring and encouraging the next generation of performers and creators in this evolving medium.

For more information on New Music USA’s partnership with the 2024 Breaking Barriers festival, click here. 

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