Category: Ledes

Matthew Browne Wins ASCAP Foundation Nissim Prize

Matthew Browne has been named the recipient of the 37th annual ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize for his composition Cabinet of Curiosities (2015-16), an approximately 23-minute work for saxophone quartet and orchestra which was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Musical Composition at the University of Michigan and was written expressly for the Donald Sinta Quartet who premiered it with an orchestra of students from the University of Michigan School of Music conducted by Thomas Gamboa. The Prize—which was established through a bequest to The ASCAP Foundation by Dr. Rudolf Nissim, former head of ASCAP’s International Department—is presented annually to an ASCAP concert composer for a work requiring a conductor that has not been performed professionally. A jury of conductors selects the winning score.

Recent recognition for Browne’s music has included an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer award (2014) and BMI Student Composer award (2015). He has been a winner of the New England Philharmonic Call for Scores (2014) and the American Viola Society’s Maurice Gardner Competition (2014). He has also been selected for residencies at the Mizzou International Composers Festival, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s First Annual Composers Institute, and—most recently—the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Edward T. Cone Composition Institute (both in 2016). Browne holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Composition from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The jury also awarded Special Distinction to three additional composers:

  • Saad Haddad of Northridge, California for Takht (2016), for sinfonietta (approx. 12 minutes)
  • John Liberatore of South Bend, Indiana for this living air (2015), for solo piano and percussion orchestra (approx. 16 minutes)
  • Jonathan David Little of Surrey, United Kingdom for Terpsichore (2005) for full orchestra (15 minutes)

The judges for this year’s Nissim Prize were: James Blachly, Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (Johnstown, PA), the Experiential Orchestra and Geneva Light Opera (Geneva, NY) as well as co-Artistic Director of The Dream Unfinished (a social justice orchestra based in New York City); Gerard Schwarz, Music Director of the All-Star Orchestra, Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and Jack Benaroya Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony; Lidiya Yankovskaya, Artistic Director with Juventas New Music Ensemble (Boston, MA), Music Director with Commonwealth Lyric Theater, conductor with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, where she has previously served as Music Director with Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, and assistant conductor/chorus master with Opera Boston and Gotham Chamber Opera.

(—from the press release)

American Composers Orchestra Appoints Edward Yim as President

The American Composers Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers, has announced the appointment of Edward Yim as president, effective February 21, 2017, succeeding Michael Geller who held the position from 1996 to 2016. As ACO president, Yim will serve as chief executive officer, reporting to the board of directors through the chairman. He will be responsible for all aspects of ACO’s operations, including a leadership role in fundraising. He will also work in close partnership with the orchestra’s Artistic Director Derek Bermel and its Music Director George Manahan in evaluating existing activities and designing new programs that achieve and advance the mission of the now forty-year-old institution which, to date, has been responsible for performances of music by over 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly-commissioned works.

“I am excited and honored to serve as the new president of ACO,” Yim said. “Composers are my heroes—ultimately everything we do in music depends on their innovation, authenticity and passion. The chance to dedicate myself—alongside the talented board, staff and musicians—to these artists is a dream. Together, we will honor the legacy of American music and, even more importantly, serve as an incubator and advocate for today’s voices. I am thrilled by this opportunity to champion American composers striving to write vital, original work for the 21st century.”

Edward Yim is currently the vice president for artistic planning for the New York Philharmonic. As the senior staff director in charge of programming, he has collaborated across the organization to create and maintain the organization’s artistic profile by initiating long-term project development, engaging guest conductors and soloists, and coordinating repertoire for a year-round schedule of concerts in New York, international touring, and media activities. He has also worked closely on the New York Philharmonic’s partnership with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Previously he was senior vice president and director of the Conductor and Instrumentalists Division at IMG Artists and served as director of artistic planning for both New York City Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yim holds a BA in Government from Harvard College, an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, and is a graduate of the League of American Orchestra’s Management Fellowship Program. He has served on the boards of New Music USA and the International Contemporary Ensemble, and also consults to Music Accord, a consortium of presenters which commissions contemporary chamber music for American artists.

(—from the press release)

2017 Grammy Nominees Announced

The Recording Academy has announced the nominees for its 59th annual Grammy Awards.  The list of luminaries includes many people who should be familiar to readers of NewMusicBox, and not just the nominees for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, although three of the five 2017 nominees have been the subject of NewMusicBox covers.

Jennifer Higdon, who has previously received this award in 2010 for her Percussion Concerto, has been nominated again this year for her opera Cold Mountain whose world premiere performance by the Santa Fe Opera was released on Pentatone Music. The disc has also been nominated for Best Opera Recording as has the Los Angeles Opera’s recording of The Ghost of Versailles by John Corigliano (also on Pentatone) which is additionally under consideration for Best Engineered Album, Classical (Mark Donahue and Fred Vogler, engineers).

Michael Daugherty, who received the BCCC nod in 2011 for his piano concerto Deus ex Machina, is a contender again with another concertante work, his Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra, which was released on an eponymous all-Daugherty disc by Naxos in a performance by Zuill Bailey with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero. Bailey is also up for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for his performance of that work, as is Leila Josefowicz for her performance of Scheherazade.2 by John Adams on Nonesuch, and the entire Daugherty disc is additionally being considered for Best Classical Compendium as is Universal Music’s collection of two suites from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels conducted by Esa Pekka Salonen.

Christopher Theofanidis, who has yet to receive this award, is also under consideration for his Bassoon Concerto which was included alongside more standard fare by Mozart and Hummel on an Estonian Record Productions disc featuring bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann with Northwest Sinfonia led by Barry Jekowsky. The remaining two BCCC nominees are Mason Bates (for his orchestral work Anthology Of Fantastic Zoology recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardo Muti) and C. F. Kip Winger (for Conversations With Nijinsky recorded by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under Martin West for VBI Classic Recordings). Other nominated classical recordings include Cedille’s collection of four Steve Reich works performed by Third Coast Percussion (Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance) and the New York Philharmonic’s all-Christopher Rouse disc (Best Orchestral Performance). Even among the nominees for Best Historical Album there’s an American composer, albeit not for his own music—Dust to Digital’s re-release of The Library of Congress collection of field recordings of traditional Moroccan music, which were made by late Paul Bowles, is in the running for Best Historical Album!

But that’s not all…

Fred Hersch has been nominated for two awards—Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Jazz Instrumental Album (for Sunday Night at The Vanguard) —and Ted Nash for three: Best instrumental Composition, Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella, and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album (for Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom). Also nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album is Real Enemies by Darcy James Argue.

A complete list of the 2017 nominees is available on the official Grammy site. The winners in each of the categories will be announced on February 12, 2017 (though most of the ones cited here probably won’t be mentioned on the nationally televised CBS broadcast).

Andrew Norman Wins $100K Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition

Play, a 47-minute orchestral work by American composer Andrew Norman, is the winner of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The $100,000 prize, which is open to living composers based anywhere in the world, awards outstanding achievement in a large musical genre–choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo work, and more–and is granted for a work premiered during the five-year period prior to the award deadline (i.e. the time period Jan.1, 2011 – Dec. 31, 2015 for the 2017 award). Previous recipients include Witold Lutoslawski, György Ligeti, Joan Tower, John Corigliano, Toru Takemitsu, John Adams, Pierre Boulez, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Kaija Saariaho.

Andrew Norman’s Play explores the relationship of choice and chance, free will and control. The three-movement work investigates the ways musicians in an orchestra can play with, against, or apart from one another; and maps concepts from the world of video gaming onto traditional symphonic structures to tell a fractured narrative of power, manipulation, deceit and, ultimately, cooperation. “Play combines brilliant orchestration, which is at once wildly inventive and idiomatic, with a terrific and convincing musical shape based on a relatively small amount of musical source material,” said Award Director Marc Satterwhite. “It ranges effortlessly from brash to intimate and holds the listener’s interest for all of its 47 minutes—no small feat in these days of shortened attention spans.”

Play was commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, with funding from Music Alive, a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project performed the piece’s premiere in 2013, and released a recording on its own label.  Since then, the piece has garnered considerable attention and critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and critic and musicologist William Robin said it “might be the best orchestral work that the twenty-first century has seen thus far.”

Norman, a Los Angeles-based composer of orchestral, chamber and vocal music, draws on an eclectic mix of instrumental sounds, notational practices, and non-linear narrative structures in his work. His symphonic music has been performed by leading ensembles worldwide, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, and the Orchestre National de France.  Norman has won both the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2012 for his string trio The Companion Guide to Rome. He recently was named Musical America’s 2017 Composer of the Year. Norman’s music is published exclusively worldwide by Schott Music.

In December 2013, Alexandra Gardner spoke with Andrew Norman for NewMusicBox.

All 2017 Grawemeyer Award winners will be announced this week, pending formal approval by the university’s board of trustees. The University of Louisville presents the prizes annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, and education, and gives a religion prize jointly with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The 2017 winners will present free lectures about their award-winning ideas when they visit Louisville in April to accept their prizes.

(–from the press release)

Some Thoughts About Dorico The Morning After

Members of the Ensemble Perpetuo join composer/pianist Thomas Hewitt Jones for the premiere of his new work commissioned for the launch of the Dorico music notation software program in London.

I’ll admit to being something of a notational geek.  Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars sits on my bedside table.  I collect contemporary scores.  I used to use Finale, then switched to Sibelius in 2005 after moving to London.

I don’t know any of its members personally, but it felt like a personal affront when Avid cut the Sibelius team.  And it felt akin to my team (Arsenal) winning the Premiere League (…insert joke here if you get the reference…) when I heard Cubase had scooped them up to build a brand new notation program.  All this is to say that, when I headed down to the Bush Theatre on October 18 to get my first full-on look at the new software, I was really excited.  I’m cheering for this entire experiment.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way very quickly:

• Dorico looks fantastic. It reminds me of the layout of Adobe Software such as InDesign and Photoshop. I want it. It looks intuitive and sensible. It might give me fewer rage moments than Sibelius.

• Dorico is a piece of professional notation software. (Hopefully this is not a surprise.) However intuitive it might be, there are plenty of idiosyncrasies, and it would take anyone time to learn it, and to make it do the things that you want. (It will almost certainly still cause you some rage moments.)

If you want to understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of Dorico, begin with the team that built it.  At the preview event l attended last night, Daniel Spreadbury told us that, when they first gathered together, they started with three basic goals.  Here they are, with some initial thoughts on how they impacted the software:

1. To be able to compose directly into the software.

This is fundamental to many of the innovations Dorico has created, especially the emphasis on flexibility early in the engraving process. Thomas Hewitt Jones, whose new work Doric Overture was commissioned for and premiered at the beginning of the evening, highlighted “flows” (the initial engraving step in Dorico) as inspirational and important to him because it allowed him to create an idea directly within the software without worrying about the time signature/key signature/tempo/details of that idea, and also said that this flexibility meant he would compose the remainder of his current (music theater) project in it.

2. To have a graphical output that is as good as possible, and built from the heart of historical notation.

As I’ve already said, Dorico looks great. The “graphical clarity” and attention to detail from the team is really quite impressive.  The defaults look great and, wonderfully, there is a really deep emphasis on customizability.  We naturally only skimmed along the surface of the program during the event (and I haven’t had the chance to trial it), but even from the short presentation we had, Dorico looked incredibly deep and nuanced.  This is to a point where I would bet money that most, if not all, of the major publishers will be working from Dorico very soon after its official launch. [Ed note: UPDATE – An extremely detailed description of Dorico’s history and design was just posted on the independent Sibelius blog.]

3. Since they were working at Steinberg, home of Cubase they wanted a program that sounds as great as it looks. (“At its heart is an audio engine.”)

Dorico contains within itself a playback control panel that effectively looks like the sequencer you’re used to seeing in ProTools/Logic.  It has impressive audio support (VST Plugins, 32-bit floating-point resolution, more than 1,500 sounds, etc.).  There are really no two ways about this, this is a huge step forward for the playback and programming possibilities through a piece of notation software.

I think most of the people reading this site will come to this post with two questions:

• Should I (assuming you are now an experienced composer/performer/engraver familiar with Finale or Sibelius) spend the money and time inherent in making the switch to Dorico?

• Should I tell my new/young students to start with/move to it? (Or, if you’re not yet working with Finale/Sibelius, should you start with Dorico over these competitors?)

Obviously these questions are impossible to definitively answer without actually using the software.  Intuitively, though, I think the second question is fairly obvious.  Dorico looks to be a more modern program in how it interacts with sequencing, and while I’m not sure everyone is going to love everything about it, it’s definitely every bit as powerful as either Finale or Sibelius.  Let me put it this way: I highly doubt you’re going to find something you used to be able to do in Finale or Sibelius that you’re not going to be able to do in Dorico.

But what about the first question?  This is harder to answer, particularly because we didn’t really get to see Dorico go through its paces or answer any truly difficult notational questions.  The new commission by Hewitt-Jones was fun, but there is really no question it could have been engraved in Finale or Sibelius quite easily.  And it’s great that the software is so quick and fluid at entering the music of Chopin (and Beethoven, the printed example we saw), but I write music that looks like this:

A sample of music by Aaron Holloway-Nahum engraved using Sibelius

and The Riot Ensemble, from time to time, performs music that looks like this:

A sample of music by Evan Johnson, engraving method unknown.

Now I don’t think Evan Johnson did that in Sibelius, but I made my score there, and while it wasn’t without its annoyances, my personal decision is probably going to come down to the price, unless the program really saves me a ton of time in producing this.

Two other little points:

• I write all of my music by hand first, and only then enter it into an engraving software. So, when it comes to their priority of being able to compose directly into the software, I don’t do this and the many options that facilitate it don’t really speak to me.

• I also don’t expect (or even want) my engraving software to play this back to me.In all my roles (composer, conductor, teacher) I’m a bit reticent about this move toward smarter and “better-sounding” software, because it hasn’t ever captured anything of the performance reality in new (contemporary classical) music, plus it can (and does) make a lot of composers lazy and a lot of performers lives a lot harder.  I’m involved in seeing and performing a lot of new scores each year with The Riot Ensemble, and without wanting to labor the point, we can tell really quickly when a composer is relying on the computer playback or notation engines.

So, I guess the summary is: be excited.  This is a really good-looking piece of software that has a lot of promise.  Do try it, and then you’ll have to see if it works for you.  I certainly will do this, and if NewMusicBox will have me, I’ll be back with further thoughts once I have!

Musical America Announces 2017 Honorees

The 1912 masthead for Musical America

New music is an important focus in the 2017 Musical America awards which have just been announced. Musical America, the United States’ oldest classical music magazine (published now exclusively online with the exception of an annual International Directory of the Performing Arts), will be presenting these awards formally in a ceremony in December at Carnegie Hall. In addition, each awardee is the subject of a tribute article that will appear in the concurrently released 2017 Directory.

The 2017 award for Composer of the Year has been awarded to Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra composer-in-residence Andrew Norman who was profiled in NewMusicBox in February 2014. Previous recipients of this award, which has been given annually since 1992, include John Corigliano (its first recipient), Milton Babbitt (1996), Stephen Sondheim (2000), Lou Harrison (2002), Christopher Rouse (2009), Meredith Monk (2012), and John Luther Adams (2015). Musical America’s citation describes Norman as “among the most versatile, not to mention performed, American composers of the day, with a list of commissions that would outdistance colleagues twice his age.”

The recipient of the 2017 award for Ensemble of the Year is the four-time Grammy Award-winning new music sextet Eighth Blackbird, which has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works including Steve Reich’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet, and which this year marks its 20th anniversary. Nearly 10 years ago, NewMusicBox posted a conversation with the entire ensemble about how they got turned on to new music, along with their fellow Oberlin alumni in the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Other 2017 awardees have also been deeply involved with contemporary music. Helsinki Philharmonic Chief Conductor and former Ensemble InterContemporain Music Director Susanna Mälkki (Conductor of the Year), a staunch new music champion whose October 2013 appearance with the Chicago Symphony (which included the local premiere of Thomas Adès’s …and all shall be well) was described in great detail by Ellen McSweeney in NewMusicBox, will make her Metropolitan Opera debut on December 1 conducting the New York premiere of her Finnish compatriot Kaija Saariajo’s L’Amour de loin. Bass-baritone Eric Owens (Vocalist of the Year) made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 singing the role of General Leslie Groves in John Adams and Peter Sellars’s Doctor Atomic, a role he created at the opera’s world premiere at the San Francisco Opera in 2005. He also sang the role of the Storyteller in the world premiere of Adams/Sellars’s A Flowering Tree (a role which he subsequently recorded for Nonesuch) at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna as well as the title role of Elliott Goldenthal’s opera Grendel at the Los Angeles Opera. In 2008, Molly Sheridan talked with Owens about his collaborations with contemporary composers for NewMusicBox.

Finally, Musical America’s 2017 Instrumentalist of the Year, Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang, who has championed the music of New Zealand composer John Psathas, has also been chosen as Musical America’s 2017 Artist of the Year, the highest accolade among these awards.

Julia Wolfe Named 2016 MacArthur Fellow

Julia Wolfe is among the 23 recipients of 2016 MacArthur Fellowships. She was recognized for the creation of music that “combines influences from folk, classical, and rock genres in works that are grounded in historical and legendary narratives. Often described as post-minimalist, Wolfe demonstrates an openness to sonic possibilities, with choral elements and instruments such as the mountain dulcimer, bagpipes, and body percussion often augmenting string and orchestral arrangements.”

The Bang on a Can co-founder and co­–artistic director is noted for the integration of music, movement, and visual elements in her work. Currently associate professor of music composition at the Steinhardt School at New York University, Wolfe won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her piece Anthracite Fields, which explored the complex history of the coal mining industry.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award that comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years. More information about the 2016 MacArthur fellows and the awarding process is available on the MacArthur Foundation website.

American Composers Orchestra President Michael Geller Departing in December

After 20 years as executive leader of American Composers Orchestra (ACO), President and CEO Michael Geller will depart the organization at the end of 2016. He is leaving to attend to personal and family obligations while considering new professional opportunities. ACO’s Board of Directors is seeking a new executive director who will continue to build upon the success and stability that Geller has spearheaded over the past 20 years.

“Michael Geller’s contribution to ACO has been enormous,” according to ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel.  “Through a combination of vision and commitment, he has steered the orchestra through two exciting decades of evolution and innovation.” ACO Music Director George Manahan said, “Working with Michael for my past six years as ACO’s Music Director, I have seen first hand his strong commitment and devotion to the orchestra. We owe him our sincere gratitude for his many years of leadership.” ACO Board of Directors Chairman Frederick Wertheim added, “Thanks to Michael’s skilled leadership, his dedication to ACO and his passion for new music, ACO has survived and even thrived during some challenging periods for arts organizations. The board is very grateful for all he has done for ACO.”

Geller leaves ACO in a strong position financially and artistically. The organization’s endowment has tripled since his arrival in 1996, and ACO’s programs have expanded significantly. Geller said, “ACO’s balance sheet is stronger than it has ever been. And with the conclusion of our second New York City-wide SONiC festival, our third nationwide Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, and our 11th season of Orchestra Underground at Carnegie Hall, ACO has offered up some of its boldest and most diverse programming ever. This is also a time for planning what the next generation of ACO’s artistic agenda will be, and thus a great moment for a new executive to dive in and pursue that work.”

Geller has guided ACO for a generation, and his accomplishments include ACO’s first touring performances in 20 years; the Orchestra Tech initiative which integrated digital technology into the orchestra; the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI), which trains jazz composers and diversifies  orchestra repertoire, taking it in new directions; Coming to America, which explored the continual evolution of American music through the work of immigrant composers and won the inaugural MetLife Award for audience engagement, becoming an industry model for engaging multi-generational audiences in the emerging field of arts-based civic dialogue; Playing It UNsafe: coLABoratory, ACO’s R&D lab, which developed a model for creative experimentation in orchestra music; the creation and growth of ACO’s first educational program, Music Factory, now working with more than 15 schools and community organizations and reaching over 3,000 schoolchildren annually; the launch and growth of the EarShot network, sharing ACO resources and expertise with orchestras around the country, leveraging ACO’s mission, building new partnerships, and creating multiple expanded opportunities for emerging American composers in orchestras from Berkeley, CA to Buffalo, NY, and orchestras as large as the New York Philharmonic; overseeing and implementing the first digital releases and online streams undertaken by the orchestra, making dozens of world premiere recordings available around the world for the first time; conceptualizing and implementing Orchestra Underground, redefining the orchestra with new influences and multidisciplinary collaborations, premiering 90 new works in its first 12 years; the launch of major initiatives to promote diversity in orchestra music, including fellowships for minority composers, education programs, and career development programs for women and other under-represented artists in orchestra music; planning and executing two SONiC (Sounds of a New Century) festivals, the largest undertakings in ACO’s history, including 200 emerging composers with a diverse array of music, all of it composed in 21st Century.

ACO’s Board of Directors has formed a search committee to be aided by an executive search firm to fill the vacancy left by Geller’s departure.

Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. ACO also serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent, as a catalyst for growth and change among orchestras, and as an advocate for American composers and their music. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ACO is the 2015 recipient of the Champion of New Music Award given by American Composers Forum. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 36 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for American music in the United States.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council.

(—from the press release)

Philip Glass Among 2015 National Medal of Arts Recipients

President Barack Obama will present the 2015 National Medals of Arts to 12 honorees, including Philip Glass, in an East Room ceremony at the White House on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Recipients will be acknowledged in conjunction with the National Humanities Medal honorees. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend. The event will be live streamed at

The citations about the 2015 National Medal of Arts recipients will be read by the president at the awards ceremony. Philip Glass will be commended for his “groundbreaking contributions to music and composition. One of the most prolific, inventive, and influential artists of our time, he has expanded musical possibility with his operas, symphonies, film scores, and wide-ranging collaborations.”

Other citations noting musical contributions include those for Mel Brooks, Berry Gordy, Santiago Jiménez, Jr., and Audra McDonald. Full details on the NEA’s website.

Showcase of Six New Operas-In-Progress plus an Entire New Opera to be Presented in L.A.

The Industry, a non-profit, artist-driven L.A.-based experimental opera company, has announced the third installment of its FIRST TAKE series, a biennial West Coast workshop for new American operas. In addition, the company has launched a new initiative entitled SECOND TAKE, which will feature an entire performance of a new opera first heard on a previous FIRST TAKE program. The two programs will provide a rare and vital opportunity for American opera creators to test new works before the public in a concert setting with full orchestration.

Co-presented by its “house band,” LA’s wild Up ensemble, FIRST TAKE will showcase excerpts from six new opera works-in-progress, composed by Nicholas Deyoe, William Gardiner, John Hastings, Laura Karpman, Marc Lowenstein, and Dylan Mattingly. Audiences are invited to come and go throughout the three-hour performance, which is free and will take place Friday, February 24 2017 (from 8 to 11 pm) at Los Angeles’ Aratani Theater (244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo).

SECOND TAKE launches with the concert premiere of Bonnie and Clyde by composer Andrew McIntosh and librettist Melinda Rice on Saturday, February 25 (from 8 to 10 pm), at the ornate Wilshire Ebell Theatre (4401 W 8th St.). McIntosh and Rice were commissioned to complete the work with the generous support of Stephen Block, Leslie Lassiter, and Raulee Marcus.

A sneak listen to some of Bonnie and Clyde with commentary by its creators Andrew McIntosh and Melinda Rice.

FIRST TAKE and SECOND TAKE are curated by The Industry’s Artistic Director, Yuval Sharon, in collaboration with wild Up’s Artistic Director Christopher Rountree, The Industry’s Music Director Marc Lowenstein, and The Industry’s Executive Director Elizabeth Cline. FIRST TAKE is modeled on the format Sharon created during his four years as Project Director of New York City Opera’s VOX program between 2005-09. Of the 40 works Sharon workshopped at VOX, 25 have gone on to future life in companies around the world, including the first two operas produced by The Industry: Anne LeBaron’s Crescent City and Christopher Cerrone’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Invisible Cities.

FIRST TAKE scores are chosen from an open call; there were a record 68 submissions for 2017. Each opera performed during FIRST TAKE is introduced by a short video pulled from interviews with the creators and then presented unstaged, enabling the audience to focus on the music and libretto. FIRST TAKE will be conducted by Marc Lowenstein, and SECOND TAKE will be conducted by Christopher Rountree.

FIRST TAKE was launched on June 1, 2013 at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater. Among the six new works showcased was an opera by Pauline Oliveros, set to a text by the poet Ione, and a theatrical song-cycle by Mohammed Fairouz, set to Wayne Koestenbaum’s riff on Pierrot Lunaire. The second installment took place February 21, 2015 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; highlights included excerpts from new works by Anne LeBaron, Jenny Olivia Johnson, and Paul Pinto, as well as Andrew McIntosh’s Bonnie and Clyde, which will be heard in full in this year’s SECOND TAKE.

Singers during the 2015 FIRST TAKE performances.

Below are brief descriptions of each of the new operas that will be featured during the 2017 season of FIRST TAKE.

Little Bear
Music and Libretto: Marc Lowenstein (Los Angeles)

A family opera from the music director of The Industry, Little Bear explores what fairy tales reveal about the psychology of time, change, loss, and love.

Stranger Love

Music: Dylan Mattingly (Berkeley, CA)
Libretto: Thomas Bartscherer
An expansive and abstract love story in three acts, Stranger Love is an epic opera that traces the seasons and the velocity of universal expansion. Like Plato’s Symposium, it moves from love in a human and personal frame to archetypal and divine love.

The Former World 

Music and Text: John Hastings (New York)

More an installation than an opera, The Former World creates an artistic unfolding of geologic time in two time scales: earth and humanity. Musical layers are developed like the striations found in geology as four singers create a tapestry of text.


Music: William Gardiner (New York)
Animation and Text: Thomas Rawle (London, UK)
Real-time animations accompany music that explores the mentality of the modern Western mind.

Music: Laura Karpman (Los Angeles)
Libretto: Gail Collins (New York)

Balls dramatizes the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and draws on the comedic, dramatic, and hugely political nature of this match. “The Battle of the Sexes” changed not only the perception and treatment of women in sports forever, but substantially advanced the women’s rights movement.

Haydn’s Head 

Music: Nicholas Deyoe (Los Angeles)
Libretto: Rick Burkhardt (New York)

Haydn’s Head is intended as a puppet opera. It is based on a true episode: four days after Haydn’s death, composer Johann Nepomuk Peter and a friend of Haydn’s, Joseph Carol Rosenbaum, opened the departed composer’s grave at night and stole his head. Their quest was fueled by the vogue for phrenology, the pseudo-scientific study of skull shapes.

For more information, visit 

(—from the press release)