Category: Headlines

2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards Announced

A collage of photos of 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award Winners

ASCAP Foundation President Paul Williams has announced the recipients of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, which are eligible to young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30. Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program grants cash prizes to composers whose works are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. Following his death in 1996, the Young Composer program was renamed to honor the memory of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould, who served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994, to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. (A child prodigy himself, Gould’s first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age.) In addition to the Norworth Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund also provides financing for the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. This year’s Morton Gould Young Composer Awards composers/judges were Lisa Bielawa, Patrick Grant, Joseph Jones, Shuying Li, Tamar Muskal, Jorge Sosa, and Kathleen Tagg.

Photos of each of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Award Winners and honorable mentions.

The 2023 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients are listed below with their place of birth and current residence followed by the title of their award-winning composition, its instrumentation, and duration. Recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence:

Liam Cummins (b. 2004 in Mansfield, OH; currently in New York, NY): Essay for orchestra [14′];

Sophia Kunxu Dou (currently in NY): Dance of Unconscious Particles for string quartet [4′];

Grace Ann Lee (b. 1996 in Seoul, South Korea; currently in Ann Arbor, MI): Emerald Night Sky for orchestra [10′]:

Jacky Jiaqi Liu (b. 2002 in Beijing, China; currently in New York, NY): Crossing for orchestra [10’30”];

Reid Merzbacher (b. 1998 in Cambridge, MA; currently in Brooklyn, NY); We’ve Made It This Far for 2 pianos and two percussion [15’45”];

Marc Migó (b. 1993 in Barcelona, Spain; currently in New York, NY): Concerto Grosso No. 1 “The Seance” for baroque flute, two violins, viola, cello, violone and harpsichord [9′];

Yash Pazhianur a.k.a. Yash Paz (b. 2003 in Princeton, NJ; currently in New York, NY); On the Threshold of Inevitable Madness for solo piano [15′];

Alyssa Regent (b. 1995 in Guadeloupe; currently in New York, NY): Un Coin de Ciel Brulait (Burnt a Corner of the Sky) for string quartet [16′];

Dorian Tabb (b. 2010, currently in NY): Hymn For a Forgotten People for string quartet [6’25”];

Ziyi Tao (b. 2002 in Beijing, China; currently in Forest Hills, NY): ALL for orchestra [15′];

Alex Tedrow (b. 1999 in Shoals, IN; currently in Washington, DC): Jeat for alto saxophone duo with electronics [9′];

Isabelle Tseng (currently in Gainesville, FL): Gardyloo for solo piano [5’45”];

Benjamin Perry Wenzelberg (b. 2000, currently in Tenafly, NJ): NIGHTTOWN, an operatic reimagining of James Joyce’s Ulysses for nine singers and orchestra
[1 hr 40′];

Yiqi Xue (b. 2001 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China; currently in Kansas City, MO): Ride the wind and cleave the waves for nine traditional Chinese instruments [9′];

Christian A. Yom (currently in NY): Sansori for alto flute doubling C flute, harp, and string quartet [6′]; and

Charlie Zhong (currently in MA): Like a Single Star in the Night Sky for orchestra [5’28”].

The following composers received Honorable Mention:

Lucy Chen (b. 2005; currently in MD): Water Interludes for brass ensemble, water percussion, piano, and strings [8’50”];

Sean Danielson (b. Muscatine, IA; currently in Chicago, IL): Prelude, Elegy, and Phantasm for violin and piano, Mov. 1- Prelude [8’45”];

Yaz Lancaster (b. 1996 in Mountain View, CA; currently in New York, NY): OUROBOROS for solo soprano, two high voices, electric guitar, violin, cello, and media [22’10”];

Albert K. Lu (currently in MD): A Turbulent Festival for flute, clarinet, 2 pianos, and string quartet [4″11″];

Johnny MacMillan (b. Toronto, Canada; currently in Rochester, NY): Songs from the Seventh Floor for string quartet [10’23”];

Christopher Duong Nguyen (b. 2001 in Rome, GA; currently in Canton, GA): Adrenalize for wind ensemble [3’27”];

Cole Reyes (b. 1998 in Bartlett, IL; currently in Brooklyn, NY): Shadowstains for flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion [11′];

Gabriel Stossel (b. 2001 in Columbus, OH; currently in Cleveland, OH): Four Fractals for unaccompanied violin [11’06”]; and

Philina Hanyi Zhang (currently in NY): Siren Meanders for flute, bassoon, and piano [6’28”].

In addition, Marc Migó was recognized by the panel with the 2023 Leo Kaplan Award, created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

Traditions and Changes at the 2023 Arts and Letters Ceremonial

Right before the start of the 2023 Arts and Letters Ceremonial which this year took place at the Church of the Intercession (photo by FJO)

Hundreds of denizens of the music, literary, and visual arts communities gathered together yesterday for the American Academy of Arts and Letters annual Ceremonial yesterday in New York City. The Ceremonial, an annual ritual for well over a century, is a roughly two-hour presentation of awards and inductions (which always takes place on a Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 pm and is immediately followed by a reception at 5:00 pm). Like most longstanding formal ceremonies, it is an extremely tradition-bound event. So much so that anytime there is even the subtlest change in the proceedings, it feels extremely significant (e.g. the size of the program booklet which this year was far less unwieldy). This year’s iteration had more noticeable differences than most despite it marking the 125th anniversary of the institution as well as the centenary of it being based in Harlem at an opulent Beaux-Arts complex of buildings that also houses Boricua College as well as the Hispanic Society Museum and Library.

For starters, due to ongoing renovations taking place in the Academy’s historic auditorium, this year’s ceremonial took place off site. (Apparently the last time that happened was in 1942 although, of course, the in-person Ceremonial was replaced by virtual events over Zoom during the height of the pandemic.) It was nevertheless held in an equally stunning location, the Gothic Revival main sanctuary of the landmarked Episcopal Church of the Intercession, built in 1912-15, which is conveniently located one block south enabling attendees to return to the usual location for the reception, outdoors between the Academy’s two art galleries, although this year they decided not to cover the space with a giant canopy. For some reason, it usually rains on the dates when the Ceremonial is held, so that canopy comes in handy. True to form, it rained again this year, but it was only a slight drizzle toward the very end of the festivities and most people appreciated chatting in the open air.

Crowds of people conversing, drinking and having snacks at an outdoor reception.

Removing the giant canopy definitely gave the post Ceremonial reception on the campus of the Academy a much more open atmosphere (photo by FJO)

But these details are all cosmetic. Of greater significance was the broad range of people who were honored this year in all of the disciplines. Chilean poet and visual artist Cecilia Vicuña and pre-eminent Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov were inducted as Foreign Honorary Members. Only Americans can be elected to full membership, and the Academy also inducts as honorary members Americans whose creative activities fall outside its three officially-recognized disciplines. This year, film director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Frances McDormand were inducted in this category, although neither could attend; they join the ranks of Woody Allen, Bill T. Jones, and Alice Waters, among others. Kurkov later gave the Blashfield Address, an annual oration which in some years has been a struggle to stay awake through, but his impassioned words about the ongoing horrors taking place in his homeland were powerful and deeply moving and resulted in him receiving a standing ovation from the attendees.

Kurkov's standing ovation following his deeply moving Blashfield Address during the 2023 Arts and Letters Ceremonial at the Church of the Intercession (photo by Michael Spudic)

Kurkov’s standing ovation following his deeply moving Blashfield Address during the 2023 Arts and Letters Ceremonial at the Church of the Intercession (photo by Michael Spudic)

Also, worth noting here, were the presentation of two Gold Medals plus an Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts, which this year was given to photographer Susan Unterberg, founder of Anonymous Was a Woman, a program that awards unrestricted $25K grants to female-identifying artists over 40. The Gold Medal, the Academy’s highest accolade, is a lifetime achievement award voted on by the full membership of the Academy that is restricted to the Academy’s membership. Literary critic Helen Hennessy Vendler was awarded the Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism and 92-year-old painter, sculptor, quilter, and performance artist Faith Ringgold, who was there, received the Gold Medal for Painting after which she said she needed to leave soon so she could go create more work, to which the audience responded with resounding applause.

Of course, of greatest concern to the readers of this publication are the music honorees and their range this year was particularly noteworthy. Six composers were newly inducted as members of the Academy by Augusta Read Thomas. We are particularly proud that all six of them have been featured in extensive conversations elsewhere on these pages: Adolphus Hailstork, Carman Moore, Roger Reynolds, Maria Schneider, Wadada Leo Smith, and Pamela Z.

Pamela Z waves her induction certificate as Augusta Read Thomas and others applaud her.

Augusta Read Thomas inducts Pamela Z into the American Academy of Arts and Letters at the 2023 Ceremonial. (Photo by Michael Spudic)

David Sanford presented awards to 16 different composers, 14 of whom were there to receive them. The year’s award recipients were selected by a committee of Academy members: Julia Wolfe (chair), Annea Lockwood, David Sanford, Christopher Theofanidis, Augusta Read Thomas, Chinary Ung, and Melinda Wagner. Eve Beglarian, David Serkin Ludwig, Nicole Mitchell, and Roscoe Mitchell (who could not attend) each received an unrestricted $10,000 Arts and Letters Award which is supplemented by an additional award of $10,000 earmarked specifically for the recording their music and having it presented in a concert at the Academy. Shih-Hui Chen was the recipient of the Walter Hinrichsen Award which covers the cost of the publication of one of her scores by C. F. Peters, and Robert Honstein received the $10,000 Andrew Imbrie Award which honors the work of a mid-career composer. Andy Akiho and Zosha Di Castri each received a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship of $15,000 which is also awarded to mid-career composers. The two recipients of this year’s $15,000 Charles Ives Fellowships were Charles Peck and Peter Shin, and the six recipients of $7,500 Charles Ives Scholarships were Seare Ahmad Farhat, Jordyn Gallinek, Luke Haaksma, Ali Can Puskulcu, Harriet Steinke, and Bethany Younge (in absentia).

John Harbison then presented two awards to two pairs of operatic collaborators. Operas were nominated for these awards by the Academy’s members, and winners chosen by a jury comprised of members John Harbison (chair), Anthony Davis, Tania León, Tobias Picker, and Shulamit Ran, who met in 2022. Composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek were each the recipients of a $10,000 Marc Blitzstein Memorial Award in recognition for both the body of operatic work they have created together and the works they have created with others. Harbison remarked that they could not be at the Ceremonial to receive their awards because they are currently at work on a new opera (in Paris). Composer Laura Elise Schwendinger and librettist Ginger Strand were both in attendance to receive the Charles Ives Opera Prize for their 2019 opera Artemisia, which is about the extraordinary life of 17th century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. As composer, Schwendinger received $35,000, and Strand, as librettist, received $15,000.

Finally, Mindi Dickstein presented two Richard Rodgers Awards in Musical Theater (which help to cover the costs of staged readings at non-profit theaters in New York City) to the bluegrass and folk-infused musical Lewis Loves Clark featuring music by Dylan MacAurele and book and lyrics by Mike Ross and to the surreal, post-Apocalyptic Marie in Tomorrow Land featuring music by Erato A. Kremmyda and book and lyrics by Maggie-Kate Coleman. The members of this year’s jury were David Lang (chair), Lynn Ahrens, Kristoffer Diaz, Mindi Dickstein, Amanda Green, Michael R. Jackson, Richard Maltby, Jr., and John Weidman. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the Academy’s only awards for which applications are accepted.

As per always, the post-Ceremonial reception was a joyous see and be seen mingling event for Academy members, award recipients and invited guests spanning the various artistic disciplines honored by the Academy. It is one of the only times that members of each of these communities come together in such a way and as such will always be an event to look forward to each year.

Crowds of people (including Henry Threadgill) talking, drinking, and eating at an outdoor reception.

Academy member Henry Threadgill and others enjoying the canopyless outdoor reception after the Ceremonial. (photo by Michael Spudic)

Augusta Read Thomas, Wadada Leo Smith, and Frank J. Oteri

Personally congratulating Wadada Leo Smith with Augusta Read Thomas during the post-Ceremonial reception (photo by Michael Spudic)

2023 BMI Composer Award Winners Announced

Deirdre Chadwick welcomes guests to the 2023 BMI Composer Awards celebration at Chelsea Table and Stage in New York City

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and BMI Foundation, Inc. celebrated the honorees of the 71st annual BMI Composer Awards at a private ceremony held on May 15 at Chelsea Table and Stage in New York City. BMI Foundation President and BMI Executive Director of Classical Deirdre Chadwick, composer and chair Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and BMI Senior Vice President of Licensing David Levin presented the awards to six emerging composers for excellence in composition as well as one honorable mention.

The BMI Composer Awards recognize superior ability in music composition by composers aged 27 or younger with annual awards totaling $20,000. As David Levin acknowledged in his remarks, this year over 500 applications were submitted to the competition from young composers around the world. As in all previous years, all works were judged anonymously by two panels of judges who are all BMI-affiliate composers. This year’s preliminary judges were David Schober, Alyssa Weinberg, and Trevor Weston. The final judges were George Lewis, Kevin Puts, and Elena Ruehr. BMI, in collaboration with the BMI Foundation, has awarded over 600 grants to young composers throughout the history of the competition.

As BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick explained in her opening remarks, as part of BMI’s ongoing efforts to make these accolades more inclusive, there is no longer a requirement for applicants to be currently studying composition formally and, as a result, the word “student” has been removed from the name of these awards. In addition, one of the two special prizes given to the honorees, a prize for the composer of the work deemed by the judges to be the most outstanding in the competition, has been renamed in honor of BMI Composer Awards Chair Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. This award was formerly named in honor of the founder of these awards, William Schuman, after his death in 1992 and awards in his name were given for 30 years. It is a particularly rare honor for an award to be named after someone who is still very much with us and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s joy and honor in following William Schuman, a composer she greatly admires, was palpable. The special award for the youngest winner of the competition continues to be named after Carlos Surinach (1915-1997). Maxwell Lu, aged 21, received both the Carlos Surinach Award and the inaugural Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Award.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the recipients of the 2023 BMI Composer Awards

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the recipients of the 2023 BMI Composer Awards

The 2023 BMI Composer Award winners and their award-winning works are as follows:

Christian-Frédéric Bloquert (b. 1997): Métropole for orchestra

Christopher John Michael Enloe (b. 1997): Frika for orchestra

Seare Ahmad Farhat (b. 1996): …ka spoojmsi shwa poh hāla ke… (Like the halo around the moon) for string quartet

Natasha Frank (b. 1998): Riven for Cello and electronics

Maxwell Lu (b. 2002): arboreal for orchestra

Sofia Jen Ouyang (b. 2001): As if sharing a joke with nothingness for Orchestra

In addition, an Honorable Mention citation was given to 16-year-old Charlie Zhong for his composition Illusions of Tranquility for orchestra

Before the awards were announced, flutist Julianna Eidle performed Sadie’s Story for multiple flutes (alto flute, flute, and piccolo) and fixed media, a 2022 BMI Composer Award winning work by Ábel M.G.E.. The piece incorporates recordings of Eidle’s Eastern European Jewish family who fled persecution in Ukraine in 1920 and emigrated to the USA.

You can read more about the 2023 BMI Composer Award-winning compositions here.

A group photo of the 2023 BMI Composer Award winners (pictured left to right): Christian-Frédéric Bloquert; Natasha Frank; Seare Ahmad Farhat; Chair of the Composer Awards Ellen Taaffe Zwilich; Christopher John Michael Enloe; and Maxwell Lu. (Sofia Jen Ouyang, who was unable to attend the ceremony, is not pictured.) Photo courtesy BMI

ASCAP Foundation Announces 2023 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Recipients

Banner for the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2023 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. Jazz composers up to the age of 30 are eligible to apply to these annual awards, which were established in 2002 and are named in recognition of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to the program. Additional funding for the program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. Winners selected through a juried national competition receive cash awards. The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2023 competition were Ayn Inserto, Aruán Ortiz, and Sachal Vasandani.

Photo of all the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Recipients and Honorable Mentions
The 2023 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award recipients are listed below with their age, current residence and place of origin:

Nicola Caminiti (born 1995 in Messina, Italy; based in New York, NY)
Chase Elodia (b. 1994 in Norwalk, CT; based in New York, NY)
Samantha Fierke (born 2002 in Columbia, MO; based in Brookline, MA)
Dava Giustizia (born 2002 in Surabaya, Indonesia; based in Boston, MA)
Yue Han (Moonsita H) (born in Anshun, China; based in Boston, MA, aged 27)
Joseph Herbst (born in Easley, SC; based in New York, NY, aged 27)
Tammy Huynh (born in Philadelphia, PA; based in New York, NY, aged 27)
Jack Lanhardt (born 2000 in Corona, CA; based in Denton, TX)
Emiliano Lasansky (born 1993 in Iowa City, Iowa; based in Los Angeles, CA)
Shane McCandless (born in State College, PA; based in Rochester, NY, aged 23)
Ben Morris (born 1993 in Chatham, NJ; based in Nacogdoches, TX) age 30
Ciara Moser (born in Vienna, Austria; based in Boston, MA, aged 26)
Daiki Nakajima (born 2002 in Tokyo, Japan; based in San Jose, CA)
Denin Slage-Koch (born 1996 in Richland, WA; based in Greeley, CO)
Ben Turner (b. Cherry Hill, NJ; based in East Lansing, MI, aged 25)

In addition, the following composers received Honorable Mention:

Zachary Bornheimer (born 1993 in Margate, FL; based in Tampa, FL)
Gabriel Chakarji (born 1993 in Caracas, Venezuela; based in Queens, NY)
Ethan Cohn (born and based in New York, NY, age 27)
Ariel Sha Glassman (born 1996 in Dublin, OH; based in Denton, TX)
Phillip Golub (born 1993 Los Angeles, CA; based in Brooklyn, NY)
Jake Hart (born in New City, NY; based in Winston-Salem, NC, aged 26)
Anthony Hervey (born in Miami, FL; based in New York, NY, aged 26)
David Leon (born in Miami, FL; based in Brooklyn, NY, aged 29)
David Mirarchi (born 1996 in Scranton, PA; based in Queens, NY)

Going Beyond the Headlines from the 65th Annual Grammy Awards

Lots of Grammy Awards

The big headlines from the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, which were announced yesterday in Los Angeles, are mostly either about Beyoncé now being the recipient of the greatest number of awards in Grammy history (a total of 32) or the surprise win of Harry Styles (beating out Beyoncé) for “Album of the Year.” But there are many other significant wins from last night, many of which, frustratingly, were given before the televised portion of the ceremony began.

Over at New Music USA, we are particularly happy that composer/percussionist/bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington, the artistic director of our Next Jazz Legacy program, received the award for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” for New Standards Vol. 1 on which she is joined by pianist Kris Davis, bassist Linda May Han Oh, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and guitarist Matthew Stevens in interpretations of 11 compositions from Carrington’s pioneering collection of 101 lead sheets by women composers published by Berklee Press last year. (Click here to listen to and or read a 2021 conversation with Carrington recorded for NewMusicBox’s SoundLives podcast.) Interestingly, Carrington was competing against herself for the “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” award since she also appears on a nominated live quartet set from the Detroit Jazz Festival alongside Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, and Leo Genovese. The other nominees in that category were albums by the Peter Erskine Trio, The Joshua Redman Quartet, and the Yellowjackets. Spalding, who famously received the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, beating out Justin Bieber, seems to have set a very welcome trend: another jazz artist, vocalist Samara Joy, won the 2023 Best New Artist award.

We were also thrilled to see that the New York Youth Symphony’s recording of works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Valerie Coleman (the latter two of whom are part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program) received the award for “Best Orchestral Performance.” It seems that the days when all the classical awards went to the umpteeth recording of music by a long-dead European composer from the past are finally over. As a result, thankfully these awards are now as relevant to the present moment as the awards in all the pop music genres generally are. To wit, the winner for “Best Opera Recording” was for the Metropolitan Opera’s extraordinary performance of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, the first opera by a Black composer ever staged at the Met. (What’s perhaps even more amazing is that both of the other nominees in this category were also contemporary American operas: Matthew Aucoin‘s Eurydice and Anthony Davis‘s X.) The Attacca Quartet received “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” for their performances of three hefty instrumental works by Caroline Shaw as well as a few of Shaw’s songs for which she joined them as vocalist. The winner of “Best Choral Performance” went to the Philadelphia-based chorus The Crossing, under the direction of Donald Nally, for Born, a disc featuring a 13-movement choral cycle by Edie Hill and two somewhat shorter works by Michael Gilbertson. “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” was awarded to the polystylistic string trio Time for Three for their album Letters For the Future containing two concertos written expressly for them by Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts which they performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Xian Zhang. “Best Classical Compendium” was awarded to An Adoption Story, a collection of pieces by Oklahoma-based composer Kitt Wakeley. Admittedly, the recipient of the award for “Best Classical Solo Vocal Album,” an album of art songs performed by soprano Renée Fleming and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin called Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene, is primarily devoted to mélodies by Gabriel Fauré and Reynaldo Hahn. But it also contains some more recent fare by, again, Caroline Shaw and Kevin Puts, as well as Nico Muhly.

An award that is always of great significance to the composer community is the award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.” And this year, as per usual, the stakes were high. The nominees were Andy Akiho (for his Ligneous Suite for marimba and string quartet), Derek Bermel (for his string quartet Intonations), New Music USA Program Council member Carlos Simon (for his 45-minute hip-hop oratorio Requiem for the Enslaved), 91-year-old Russian émigré Sofia Gubaidulina (the one non-American, for her orchestral work The Wrath Of God), and Kevin Puts, who was the winner, for the triple concerto Contact recorded by Time for Three on their aforementioned “Best Classical Instrumental Solo”-winning album. This has been an extraordinary year for Puts whose most recent opera The Hours received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera earlier this season. (Puts is the guest on our next episode of SoundLives, which is currently in production, and in our conversation he talked about how during the pandemic he was working on Contact and The Hours at the same time even though his usual method in the past was to focus on one piece at a time.)

There are actually two composition awards among the categories. There’s additionally an award called “Best Instrumental Composition” for which apparently so-called contemporary classical composers are not eligible (and vice versa). Considering the multiple genres that informed this year’s “classical” nominees as well as the “non-classical” ones, siloing the composition award seems anachronistic. Still, it is great that two composers were honored in this year’s proceedings and it would not benefit anyone to reduce awards for composers down to only one. The honor for “Best Instrumental Composition” went to jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer for the somewhat “classical”-influenced Refuge, from his album Playdate, which combines his septet with a 17-member string orchestra plus harp and French horn.  The other composers nominated in this category, though also nominally categorized as jazz artists, mix a great variety of styles in their work as well: Paquito D’Rivera (for African Tales), New Music USA Advisory Council member Miguel Zenón (for El País Invisible), Danilo Pérez (for “Al-Musafir Blues” from his Fronteras (Borders) Suite), and Pascal Le Boeuf (for Snapshots).

The 2022 revival cast album of the late Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical Into The Woods received the nod for Best Musical Theater Album. (The original cast album of the show picked up the award back in 1989.) But what is perhaps of greater historic significance is that Germaine Franco, who was the first woman to score a Disney animated feature film in 2021 with Encanto, received “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media” for her efforts.

All in all a total of 91 awards were given last night, far too many to enumerate here, so apologies that this essay written in haste inevitably missed some important ones. You can explore the complete list of nominees and winners here.

Composer Advocacy Notebook: In Search of the New “Normal”

The exhibition areas of the 2022 Midwest Clinic at McCormick Place in Chicago and the 2023 Chamber Music America conference at the Westin Times Square in New York City.

I’ve been attending the annual New York City-based conference of Chamber Music America in January since before the launch of NewMusicBox (which is nearly a quarter of a century) and, since 2015, have also traveled to Chicago in the latter part of December to attend The Midwest Clinic, an annual music expo focused mostly–but not exclusively–on wind bands. (It’s mostly school-based groups, but there are also military and community ensembles who perform here. And, in addition to wind bands, there are also school and community-based string orchestras, percussion ensembles, jazz big bands, and chamber groups.) What keeps me coming back to both these events year after year is the amount of focus on new music and that both attract a wide range of people involved in the music: interpreters, publishers, advocates, and–most importantly–composers from diverse backgrounds who have a very wide range of stylistic inclinations. This means there are always tons of new music-specific conversations (sadly often not the case at convenings for several other national music networks), plus there are tons of exciting live performances of new works. Once again, both events proved being worthy of my time.

Although it’s probably obvious, it needs to be pointed out that the pandemic was responsible for hiatuses of both events. (Strangely I still remember getting extremely sick right after flying back from Chicago in 2019, more than two months before the alleged North American arrival of COVID-19, which miraculously I still haven’t officially contracted, and I hope to keep it that way.)  Following the nation-wide shut down in March 2020, the Windy City’s monumental McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention center where the annual Midwest Clinic has taken place since 2009, shut its doors for well over a year. Obviously, there was no 2020 Clinic except for a somewhat surreal makeshift virtual event over Zoom. But McCormick gradually resumed business in June 2021, and by December the venue was purported to be back to “normal.” So there was a 2021 Midwest Clinic though it did not seem to attract its usual audience of over 17,000 people.

Since it always takes place in January, the much smaller CMA conference was the last major music gathering I attended before everything shut down in 2020. But for the next two years (2021 and 2022), it was deemed too unsafe to ask people from around the country (and, in fact, the world) to attend this sometimes claustrophobic-feeling event which for many years has taken place on three floors of a medium-sized hotel a block away from Times Square. Instead CMA presented virtual conferences which also took place, as it seems everything else did, over Zoom. So the gathering this past weekend was the first in-person CMA conference in three years and references to Rip Van Winkle were frequent as was an overarching sense of resilience and fortitude. As a result, this year’s CMA get together felt much more like a long awaited homecoming than Midwest Clinic did two weeks earlier. Still, neither was a “return to normal”; both events veered from their previous formulas in significant ways and overall these changes were refreshing and welcome.

Two versions of the same holiday display in McCormick Place during Midwest Clinic, before and after the reindeer lost its face.

Just about the only difference I perceived in the holiday decorations since I’ve been attending the Midwest Clinic is that at one point in 2019 the reindeer (which looks more like a moose to me) mysteriously lost its face. It was missing from the display in 2021 and 2022, but everything else was there.

Since I began attending the Midwest Clinic in 2015, the event has had pretty much the same format every single year down to the same banner photos of previous years’ honorees and even the same holiday decorations. From what I can glean, it has been exactly the same long before I began showing up. People could begin registering on a Tuesday evening, but the first event would always begin at around 8:00 A.M. on Wednesday morning. For three days there would be non-stop activities–many competing showcase concerts and panels (which they call clinics) as well as reading sessions, product showcases, and by-invitation only ceremonies (which are not printed in the program book, like the announcement of the annual Revelli Award), plus a bustling exhibition area–with all listed events usually ending by 9:00 pm in the evening. After those three somewhat overwhelming 13-hour plus days, there would be a relatively quiet final half-day on Saturday which way fewer people attended, ending with a showcase concert by a high profile wind band ending by early afternoon. (On that last day, not only is the Exhibition Hall already closed, so are almost all of McCormick Place’s food concessions making it feel like the event was already over.) Bands usually play in the same set of large rooms with one specific room, a significant walk from all other events on the schedule, reserved for jazz bands. When I first started attending this thing it felt like these groups were being segregated, but the long walk to hear them was always worth it.

This year the decorations as well as the banners of honorees were mostly the same (though thankfully, finally, they weren’t exclusively white men) as were the room assignments and the planned three and half-day structure. But there were two significant differences to the schedule, albeit only one of which was planned. Breaking its usual calendar, activities began on a Monday and were scheduled to end in the middle of the day that Thursday. But it was not to be. On Tuesday, fearing an historic winter storm which ultimately resulted in the cancellation of more than 18,000 flights nationwide, the organizers cut the event short, shutting the exhibition hall half a day early on Wednesday and rescheduling the events of the final Thursday half-day to other times where rooms were open on Tuesday night and Wednesday. By mid-Wednesday, McCormick Place seemed like a ghost town when a mere 24 hours earlier it felt like rush hour at Grand Central Station (and also, due to most folks not wearing face masks, like a massive potential super spreader event).

An assortment of tubas at the Exhibition Hall during the Midwest Clinic

There were soooooo many people at this thing, but there were also so many tubas!

As a result, I wound up attending far fewer events than I usually do and, I must confess, I felt somewhat cheated though obviously the bad weather wasn’t the fault of Midwest Clinic’s organizers. Nevertheless, from what I did attend, I was able to perceive what I believe is real positive change. While the composers of the repertoire for performances at the Midwest Clinic are still quite far away from being truly representative of the cultural and gender diversity of the population of this country, there seemed to be a real effort to foreground music by Black composers as well as by women. It must be pointed out that the the entire event is heavily driven by music publishers. In the old days, the big publishers actively promoted certain composers and their works were the most prominent. In the 21st century landscape, where self-published composers can compete in a more level playing field, there is a greater opportunity to break into this network. It is something composers like John Mackey and Johan De Meij discovered a long time ago and they still keep coming every year. Admittedly, it’s not cheap. If your music gets performed in one of the concerts, you must be represented by a booth in the exhibition hall. This is a much easier expenditure for a big company than it is for an individual. But the most clever composers have formed collectives and support each other. As a result, a much greater diversity of composers is now present there and it has made a difference.

Omar Thomas, who in 2019 became the first Black composer ever to receive the Revelli Award, was a superstar at this year’s Clinic. He was engulfed by fans when he visited the booth of the Blue Dot Composers Collective (which he is one of the seven members of) in the exhibition hall. Thomas’s 2019 band piece celebrating the bravery of trans women, A Mother of a Revolution, conducted by Cynthia Johnson Turner (another superstar) during Monday’s concert by the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, was definitely one of this year’s musical highlights. I was also completely wowed by another work on that same program by a Black composer, Kevin Day‘s Concerto for Wind Ensemble, though I wish all five movements had been played and not just three. Music by Kelijah Dunton, Evan Williams, Katahj Copley, Jessie Montgomery, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Jonathan Bailey Holland, the late Florence Price, and JaRod Hall (the winner of the 2nd Barbara Buhlman Composition Prize) was also featured. Arguably this year’s biggest star was Vietnamese-American composer Viet Cuong who had several pieces performed, most prominently the 16-minute Vital Sines (2022), for which the United States Navy Band was joined by the six members of Eighth Blackbird on both of their Monday evening concert programs as well as a panel talk the following day during which excerpts were played. Another composer making huge strides at the Midwest Clinic is Aakash Mittal, who is interesting in finding common ground between the musical traditions of India and the wind band. In 2021, he participated in a panel about Asian perspectives in wind band music after having his first wind band piece played at Midwest by the Walsh Middle School Honors Band from Texas. This time around his Salt March, his second wind band piece and a consortium commission, was yet another piece performed by the Brooklyn folks.

The audience in one of the ballrooms at McCormick Place which has been transformed into a concert hall for the Midwest Clinic.

The audience waits in anticipation just before the start of the Brooklyn Wind Symphony’s showcase.

While there’s nowhere near a gender parity among the composers featured during Midwest Clinic concerts, most programs this year included at least one work by a female composer and sometimes there were more. Back in 2015, the only two female-identifying composers listed in the program book were Julie Giroux (whom I decided I had to meet and several years later spoke with for NewMusicBox) and Keiko Yamada (who did not attend that year because I later found out she does not actually exist). In the intervening years, seeing the name of a female composer on a program, still a rarity, was often the deciding factor in determining which of the sometimes five simultaneous concerts I would attend. This year I didn’t get to hear every piece by a female composer that was performed since they were no longer such complete outliers,  but nevertheless it was gratifying to hear works by Nicole Piunno, Laura Estes, Augusta Read Thomas (her 2020 composition Crackle was another highlight of the second Navy Band concert), Kimberly Archer (who had previously composed a work that was played by the U.S. Marine Band at Joe Biden’s Inauguration), Christina Huss, Carol Brittin Chambers, Yukiko Nishimura, and, of course, Julie Giroux. Frustratingly, though, the Revelli Award continues to be exclusively a domain for male composers and this year’s winning work, Flying Jewels by Colorado State University-based James M. David, though extremely effective, was no exception. Obviously there were also some other fabulous pieces by men. I’d be remiss not to mention David Biedenbender‘s stunning sax quartet concerto Severance (of which sadly only two of the three movements were played), Jim Stephenson‘s really exciting Wildcat Run, Joel Love‘s extremely moving It is Well, and finally the late John Zdechlik‘s masterful Rondo Capriccio which is hardly a brand new work (it was composed in 1979) but I had never heard it before so it was new to me. Finally, I must call attention here to the extraordinary Cedar Falls High School Jazz One from Iowa, the one jazz group I was able to trek over to hear. I was completely captivated by every piano solo played by high school senior Colten Thomas as well as the idiosyncratic drumming of junior Kate Galyen who have both been part of the band for three years. I can’t wait to hear them in other contexts one day. Still, when the whole thing came to an abrupt end a day before it should have, it was like suddenly going cold turkey. That’s why it was great to be able to have a similarly deep, albeit very different, musical immersion only two weeks later thanks to Chamber Music America.

The members of Cedar Falls High School Jazz One on stage.

The Cedar Falls High School Jazz One on stage at the designated jazz venue at McCormick Place.

If the Midwest Clinic is a successful story of incremental change, the Chamber Music America conference is a successful story of radical transformation. Well, maybe radical transformation is a bit of an exaggeration. Still, there were enough differences in the organization of this year’s conference so that it felt like a significantly different experience. In the past, the conference had three tightly packed days of activities starting early on Friday morning and running through Sunday evening. Although for several years there have also been several pre-conference sessions starting on Thursday. This year, there were also some events on Thursday, but the official conference opening actually took place on Thursday night with the annual reception hosted by BMI which is always attended by a significant number of BMI-affiliated composers who are in town in addition to the CMA conference registrants. This event, which is one of the new music community’s great schmoozefests, used to be the culminating event of the first day. By moving it an evening earlier, it was a great way for people to just catch up with one another after, in many cases, not seeing each other for three years. (Although admittedly a drinks and small bites reception in the COVID-era is somewhat akin to a mild form of Russian Roulette. A great many folks, myself included, remained mostly masked, though it’s impossible to nosh and chat while masked, so I sat at a table in the corner instead of engaging in my previous BC-era peregrinations around the room.)

The real radical change, however, was the way that ensemble showcase performances were presented. In previous years, showcases were scheduled at the hotel on Friday and Saturday afternoons, sometimes competing against panel sessions and time to explore the exhibition hall. The beginnings and endings of showcase sets were always hectic, with folks going in and out, picking and choosing which groups they wanted to hear and it was often extremely noisy directly outside the room where the showcases took place, so sitting in the back was not ideal. (I commented in previous years that it seemed like the classically-oriented groups and the more jazz or improvisation-inclined groups attracted very different audiences with little overlap, which was extremely upsetting given CMA’s mission to bring all this music together.) But this year CMA held all the showcases at DROM, an eclectic music venue in Alphabet City that serves food and has a full bar. (An aside: the food, which was mostly Middle Eastern fare, was terrific if a bit overpriced; it was an expensive night out in New York City.) There were eight showcases on Friday night from 6:00 P.M. until around 10:15 P.M. and an additional six on Saturday morning from 11:00 A.M. until approximately 2:15 P.M.–all showcase sets were supposed to run no longer than 20 minutes but things inevitably went a bit overtime.  Still, people stayed and listened, and they listened to an incredible range of music.

Friday night’s marathon opened with a formidable Rochester NY-based artist-led ensemble called fivebyfive who were joined by Minneapolis-based electric harpist/composer Amy Nam in a performance of her fascinating CMA-commissioned …of breath and fire which also featured video footage of glass sculptures being created by Madeline Rile Smith. They subsequently performed Anthony R. Green‘s captivating … a tiny dream. I was disappointed not to hear the works by Missy Mazzoli and Edie Hill that were also listed on the program, but 20 minutes races by pretty quickly. The group was following by the stunning NYC-based Baroque ensemble Twelfth Night who did not perform any new music, but everything they played sounded new (Purcell and Fasch, plus an aria from BWV 199 by J.S. Bach for which they were joined by the mesmerizing soprano Julie Roset). The Beo String Quartet, which followed, also cancelled a piece they were supposed to perform by Missy Mazzoli, which was to be their opener. Instead they performed an work they themselves composed which was inspired by Mexican music in which at one point members of the quartet were whistling. It was much more captivating than their subsequent medley of a movement from Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet and an excerpt of Beethoven’s Opus 18 No. 1, but at least they ended with a portion of a work by contemporary Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.

fivebyfive on stage at DROM with a video projection of glass sculptures.

CMA’s showcases at DROM began with fivebyfive joined by electric harpist Amy Nam for a performance of Nam’s …of breath and fire featuring a video projection of glass sculptures being created by Madeline Rile Smith.

The Dyachkov-Saulnier Duo also felt obliged to perform Beethoven. (In late December, Atma Classics just released the duo’s recording of his complete sonatas and variations for cello and piano, so they performed excerpts from a set of variations as well as one of the sonatas.) Mysteriously they also performed a movement of a sonata by Shostakovich, explaining that although he was Russian and Russian repertoire is taboo at the moment given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he was a dissident. And they ended with the Burlesque of the late jazz-inspired Ukrainian-born composer Nicolai Kapustin who spent most of his life in Russia. All of this music is top shelf repertoire, but if they were trying to make a statement about the situation in Ukraine, there are tons of living Ukrainian composers who work deserves a hearing. Also, why only play music composed by men? In 2023, it almost seems tone deaf. But they were certainly not the only group featured that seems out of touch with the zeitgeist. The overall lack of parity between male and female music creators throughout these showcases was as noticeable as it was at the Midwest Clinic. Duo Sonidos, which pairs violin and classical guitar, followed with transcriptions of music by Astor Piazzolla and Manuel Ponce plus a work written expressly for them by Clarice Assad which was by far the most interesting thing they played. Far more exciting was a transcription of music by another Latin American composer, Alberto Ginastera, by the Argentinian jazz vocalist Roxana Amed who performed with her quintet. Their rendition of Wayne Shorter’s Virgo was also ear opening.

The Aznavoorian Duo (sisters Ani and Marta, another cello-piano pairing) were up next and featured a program centered predominantly around Armenia (their ancestral homeland) but also included a couple of composers from other parts of lands that were also once part of the Soviet Union. They began with a transcription of a melody by the 19th century Armenian Komitas who is often considered the father of Armenian classical music and followed with a work inspired by Armenian culture from the American Peter Boyer. Again, I would have loved to have heard cello and piano repertoire by some living Armenian composers, but nevertheless I loved Ani’s tone on her cello, which was an instrument her father had built expressly for her. At this point, after more than three and a half hours of music with no intermission, I was getting pretty wiped out. But I was so glad I stayed to hear the final set featuring the Johnston Brothers, Ziggy and Miles, a guitar duo originally from Australia who are currently studying at Juilliard. Their combination of precision and duende (there’s really no better word for it even though they weren’t playing flamenco) was flabbergasting. Their opening performance of Brazilian guitarist/composer Paulo Bellinati’s Jongo was a non-stop energy jolt and the subsequent Rodrigo Tonadilla was also thrilling. Even their transcription of Debussy’s bonbon Clair de Line was revelatory. But their concluding account of Australian Nigel Westlake‘s Songs from the Forest was sublime. As they mentioned, most Americans have only heard his music for the movie Babe: Pig in the City. I know whose music I will be tracking down as much as I can of later this year.

The following morning’s collection of showcases began with Doug Beavers‘s Luna, a nine-piece conjunto which spanned Latin Jazz and full on salsa. It was a welcome wake up since DROM’s coffee wasn’t. The noticeably quieter Interwoven, an intercultural ensemble combining Western bowed strings with Chinese erhu and Japanese koto, was up next. They performed works combining Western and Eastern instruments by Americans Thomas Osborne and Daron Hagen as well as suite featuring music by early 20th century Chinese composer Liu Tianhua that was later reworked by Chen Yaoxing. More cross-cultural music followed, a duo comprised of Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and American accordionist Will Holshouser, both of whom composed repertoire they performed. I was particularly moved by Redbud Winter, a work Holshouser wrote in memory of his mother.

Members of ShoutHouse during their CMA conference showcase performance at DROM.

ShoutHouse was literally larger and louder than any other ensemble that performed during the 2023 CMA conference showcases at DROM.

Next, it was back to full throttle volume with ShoutHouse, a cross-genre nonet fronted by composer Will Healy which combines musicians with classical, jazz, and hip-hop backgrounds in performances of music mostly composed by Healy with words by spiritchild, who is the group’s MC. They also performed a piece written expressly for them by Jack Frerer. Acknowledgement should also be given to ShoutHouse’s seamless interweaving of acoustic and electronic sounds which rarely comes off so effectively in a live music performance. I was floored by Alfredo Colon‘s soloing on EWI (electronic wind instrument). They were a tough act to follow, but there were still two more sets. Tallā Rouge, a self-described “Cajun-Persian viola duo,” performed mostly excerpts including, ack, more Beethoven, though it was nice to hear their performances of music by Caroline Shaw and Dave Rimelis. Finally, the Dan Pugach Nonet, a three wind, three brass, piano-bass-drums nearly big band devoted to performing the music of drummer/leader Pugach. Most of the players had a chance to solo except for, frustrating, bass trombonist Jen Hinkle, the only woman in the group and, more frustrating, the only female instrumentalist in any of the jazz-oriented ensembles. From where I was sitting I could clearly hear her tone on her instrument and the music could have greatly benefitted from some foregrounding of that lower register. As soon as they finished playing, it was a mad rush to the chartered bus to take us back to the hotel with only a few minutes to spare before the afternoon panels began.

I have not yet written about any of the panels, some of which also took place on Friday afternoon before the showcases, figuring it was better to describe them all in one place. On Friday, I attended a panel about making concerts accessible to a neurodiverse audience. The presenter, Jenna Richards, offered some valuable insights about optimal durations, providing attendees with as much advance information as possible, and working with the performance space so it could be made less constricting than the typical rows of seats in most venues. But by focusing on presenting movements from standard repertoire rather than encouraging session attendees to commission composers who could create vibrant music designed especially for such a performance it seemed far less transformative a presentation than it could have been. Far more useful was the session led by a group of musicians associated with ChamberQUEERDanielle Buonaiuto, Aiden Feltkamp, Brian Mummert, and Mazz Swift–with the provocative title “‘Til All of Us Are Free: A Liberatory Framework for DEI in Chamber Music Organizations.” The panelists had the very crowded room of session attendees breakout into smaller groups to discuss ways in which a chamber group could diversify its audience and funder base. The group I was part of mostly agreed that such a plan must begin with diversifying the people who are performing and the repertoire being performed. But not everyone held that view. It got somewhat contentious at times. When various groups were reporting back, a member of one of the groups talked about the need to sometimes devote concerts to core repertoire which they have now decided to embellish with commentary from the stage along the lines of “imagine what kind of music would have been written had one of Bach’s daughters been allowed to compose music.” To which I felt compelled to raise my hand and counter that there were female composers who were active at that time. What about Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre? As well as Black composers. So if you’re performing Mozart, why not also include a piece by Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Obviously today’s extremely wide range of compositional voices are the most representative of world in which we currently live, but there are plenty of reasons why it is important to show that a diverse range of people writing music is not a 21st century aberration and highlighting that range offers a fuller view of the great repertoire that is all of our inheritance.

A very crowded room at the Westin Times Square with groups of people sitting together in conversation.

Breakout groups for GenderQUEER’s EDI panel at the 2023 CMA conference continued having provocative conversations long after time ran out for the session.

On Saturday, I attended a session moderated by 2023 CMA Conference Chair, flutist Jennie Oh Brown, featuring two visionary musician/administrators: tenor Nicholas Phan who also serves as the Artistic Director of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago; and jazz singer Dwight Trible who also serves as Executive Director of the The World Stage performance gallery in Los Angeles. Perhaps the biggest insight from that session was Phan’s quip that the problem with classical music is that it “has been marketed as a luxury item for such a long time” and “that’s such a greedy way to experience this music.” Finally, I attended a very practical and informative session about touring and presenting during the pandemic which was billed as “jazz and chamber music” but everyone on the panel came from a jazz perspective–Rodney Marsalis and Morgan Pappas (from Marsalis Mansion Artists) plus artist manager Gail Boyd, a co-founder of the Jazz Coalition.  Although the situations they described, everything from unpaid fees to the uncertainty of rescheduling, are equally applicable to classical music, as well as indie rock, funk, or bluegrass for that matter. After attending The Midwest Clinic where you wouldn’t be blamed if you erroneously believed the pandemic was over, it was refreshing to hear people talk about the ongoing problems we are all still facing in trying to make music in these still extremely precarious times.

After all the heady sounds and ideas on Friday and Saturday, Sunday was a bit of a let-down. The day’s activities began with a somewhat lackluster networking breakfast that was not heavily attended. Thankfully there was an amazing concert at the hotel later in the afternoon devoted to two CMA commissions: Martha Sullivan‘s Certain Dragons performed by the dazzling vocal sextet The Western Wind; and Arun Ramamurthy‘s New Moon Suite performed by his trio consisting of Sameer Gupta on drumset, Damon Banks on electric bass, and the composer on violin performed in Karnatic style. I’m glad it was not followed by anything else, since anything else would have felt extremely intrusive after such sonic transports, but it might have been nice to have an additional panel in the morning, although I remember all too well how disappointing it was to participate in a Sunday morning CMA panel which was very poorly attended.

Sameer Gupta, Damon Banks, and Arun Ramamurthy being applauded.

The Arun Ramamurthy Trio (Sameer Gupta, Damon Banks, and Arun Ramamurthy) right after they proved that great music can happen, even in a conference room at a hotel!

Admittedly I did not attend the luncheon honoring new music soprano and educator Lucy Shelton (recipient of CMA’s 2023 Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award) and Palestinian-American composer/multi-instrumentalist Ronnie Malley (recipient of CMA’s 2023 Michael Jaffee Visionary Award). There was an extra $45 charge to attend and it was probably too late to get a ticket plus I had already paid for and attended the similarly priced networking luncheon on Friday and was somewhat worried that eating yet another meal (Friday’s was albeit a tasty Asian-themed buffet which was an improvement over previous years’ fare) on a round table surrounded by a group of necessarily unmasked people some of whom I probably did not know was probably too much of a crapshoot after having already attended the opening reception as well as eating and drinking during the ensemble showcases at DROM.

Still, overall the 2023 Chamber Music America conference was head and shoulders above most of the annual CMA conferences I’ve attended in recent memory. So a special shoutout is in order to conference chair Jennie Oh Brown as well as to CMA’s visionary and extremely articulate new CEO Kevin Kwan Loucks, who is also an active chamber music pianist. I was thrilled that during his introductory remarks to the keynote speaker Loucks mentioned that CMA is in the process of trying to secure their own performance venue which I imagine will be as galvanizing a space for the chamber music community as OPERA America’s National Opera Center has been for singers, vocal coaches, producers, composers, librettists and all the other members of the opera community. I should also write a few words about that keynote speaker, film, television and stage actor Giancarlo Esposito, whom I first became acquainted with from his performance as the intellectually rigorous tempestuous militant Buggin’ Out in Spike Lee’s 1989 motion picture Do The Right Thing. Esposito offered many pearls of wisdom during his extremely performative speech, but the two that left the strongest impression on me is that our goal as artists (whether creative or interpretative artists) should be “to bring people from one state of consciousness to another” and that the only thing “we have the ability to control is our attitude.” Finally, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to CMA’s Susan Dadian who, as per every other conference I have attended since she joined the staff many many years ago, tirelessly kept finding me to introduce me to composers who were there whom she thought I may not yet know. I will be back again next year!

New Music USA launches NewMusicBox Guest Editor series

New Music USA launches NewMusicBox Guest Editor series with forward-thinking artists and organizations across the US

First partnership kicks off today with Los Angeles-based radio station dublab, which will present original content  that explores the current landscape of music composition



New Music USA‘s web magazine NewMusicBox today launches its new ongoing Guest Editor series, which aims to celebrate a plurality of voices from across the nation and will feature exclusive content written, produced, or commissioned by a rotating artist or organization. The series kicks off with Los Angeles-based nonprofit radio station dublab, which strives to cultivate and support cultural ecosystems through community-generated radio, curiosity, experimentation, inclusivity, and connection. NewMusicBox, edited by Frank J. Oteri, amplifies creators and organizations who are building a vibrant future for new music in all its forms, and has provided a vital platform for creators to speak about issues relevant to them in their own words since 1999.

The dublab partnership will feature new weekly content from at least 15 different voices through January 2023, presented in conversations, DJ mixes, articles, and live performances all exploring the current landscape of music composition. Contributors include creators, curators, writers, and artists such as Andrew Maxwell, Colloboh, Jeremiah Chiu with Marta Sofia Honer, Maddi Baird, Mark McNeill, Qur’an Shaheed, shesaidso, Tana Yonas, with more to be announced.

The first piece, an introductory essay written by dublab’s Executive Director Alejandro Cohen, is available to read now here.

The Guest Editor is the first such series in NewMusicBox’s 23-year history and reflects New Music USA’s aim to deepen its impact across the many diverse music communities across the United States. This aim is also demonstrated by NewMusicBox’s ongoing “Different Cities, Different Voices” feature that spotlights music creation hubs across the nation.

For more than two decades, dublab has been one of the defining voices of online radio as a medium; through radio broadcast, myriad public events and celebrated cultural projects, dublab has fostered a community in Los Angeles and now around the world that places creativity, enrichment, diversity, inclusivity, and equality as valued priorities.

“The goal of NewMusicBox has always been to give voice to American music creators working in every possible idiom,” says NewMusicBox editor Frank J. Oteri. “These idioms keep evolving and transforming and we hope that by creating space for other ‘curators’ around the country we will amplify an even broader range of people and their work as well as present this material in an even broader array of formats. All of us here at New Music USA have been fascinated and inspired by what dublab has been producing since, as luck would have it, 1999, the same year that NewMusicBox launched online. This is a collaboration that is long overdue, so it is an honor and privilege to feature dublab content on NewMusicBox.”

“As we launch dublab’s collaboration with New Music USA, we welcome the opportunity to feature the work of many musicians we believe represent the current landscape of contemporary music composition,” says Alejandro Cohen, dublab Executive Director. “Throughout our four-month hosting we hope the series can not only shine a light on these artists and their work, but also bring up questions such as the place, role and meaning of a composer in our current times.”

The dublab Guest Editor content will be accessible for free at starting today. The site also features thousands of NewMusicBox articles, interviews, and more dating back to 1999.


About the NewMusicBox Guest Editor Series

Published by New Music USA, NewMusicBox is a web magazine that amplifies creators and organizations who are building a vibrant future for new music in all its forms. The NewMusicBox Guest Editor series features exclusive content written, produced, or commissioned by a rotating artist or organization, and aims to celebrate a plurality of voices from across the nation. Learn more at

About New Music USA

New Music USA supports and amplifies the sounds of tomorrow by nurturing the creation, performance, and appreciation of new music for adventurous listeners in the United States and beyond. We empower and connect US-based music makers, organizations, and audiences by providing funding through our grants; offering support and fostering new connections through our programs; deepening knowledge through our online magazine, NewMusicBox; and working as an advocate for the field. New Music USA envisions a thriving and equitable ecosystem for new music throughout the United States. Learn more at

About dublab

dublab is a non-profit, radio station based in Los Angeles.  dublab broadcasts hundreds of radio programs hosted by some of the most talented DJs worldwide. Our DJs are empowered to freely play sounds they are passionate about, making each show distinct.  Our “Future Roots” concept collapses time, space and genre to celebrate the continuum of creative music made by passionate people. Influential sounds of the past flow into the dynamic sounds of tomorrow.  The dublab airwaves allow space for diverse styles, eras, genres and music cultures to co-exist. dublab is documenting the lineage of creative sound and accelerating its progress. Learn more at

2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards Announced

ASCAP Foundation Logo with Morton Gould Awards header

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 23 recipients of its 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards as well as 15 additional composers who received honorable mentions. The awards, which encourage talented young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30, are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. The 38 compositions of the composers recognized in 2022 were among the more than 500 scores that were seen by this year’s judges (who are all ASCAP-member composers): Svjetlana Bukvich, Daniel Felsenfeld, Yotam Haber, Felipe Lara, Fang Man, Jessica Mays, Shawn Okpebholo, and Jorge Sosa.

Below is a complete alphabetical list of the 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients and their award-winning works (with links to audio recordings of them and additional information where available):

Benjamin Thoreau Baker (b. 1998 in Pleasant Plain, OH; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Primordial (2019) for saxophone and live electronics [ca. 9′];

Alex Berko (b. 1995 in Cleveland, OH; currently based in Houston, TX): Oh Me! Oh Life! (2021) for unaccompanied chorus [ca. 11′];

Paul Berlinsky (b. 1994 in Miami Beach, FL; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Book of Birds (2021) for flute and electronics [ca. 27′];

Anuj Bhutani (b. 1993 in Houston, TX; current based in Austin, TX): On Letting Go (2020-21) for solo cello and live electronics [ca. 16′];

Aiyana Braun (b. 1997 in Ardmore, PA; currently based in Philadelphia, PA): Refractions (2019 rev. 2022) for orchestra [ca. 6′];

Cao Shengnan (b. 1992 in Beijing, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Fantasia Nirvana (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 11′];

Bryn Davis (b. 1992 in Richmond, VA; currently based in St. Paul, MN):
☞︎□︎❒︎ ❄︎□︎❍︎ 👍︎◆︎❒︎❒︎⍓︎ (2019) for tuba septet [ca. 10′];

Baldwin Giang (b. 1992 in Malvern, PA; currently based in Chicago, IL): roses (2021) for sinfonietta [ca. 15′];

Soomin Kim (b. 1995 in Uijeongbu, South Korea; currently based in Minneapolis, MN): star / ghost / mouth /sea (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 9′];

Joel Kirk (b. 1996 in Manchester, United Kingdom; currently based in Buffalo, NY): update status, always (2021) for solo violin [ca. 7′];

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996 in Singapore; currently based in New York, NY): Luciola singapura (Singapore Firefly) (2021) for sinfonietta with blended yang qin [ca. 6′];

Sam Kohler (b. 1996 in Eugene, OR; currently based in New Orleans, LA): sun-splash color-room (2021) for flute, clarinet, violin, piano, and percussion [ca. 10′];

Daniel Leibovic (b. 1995 in Richmond, VA; currently based in Houston, TX): Padamu Jua (2020) for 16 voices and small gongs [ca. 9′];

Maxwell Lu (b. 2002 in Dayton, MD; currently based in New York, NY): shatter (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

JP Merz (b. 1992 in Janesville, WI; currently based in Los Angeles, CA): gun, fire (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Celka Ojakangas (b. 1992 in Springfield, MO; currently based in Pasadena, CA): Bantam Winds (2021) for oboe, bass clarinet, and French horn [ca. 10′];

Siddharth Pant (b. 2004 in California): Dodecahedron (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Marco-Adrián Ramos Rodríguez (b. 1995 in Betonville, AR; currently based in New Haven, CT): Five O’Hara Songs (2020) for soprano and piano [ca. 13′];

Lucy Shirley (b. 1997 in Indianapolis, IN; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Stretch Marks (2021) for soprano voice, clarinet, and piano [ca. 7′];

Sage Shurman (b. 2005; based in Los Angeles, CA): what’s left behind (2021) for string orchestra [ca. 9′];

Tian Songfeng (b. Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Winter Solstice for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Meilina Tsui (b. 1993 in Almaty, Kazakhstan; currently based in Orlando, FL) Nomadic Trails (2021) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Casey Weisman (b. California): Beasts of the Seven Seas for full orchestra and instruments from Asia and Africa [ca. 15′].

Baldwin Giang was further recognized by the panel with the 2022 Leo Kaplan Award, created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

Below is a list of the additional composers who received Honorable Mention and their works:

Orkun Akyol (b. 1992 in Istanbul, Türkiye; current based in Davis, CA): uneasy in my easy chair (2021) for oboe, harp, percussion and electronics [ca. 6′];

KiMani Bridges (b. 2002 in Louisville, KY; currently based in Bloomington, IN): Healer (2021) for 2 voices, spoons, and cardboard box [ca. 6′];

Victor Cui (b. 1998 in Beijing, China; currently based in Baltimore, MD): Onyx is the Color during the Silence of Järvenpää for flute and electronics [ca. 10′];

Matthieu Foresi (b. 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland; currently based in Washington): The Monster in the Closet (2019) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Aidan Gold (b. 1997 in Seattle, WA; currently based in New York, NY): Ripple the Ocean of Eyes (2022) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Camilo Gonzalez-Sol (b. 1999 in Takoma Park, MD; currently based in Austin, TX): Four Brainscapes (2021) for fixed media in stereo [ca. 9′];

Liu Yizhang (b. 1995 in Hunan, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Phanstasmal (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Chuyi Luo (from New York): In The Conversation… for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Quinn Mason (b. 1996; based in Dallas, TX): Symphony No. 4 ‘Strange Time’ (2019-21) for expanded wind ensemble [ca. 20′];

Jordan Millar (b. 2006; based in New York City): Masquerade (2021) for flute, violin, viola, and classical guitar [ca. 7′];

Chris Neiner (b. 1994 in Burnsville, MN; currently based in Cleveland Heights, OH): Many Universes (2019) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Luca Pasquini (b. 2004; based in Denver, CO): Where am I in the Sublime? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion [ca. 7′];

Grant Shueh (from New Jersey): Arrival for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Eunike Tanzil (b. 1998 in Medan, Indonesia; currently based in New York, NY): Veni Vidi Vici (2020) for clarinet and orchestra [ca. 8′];

Isabelle Tseng (from Florida): Ringlorn for violin and cello [ca. 10′].

Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program was dedicated to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould’s memory following his death in 1996 to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. A child prodigy himself, Gould’s first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age. Gould served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994. Founded in 1975, The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs. Included in these are songwriting workshops, grants, scholarships, awards, recognition and community outreach programs, and public service projects for senior composers and lyricists. The ASCAP Foundation is supported by contributions from ASCAP members and from music lovers around the world.

Photos of all the winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards

Winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards Announced

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), in collaboration with the BMI Foundation (BMIF) has announced the seven winners and three honorable mentions in the 70th Annual BMI Student Composer Awards. Each year these awards recognize superior musical compositional ability with educational scholarships totaling $20,000. For the first time in three years (due to the pandemic), the awards were once again announced in person in a live ceremony yesterday evening at Tribeca 360. The ceremony was presided over by Deirdre Chadwick, BMI Executive Director for Classical Music and BMI Foundation President, along with composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the permanent Chair of the Competition, who announced each of the winners.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards (photo by FJO)

The seven winning composers and their works are:
Ábel Esbenshade a.k.a. Ábel M.G.E. (b. 1994): Sadie’s Story for flute and fixed media (2021)

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996): Luciola singapura for sinfonietta and yang qin (Chinese dulcimer) (2021)
(Ms. Koh was also the recipient of the William Schuman prize which is annually awarded for the score deemed most accomplished in the competition.)

Oliver Kwapis (b. 1997): Dreams of Flight for full orchestra (2021) [10′]

Alan Mackwell (b. 1998): Remains of a Permian Gas Station for string trio (2021) [c. 20′]

Sehyeok (Joseph) Park (b. 2003): String Quartet no. 1 (2021)
(Mr. Park also received the Carlos Surinach Prize which is annually awarded to the youngest winner in the competition.)

Nina Shekhar (b. 1995): Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner for orchestra and fixed media (2021) [20′]

Kari Watson (b. 1998): of desire for voice and percussion (2021)

Group photos of the 7 winners in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards with BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick

(L-R) BMI’s Student Composer Award winners Alan W. Mackwell, Ábel M.G.E., Sehyeok (Joseph) Park, Nina Shekhar, Kari Watson, Cheng Jin Koh and Oliver Kwapis pose with BMI Foundation President & BMI’s Executive Director- Classical Deirdre Chadwick at Tribeca 360 on May 17, 2022, in New York, NY. (Photo by Jennifer Taylor for BMI; courtesy BMI)

The three composers who received an honorable mention were:

Lucy Chen (b. 2005): Muse for orchestra (2021) [10′]

Apoorva Krishna (b. 1996): Merging Parallels voice and ensemble (2020) [3′]

Malcolm Xiellie (b. 2007): The Voyage for solo piano (2021)

During the ceremony there were also presentations of two of the 2021 winning works: Elizabeth Gartman‘s [Weight] for soprano and fixed media in a live performance by Shannyn Rinker (which was its world premiere in front of a physical audience) and Elliot Roman‘s orchestral work Tzirklshpitz which was shown on video. In a poignant speech during the ceremony, Chadwick acknowledged previous recipients of the award who were present at the event as well as this year’s winners, but also pointed out that “there are excellent composers who’ve never won a competition.”

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room.

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room. (Photo by FJO)

The ten composers who were honored in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards were among 450 applicants in this year’s competition which are all judged anonymously through a rigorous two-panel process. The preliminary judges were BMI member composers Alexandra DuBois, Carlos Carrillo, and Jeremy Gill. The final judges were BMI member composers Oscar Bettison, Hannah Lash, Jose Serebrier, and Matthew Evan Taylor. Further details about the awards, including individual photos of each of the 10 composers who received awards and honorable mentions, are available on the BMI website.

Raven Chacon Wins 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Raven Chacon and a segment of one of his musical scores.

Raven Chacon has been awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Voiceless Mass. The annually awarded $15,000 prize is for a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year. The work, which premiered on November 21, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was commissioned by WI Conference of the United Church of Christ, Plymouth Church UCC, and Present Music and composed specifically for the Nichols & Simpson organ at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. The Pulitzer citation describes it as a “mesmerizing, original work for organ and ensemble that evokes the weight of history in a church setting, a concentrated and powerful musical expression with a haunting visceral impact.”

“I’m absolutely honored that this work was awarded,” said Chacon (b. 1977), a Diné artist born in Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, Arizona, and currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the first Native American composer ever to receive the prize. Chacon also serves as a member of New Music USA’s Program Council. “Thank you to Present Music of Milwaukee for commissioning Voiceless Mass, and making a live performance and recording possible when the relentless obstacles of the pandemic were preventing collaborations across all communities. The composition was a site-specific commission for Present Music’s annual Thanksgiving concert. As an Indigenous artist, I make a point not to present my work on this holiday, but in this case I made an exception.”

Also nominated as finalists for the 2022 music prize were: Seven Pillars, an 11-movement evening-length work for percussion quartet by Andy Akiho created for Sandbox Percussion which received its premiere at Emerald City Music in Seattle, Washington, and with eyes the color of time, a 32-minute work for string orchestra by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, which was commissioned by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn which premiered on August 6, 2021 at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York, N.Y. (You can watch and read a NewMusicBox conversation with Akiho here and read a series of NewMusicBox articles written by Lanzilotti here.)

The jury for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music was: Alex Ross (chair), Patrice Rushen, and previous Pulitzer Prize winners John Luther Adams, Du Yun, and Tania León.

The announcement of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes was made online by Pulitzer Administrator Marjorie Miller via a stream posted on the Pulitzer website which can also be streamed on YouTube.