Ed Harsh, President and CEO of New Music USA, Stepping Down After Eleven Years to Begin Book Project

New York, May 31, 2018 – The Board of Directors for New Music USA announces today that President and CEO Ed Harsh will step down this fall to take on an independent book project while working concurrently as a senior staff member of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. He will continue in his role… Read more »

Written By

Megan Ihnen

New York, May 31, 2018 – The Board of Directors for New Music USA announces today that President and CEO Ed Harsh will step down this fall to take on an independent book project while working concurrently as a senior staff member of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. He will continue in his role at New Music USA through the end of September 2018. A national search will begin immediately to name a successor.

Ed Harsh served as president of Meet The Composer from August 2007. At the point of that organization’s merger with the American Music Center in November 2011, he took on the role of president and CEO of the newly created New Music USA.

Frederick Peters, chair of New Music USA’s board, has released the following statement regarding the announcement: “Ed Harsh has provided exemplary leadership to New Music USA, and Meet The Composer before that, for over a decade. Behind his self-effacing demeanor lies a brilliant strategic and musical mind which has financially stabilized our organization, moved many of our primary programs from physical into virtual space, and created new philanthropic opportunities for both our individual and foundation stakeholders. We will deeply miss Ed’s passionate advocacy as he goes on to his next act as an author, but we know he will do great things wherever he goes.”

Four years after Ed Harsh assumed his leadership role, Meet The Composer and the American Music Center merged productively and seamlessly to become New Music USA. While honoring the legacies of both organizations, the refreshed vision Harsh brought to New Music USA resulted in the dynamic reinvention of its music service organization model, to emphasize advocacy of new music through virtual means.

In 2012-13, New Music USA rethought the traditional grantmaking process by combining its legacy grant programs and lowering barriers to entry. It integrated the application and awards process into a public-facing online platform that supports artists in promoting their work. These developments led to Harsh being named one of Musical America’s Top 30 “Innovator” Professionals in 2016. Through project grants, New Music USA has awarded $2,866,978 to 558 projects since the program’s launch in 2013.

New Music USA has made a major commitment to advocacy through the virtual world. In 2017, New Music USA completed integration of all its new media programs into a single online platform, including NewMusicBox, the American Music Center’s ground-breaking online magazine, and Counterstream Radio. Empowering artists to speak in their own voices, NewMusicBox has, since the creation of New Music USA, published 137 artist profiles and 1,932 articles. More than 94,000 hours of new music have been streamed through Counterstream Radio.

In addition to its core project grants program, New Music USA offers specific targeted funding programs in support of the new music field. Through Music Alive, a program in partnership with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA has developed new models for composers in residence with orchestras small and large around the country. During Harsh’s tenure, Music Alive has supported 88 residencies ranging from several weeks to several years in length. New Music USA has also continued and built upon Meet The Composer’s tradition of committed support for small new music ensembles through the Cary Small Ensembles program and, more recently, the New York City New Music Impact Fund.

A central through-line of Harsh’s tenure has been the active fostering of individual patron support for creative new music projects. He took on and grew Meet The Composer’s “New Music New Donors” initiative and oversaw the creation of the Meet The Composer Studio, an early online project to bring artists and patrons together. Since the merger, New Music USA’s New Music Connect Network program has led the way in this effort. All told, these initiatives have raised more than one million dollars to date for the direct support of artists’ work.

New Music USA has been a proactive member of national and international networks. Harsh has served on the boards of the Performing Arts Alliance (including on the executive committee as secretary) and the International Association of Music Information Centres (as both vice president and secretary). During his tenure, New Music USA also joined the International Society for Contemporary Music as a Full Associate Member, bringing American works to an international stage through ISCM’s annual World New Music Days.

Harsh was instrumental in doubling Meet The Composer’s endowment from a corpus of approximately $3.5 million in 2007 to just under $7 million at the time of the merger. Combined with the American Music Center’s endowment funds, New Music USA’s endowment corpus now totals $15.5 million. During Harsh’s tenure, Meet The Composer and New Music USA have distributed a total of $10.9 million to artists and projects.

Today, New Music USA serves creative artists all across the United States with a range of flexible and strategic programs that reflect and address the 21st-century cultural environment. This programmatic approach is informed by strong core values and is structured around an organization with an outstanding staff and solid financials. With these factors in place, New Music USA as an organization is well-positioned for a new leader to build on its array of past achievements.

Ed Harsh expresses characteristic enthusiasm and optimism regarding his tenure and the future of the organization: “Leading New Music USA has truly been one of the peak experiences of my life, and I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together as a team. As an institution, even as an idea, the organization has so much potential and so many ways in which it can move forward and grow in a rapidly changing world.”