Musical America Announces 2017 Honorees

New music is an important focus in the 2017 Musical America awards which have just been announced. Among the awardees are composer Andrew Norman and the new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird.

Written By

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is an ASCAP-award winning composer and music journalist. Among his compositions are Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow for orchestra, the "performance oratorio" MACHUNAS, the 1/4-tone sax quartet Fair and Balanced?, and the 1/6-tone rock band suite Imagined Overtures. His compositions are represented by Black Tea Music. Oteri is the Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and is Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he has been the Editor of its web magazine,, since its founding in 1999.

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.