Tag: composer-in-residence

A Musical Oasis in an Icefield

Orchestra on stage

In January of 2016, I boarded a plane from my home base in New York City and touched down a few hours later in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Though I was born in Montreal and lived through its blistering winters for almost three decades, five years of temperate NYC weather had dulled my hibernal instincts: I showed up with a slick coat best suited for a reasonable East Coast urban setting, wearing cowboy boots…

…It was negative 40 degrees. Fahrenheit or Celsius, you ask? Doesn’t matter, they’re the same at that hellish level. (But yeah, Celsius.)

I was there to be announced as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s new composer-in-residence and co-curator of its Winnipeg New Music Festival (WNMF). It’s fair to say I was pretty stoked. But I didn’t really know what I was getting into.

I’d heard of the orchestra and of the festival. WNMF would come up in conversation among the contemporary music intelligentsia and would show up sporadically in the webosphere. News would filter out about major composers and artists being involved, and the WSO had recently made its Carnegie Hall debut performing exclusively contemporary Canadian music.

The position with the WSO had opened up following the departure of my immediate predecessor, Vincent Ho, and though I’d been garnering some valuable experience writing for orchestra over the previous few years, I didn’t have high expectations when I applied for the post. I was shocked when I got the fateful call, and thrilled that I’d get to go there to experience WNMF 2016 in person before assuming the mantle.

I was expecting something cool but fairly low-key. This isn’t New York or LA, after all; Winnipeg is only the 7th most populous city in Canada (which has one tenth the population of the US). It’s a 22-hour drive from Toronto in the next province over; 13 hours from Chicago or Calgary; and at least 7 hours from “neighboring” cities Minneapolis and Saskatoon.

What I found was fairly mind-blowing. A week-long festival dedicated entirely to contemporary music from Canada and abroad; four full orchestral programs with the WSO and three evenings of chamber, choral, and other programming formats; Joan Tower, David Lang, and Sō Percussion hanging out; collaborations with the visual arts, film, fashion, and gastronomy; enthusiastic audiences coming out to fill the 2300-seat Centennial Concert Hall, seven days in a row. People came not only for the music, but packed the hall’s various spaces to listen to discussion panels and participate in Q&A sessions with the guest artists. With searing −40° weather outside.

The place was buzzing. Wait, am I in New York or LA? [Looks out at the crystalline, frozen landscape surrounding the hall.] Huh. I guess not.

WNMF 2018 post-concert audience Q & A with artistic director Alexander Mickelthwate, composers Philip Glass and Michael Snow, and co-curators Harry Stafylakis and Matthew Patton. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

WNMF 2018 post-concert audience Q & A with artistic director Alexander Mickelthwate, composers Philip Glass and Michael Snow, and co-curators Harry Stafylakis and Matthew Patton. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

Returning from that first trip, the import of my position hit me. WNMF was founded in 1992 by then-Music Director Bramwell Tovey and the WSO’s first composer-in-residence, Glenn Buhr. The job I was taking on was, incredibly, supported by an initiative by the Canada Council of the Arts to place a Canadian composer at the heart of our important orchestral institutions as ambassadors for music as a living art. Though the details of these positions vary across the nation, the essence is the same: to develop my own skills in composing for orchestra, while advocating for living composers by assisting in contemporary programming, organizing commissions, facilitating rehearsals and productions, writing grants, seeking sponsors, engaging in educational outreach, and serving as liaison between the artists and organization on the one hand, and between the organization and its audience on the other.

If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Between all the curatorial, administrative, operational, outreach, and public-facing responsibilities, and composing an inordinate amount of music, it’s more than a full-time job. And it’s an absolute pleasure.

I get to listen to hundreds of pieces every year, including the constant stream of incoming programming and commission proposals from composers, soloists, and ensembles. It can be frustrating, knowing that there’s only so much that can be programmed in even as substantial a festival as WNMF and in the handful of slots dedicated to contemporary music in the WSO’s regular season.

At the same time, we’re also incredibly ambitious, wanting to present and commission a diverse swath of music, from major international figures to local and emerging artists – all within the confines of a rather modest operating budget. The WSO’s commitment to contemporary music continuously boggles my mind, allocating substantial resources to developing the orchestra’s position as a leading supporter of living artists, but financial realities are always sobering. Funding to make it all possible is lovingly assembled from the WSO’s operating budget, from national, provincial, and municipal grants, and from private and corporate sponsorships. This is a Sisyphean endeavor, requiring constant work to maintain and, hopefully, increase our capacity as stewards for contemporary music.

WNMF 2018 post-concert with co-curators and the performers for Philip Glass's Complete Piano Études (pictured left to right): Harry Stafylakis, Madeline Hildebrand, Jenny Lin, Philip Glass, Vicky Chow, Jónas Sen, Matthew Patton. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

WNMF 2018 post-concert with co-curators and the performers for Philip Glass’s Complete Piano Études (pictured left to right): Harry Stafylakis, Madeline Hildebrand, Jenny Lin, Philip Glass, Vicky Chow, Jónas Sen, Matthew Patton. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

Given all that, it’s amazing what the WSO is able to accomplish. In my first two years with the organization, we’ve featured major international artists of an impressively eclectic range, from Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble and JACK Quartet, to Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) and William Basinski, to Fazıl Say and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. At WNMF 2018, Philip Glass was our distinguished guest composer, presenting the Canadian premiere of his Symphony No. 11 and performing in person alongside a murderers’ row of brilliant pianists in an evening dedicated to his complete Piano Études. Partnering with Carnegie Hall for the first time since the WSO’s 2014 New York debut, we co-commissioned Glass’s String Quartet No. 8, which was premiered by guest artists, the JACK Quartet, preceded by Ferneyhough and followed by georg Friedrich Haas’s String Quartet No. 9, performed in complete darkness in the massive concert hall; JACK brought the house down. On opening night, the Glass symphony was programmed alongside the orchestral version of Björk’s Family, an orchestral commission by legendary visual artist Michael Snow, and my second major commission for the WSO, A Parable for End Times, a setting for choir and orchestra of an apocalyptic text of biting social commentary by noted fantasy author Steven Erikson.

WNMF 2018 post-concert Q & A with JACK Quartet (L–R): Harry Stafylakis, Christopher Otto, Jay Campbell, John Pickford Richards, Austin Wulliman, Alexander Mickelthwate. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

WNMF 2018 post-concert Q & A with JACK Quartet (L–R): Harry Stafylakis, Christopher Otto, Jay Campbell, John Pickford Richards, Austin Wulliman, Alexander Mickelthwate. Image: Steve Salnikowski | Chronic Creative

Of course, as a Canadian institution, a significant part of our mission is to help nurture Canadian music, which the WSO has a distinguished history of doing. In my time with the orchestra, we’ve featured and commissioned works by noted Canadian composers Vivian Fung, Christos Hatzis, Jocelyn Morlock, Samy Moussa, Cassandra Miller, Dinuk Wijeratne, Nicole Lizée, Emilie LeBel, T. Patrick Carrabré, Alexina Louie, Eliot Britton, Farangis Nurulla-Khoja, Karen Sunabacka, Andrew Balfour, Fjóla Evans, Sabrina Schroeder… The list goes on.

WNMF Composers Institute 2018 participants and mentor composers (L–R): Octavio Vazquez, Samy Moussa, Harry Stafylakis, Steven Webb, Kristen Wachniak, Philip Glass, Karen Sunabacka, Austin Leung, Chia-Lin Cathy Kuo, Brent Johnson, Roydon Tse, Leslie Opatril. Image: Brent Johnson | WSO

WNMF Composers Institute 2018 participants and mentor composers (L–R): Octavio Vazquez, Samy Moussa, Harry Stafylakis, Steven Webb, Kristen Wachniak, Philip Glass, Karen Sunabacka, Austin Leung, Chia-Lin Cathy Kuo, Brent Johnson, Roydon Tse, Leslie Opatril. Image: Brent Johnson | WSO

Capitalizing on the potential offered by the festival, in my first year on the job I founded the WNMF Composers Institute, a week-long, intensive professional development program for emerging Canadian composers. Inspired in part by my own formative experience with the American Composers Orchestra’s 2014 Underwood New Music Readings – which was held as part of the first New York Philharmonic Biennial – the Composers Institute runs concurrently with the Winnipeg New Music Festival, offering seven young composers full behind-the-scenes access to the complex machinery of a professional symphony orchestra and major festival, while providing them with invaluable hands-on experience composing for and working with a high-level orchestra. The first edition was so successful that in 2018 the WSO committed to giving not just a reading of the young composers’ works, but to present them in public performance as one of the main WNMF evening concerts. Throughout the week, the dedicated WNMFCI mentor composers and the guest composers who were in attendance for the festival guided the participants through the process, sharing their experience and insight into the practical aspects of both the craft and business of composition. The hope, ultimately, is that this opportunity can serve as a launching point for young composers who are keen to pursue orchestral composition – a tough nut to crack for most of us. The Composers Institute is open to Canadian citizens and residents, with the call for applications going out every year through the usual channels (you may have seen the notice up on the American Composers Forum and Composer’s Site) and on the Composer Institute page. [Do help spread the word if you know any young Canadian composers!]

The amount of work that goes into planning and running a festival of this scope is tremendous. The Winnipeg Symphony’s entire administrative, production, operations, marketing, and artistic planning teams, hall staff, technical personnel, and several dozen musicians are involved in making it all possible. The Composers Institute alone represents a year of preparation and twelve-plus-hour days during the entirety of the festival. From a purely artistic front, witnessing the WSO musicians and conductors prepare a week’s worth of brand new music in a heavily compressed timeframe and execute it at such a consistently high level is frankly awe-inspiring. Most of this work goes on behind the scenes, the names of all the contributors at best acknowledged in fine print in the festival program book or on a back page of the WSO or WNMF websites.

But boy is it ever worth it, if only for the honor of being part of something this special.

Harry Stafylakis standing on the side of the stage during a performance. Image: Sarah Panas | WSO

Image: Sarah Panas | WSO

In 2019, WNMF founder and WSO Conductor Laureate Bramwell Tovey returns to conduct the opening concert, featuring WNMF alumni composers Kelly-Marie Murphy, Jocelyn Morlock, and yours truly, capped off with John Adams’s seminal Harmonielehre (which was featured at the very first edition of the festival). Daniel Raiskin then takes over the podium in his first season as WNMF artistic director, conducting works by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Michael Daugherty, Caroline Shaw, Vivian Fung, and distinguished guest composer Pēteris Vasks. Exciting young Canadian ensembles collectif9 and Architek Percussion come out to present works by Canadian composers, while the incredible Roomful of Teeth makes its WNMF debut both on their own feature concert, and later joining the orchestra for a special collaboration.

And – I still can’t quite believe it – progressive metal pioneers Animals As Leaders come to the festival to give a unique performance of their music, highlighting the progressive metal genre’s shared values as advanced, virtuosic chamber music, and also joining the WSO for the band’s first ever performance with live symphony orchestra. For a life-long metalhead [that’s definitely a word] and classicalhead [can we make that a word?], collaborating with a group of Animals As Leaders’ caliber in creating these new orchestral adaptations of their music has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me personally – and a testament to the artistic diversity that WNMF has developed in its 28-year history.

Though it may go without saying, I continue to be absolutely stoked and humbled to be part of this institution, and relish the opportunity to return to WNMF every year. In fact, you should consider coming for a visit sometime around January 25–February 1, 2019; when was the last time you were in the Canadian Prairies in the heart of winter? Besides, it’ll only be around −40°.

Get Out There: Alternative Opportunities for Composers and Performers

Most people in the new music community are familiar with the general range of opportunities for study, work, and networking available to student or emerging composers and performers, such as the many academic conferences and other events like Tanglewood, the Atlantic Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Bang on a Can’s summer program at MassMOCA, the Banff Centre, or overseas festivals like highSCORE and Cortona Sessions.

However, before you can attend these competitive opportunities, you have to be accepted to them, and the first roadblock you encounter might be the high application fee. For example, it costs $75 to be considered for a spot at Tanglewood and $75-$100 for a spot at the Atlantic Music Festival. And with many of these events, you can further expect hefty participation fees ranging into the thousands. At this price point, you will also have correspondingly hefty figures in music leading your master classes and private lessons, as well as access to many other benefits including networking and community building within the new music world.

But there are many opportunities out there for musicians and composers that are both more affordable and more accessible. Some of these are specifically designed for musicians and composers, while others more broadly cater to creatives working in multiple media.

Below is a specially curated list of 24 low-cost (or free) opportunities in the USA and Canada which you may not have heard about before, but should definitely check out. Some are priced comparably low for the resources/experiences they are offering, some are completely free, and some go beyond free and actually offer stipends.

Many of these residencies accept applications from project partners or small teams. When researching them further, keep that in mind. It can be difficult to get affordable studio space and time for a group project, whether you’re working with an ensemble or working with artists in other media—or even with folks outside of the arts. Applying to attend a residency as part of a team that you build could be your chance to work with an ecologist or horologist or volcanologist on those wild and brilliant musical ideas you’ve been keeping on the dusty back shelf.

Not all of these residencies will work for everyone—for example, for those working full-time, year-round jobs, the lengthier events will likely not be feasible. Some are more competitive during the summer (when those in academia would be able to attend) but not as competitive in the fall/winter/spring. As with all opportunities, it’s a good idea to apply to at least a handful to increase your chances. My personal ratio of success is one residency acceptance for every five or six applications. So, check these opportunities out and enrich your musical education without adding unnecessarily to your financial burden.

(Note: Take notice especially of the deadline dates, as many come soon after the publication of this article. Make sure you also visit the website of each opportunity you apply to for the most accurate and up-to-date information.)


Peer-Mentored Music Workshops

Canada has in recent years become a hub for new music workshops focused on enabling peer mentoring—that is, skill/resource/talent-sharing among emerging composers and performers. They are made possible largely by the preponderance of funding opportunities for the arts at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels in Canada, in addition to those available from private funding bodies. While these grants do often require that a certain percentage of the participants are Canadian, international applicants are still very strong contenders. For example, at the 2017 Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (see below), 50% of the participants were from outside of Canada. In other words, apply apply apply!

Montréal Contemporary Music Lab (MCML) is a ten-day performance and creation workshop exploring, celebrating, and creating bonds between performers, composers, sound artists, improvisers, and mixed/multimedia artists engaged in the act of creating new music. Formed in 2011 by seven emerging musicians in Montréal, they are a collective run entirely by and for young and emerging artists.

Deadline: March 2018 (date not posted yet)
Location: Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $250 CAD ($196 USD)

Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML) is a peer-mentored, eight-day workshop for early career musicians and composers, and it’s designed to foster professional development, artistic growth, collaborative learning, and community building through workshops, rehearsals, social events, panel discussions, and performance.

Deadline: 2/1/18
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $157 CAD ($123 USD)

Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (WRCMS) is a weeklong series of workshops, concerts, panels, reading sessions, and activities designed to promote and provide opportunities for emerging and early career Canadian and international performers, improvisers, and composers of contemporary music.

Deadline: 2/15/18
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $395 CAD ($309 USD)


“Master” Mentoring

There aren’t many residencies built around participants receiving mentoring from a master artist while also being more affordable and open to general applicants, so there is just one residency included here in this category. I have been grateful to attend the Atlantic Center for the Arts twice and can attest to it being world-class—it offers a wonderful community, fabulous private lodging, delicious food, and fantastic resources. It also boasts a local friendly tortoise named George (the wooden walkways are elevated above the palm forest floor so he and his friends can walk around as they please). Built in the 1970s by creative visionaries and maintained with love and generous funding from local donors, there really is no experience quite like ACA.

Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) is an innovative nonprofit artists-in-residence program. Three “Master Artists” from different disciplines determine the requirements and basic structure of their residency, and through an online application process, they each select eight “Associate Artists” to participate in the three-week program.

Recent master artists in the field of music have included Michael Bisio, Zeena Parkins, John Gibson, Derek Bermel, Natasha Barrett, and Georg Friedrich Haas. Coming up, you can apply to spend three weeks working with composer Laura Schwendinger (apply by 1/21/18) and/or composer Maria de Alvear (apply by 5/13/18). Attend as many times as you are accepted; applications go directly to each master artist rather than to a board or jury. Individual master artists also determine both what is required in their applications and how they will run their residency, so each application is different, and each residency unique.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 1/21/18.
Location: New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Application fee: $25
Residency fee: $900, but need-based partial scholarships are available.


Interdisciplinary or Collaborative

In her recent interview for the Listening to Ladies podcast, self-described New Renaissance Artist Elizabeth A. Baker emphasized the vital importance (in pursuing the goal of creative growth) of learning about the many intricate worlds of art and culture that exist outside of your specific niche. Interdisciplinary residencies are gold mines for expanding your education and getting inspiration and resources (and lifelong friends) from entirely new and unexpected directions.

ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) is an artist-run non-profit based in Chicago. ACRE’s residency takes place each year outside of rural Steuben, Wisconsin. ACRE offers room and board with comfortable sleeping accommodations and chef-prepared meals for 14-day sessions. Set on 1000 acres, communal studio spaces compliment access to facilities including a recording studio and tech lab. Residents can choose to participate in studio visits with a variety of established artists, curators, and experienced educators, along with workshops, lectures, concerts, reading groups, critiques, and other programming throughout each session.

Deadline: 3/4/18
Location: Steuben, Wisconsin
Application fee: $0-$50 (cost rises as deadline approaches)
Residency fee: $600, but 40% of residents receive half-scholarships

EMPAC: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is where the arts, sciences, and technology meet under one roof and breathe the same air. The EMPAC artist-in-residence program runs year-round. A residency may be used to explore a concept, to research the artistic or technical feasibility of a certain idea, to develop computer programs or specific hardware, develop part of a project, bring a work to full production scale, or document/record an existing work.

Deadline: Rolling
Location: Troy, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0
Note: Residents cannot be full-time students.

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. With a focus on the conservation of natural resources, integration of small-scale organic food production, and the arts, residents sustain their growth by cultivating the surrounding grounds, working on their artistic vision, and forging partnerships within the community. Applications are accepted in all creative fields, including but not limited to the visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition, and performance. There are seven sessions, and each session lasts for three weeks. The residency fee includes a private bedroom, food, and studio space.

Deadline: December 2018
Location: Dorset, Vermont
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $200
Note: Marble House offers a family-friendly session for artists attending with their children.

Omi International Center: Music Omi invites approximately a dozen musicians—composers and performers from around the globe—to come together for two and a half weeks in a unique and collaborative music-making residency program. A singular feature of the Music Omi experience is the presentation of public performances during and at the conclusion of the residency, where collaborative work can be shared with the public. Everyone accepted to Music Omi receives lodging, including a private room, and delicious meals during his or her stay.

Deadline: January 2019 (this year’s deadline was 1/2/18)
Location: Ghent, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0


Focused Space/Time

Ample time and space to work on a project are immensely valuable resources. It is too easy to look at a successful artist from afar and call them a “genius,” while (in)conveniently forgetting the multitude of quiet hours they’ve spent honing their craft—not to mention forgetting the necessary, immense privilege required to even access those quiet hours. Historically, wealthy white cisgender men have been those most likely to find themselves with the leisure time and space to do things like compose masterpieces—servants and wives dumped the poo and arranged the households so the men could delve into their intellectual and creative pursuits.

These days we have residency models which, while still remaining inaccessible to many (including single parents, those who can’t afford to stop working at their jobs for extended periods, and those who cannot obtain financial resources to travel to a residency) have nevertheless gone some way toward opening up the quiet-time playing field to more participants.

The Anderson Center residency program is open to emerging, mid-career, and established visual artists, writers, composers, choreographers, interdisciplinary artists, performance artists, and translators. Each resident is provided room, board, and workspace for the length of the residency period in the historic Tower View Mansion.

Deadline: 2/15/18
Location: Red Wing, Minnesota
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0
Note: They also offer a residency specifically for the deaf community.

Art Farm Artist Residency program is for professionals, emerging or established, in all areas of the arts, humanities, and areas related: offering accommodations and studio space to pursue their art in exchange for a contribution of labor of 12 hours per week to help renovate and maintain Art Farm’s buildings and grounds, as well as other projects suited to skills and temperament.

Deadline: 3/1/18
Location: Marquette, Nebraska
Application fee: $20 (click on the “writers” category; this includes music-makers)
Residency fee: $0 + 12 hrs/week working on the farm

Avaloch Farm Music Institute provides a unique opportunity for chamber music and jazz ensembles (at any stage of development) to have the time and space to: work intensively on repertoire; prepare for recordings, concerts, or competitions; work with composers on commissions; and forge or reconnect to a group musical identity. The New Music Initiative brings together ensembles working with a composer or collaborator on new material during intensive farm-wide new music themed weeks. They will also accept ensemble/composer collaborations during weeks that are not designated as exclusively New Music Initiative times. Avaloch Farm Music Institute offers free living and studio accommodations, as well as all meals, as part of the residency.

Deadline: 3/15/18
Location: Boscawen, New Hampshire
Application fee: $75
Residency fee: $0

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts residency opportunities are open to national and international artists showing a strong professional working history. A variety of disciplines are accepted including, but not limited to, visual arts, media/new genre, performance, architecture, film/video, literature, interdisciplinary arts, music composition, and choreography. Artists-in-residence receive a $750 monthly stipend to help with materials, supplies, and living expenses while in residence. An unrestricted $500 travel stipend is also provided.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

Blue Mountain Center, founded in 1982, provides support for writers, artists, and activists. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the center also serves as a resource for culturally based progressive movement-building. During the summer and early fall, BMC offers three month-long residency sessions. These sessions are open to creative and non-fiction writers, activists, and artists of all disciplines—including composers, filmmakers, and visual artists.

Deadline: 2/1/18
Location: Blue Mountain Lake, New York
Application fee: $25
Residency fee: $0

Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts is a non-profit organization offering time and space for artistic exploration to visual artists, writers, musicians, and composers from all backgrounds, levels of expertise, media, and genres. Residency sessions of two and four weeks are offered throughout the year, depending on availability and the applicant’s ranking in the jury process.

Deadline: 3/1/18 and 9/1/18
Location: Saratoga, Wyoming
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0

Djerassi Resident Artists Program offers 30-day core residencies (April-November) at no cost to the artists. National and international artists in the disciplines of media arts/new genres, visual arts, literature, choreography, and music composition are welcome. The program provides core residents with studio space, food and lodging, and local transportation.

Deadline: 3/15/18
Location: Woodside, California
Application fee: $45
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

The Headlands Center for the Arts Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program awards fully sponsored residencies to approximately 45 local, national, and international artists each year. Residencies of four to ten weeks include studio space, chef-prepared meals, comfortable housing, and travel and living stipends. Artists selected for this program are at all stages in their careers and work in all media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, new media, installation, fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, dance, music, interdisciplinary, social practice, and architecture.

Deadline: June 2017
Location: Sausalito, California
Application fee: $45
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

Hypatia-in-the-Woods (women only): Women in the arts, academia, and entrepreneurship may apply for a residency of from one to three weeks. Nestled on several acres of Pacific Northwest second growth forest on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the retreat center provides an ideal setting for women to find solitude and time for their creative work.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 2/15/18.
Location: Shelton, Washington
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts offers up to 70 juried residencies per year to working visual artists, writers, composers, and interdisciplinary artists from across the country and around the world. Residencies are available for stays of two to eight weeks. Each resident receives a $100 stipend per week, free housing, and a separate studio. The Center can house up to five artists of various disciplines at any given time.

Deadline: 3/1/18 and 9/1/18
Location: Nebraska City, Nebraska
Application fee: $35
Residency fee: $0

The MacDowell Colony provides time, space, and an inspiring environment to artists of exceptional talent. A MacDowell Fellowship, as they term their residencies, consists of exclusive use of a studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for up to eight weeks.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 1/15/18.
Location: Peterborough, New Hampshire
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

The Millay Colony is an artists’ residency program in upstate New York offering one-month and two-week retreats to six visual artists, writers, and composers each month between April and November. Each residency includes a private bedroom and studio, as well as ample time to work in a gorgeous atmosphere.

Deadlines: 3/1/18 and 10/1/18
Location: Austerlitz, New York
Application fee: $35
Residency fee: $0

The Ucross Foundation Residency Program offers the gift of time and space to competitively selected individuals working in all artistic disciplines. The Foundation strives to provide a respectful, comfortable, and productive environment, freeing artists from the pressures and distractions of daily life. Residencies last between two and six weeks and include room, meals, and studio space.

Deadlines: 3/1/18 and 10/1/18
Location: Ucross, Wyoming
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0

The Wave Farm Residency Program provides artists with a valuable opportunity to concentrate on new transmission works and conduct research about the genre using the Wave Farm Study Center resource library. Transmission Art encompasses work in participatory live art or time-based art such as radio, video, light, installation, and performance, as well as a multiplicity of other practices and media, informed by an intentional use of space (often the airwaves). Wave Farm artists-in-residence receive a $700 artist stipend.

Deadlines: 2/1/18
Location: Acra, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible, but “exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for career artists who may have returned to school for postgraduate work.”

Wildacres Residency offers participants stays of one or two weeks in one of three comfortable cabins located 1/4 mile from the Wildacres conference center, where complimentary meals are available. The program has about 70 residencies available from April through October, and allows individuals the solitude and inspiration needed to begin or continue work on a project in their particular field.

Deadline: 1/15/18
Location: Little Switzerland, North Carolina
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0

Willapa Bay Artist Residency offers month-long, self-directed residencies to emerging and established artists, writers, scholars, singer/songwriters, and composers. The residency provides lodging, meals, and work space, at no cost, to six residents each month from March 1 through September 30 of the year.

Deadline: 7/31/18
Location: Ocean Park, Washington
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $0

For searchable directories of hundreds of residencies, check out the Alliance of Artist Communities and the ResArtis Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies.

Mason Bates Appointed Kennedy Center’s First Composer-In-Residence

Mason Bates standing in front of a brick wall

Mason Bates. Photo by Ryan Schude, courtesy Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center has announced that composer Mason Bates will join the Center in the 2015-2016 season as its first Composer-In-Residence. During his three-year residency, Bates will compose music across artistic genres and curate a new contemporary music series. He will also advance initiatives that use technology to educate audiences and will encourage the inclusion of local artists and DJs in performances at the Kennedy Center.

“The Kennedy Center’s astonishingly diverse programs played such a crucial role in my early education in Virginia, so it thrills me to join this great team as Composer-In-Residence,” said Mason Bates. “With its rich variety of art forms, the Kennedy Center is the perfect place for new art to impact not only the surrounding communities, but the national conversation as well.”

Planned Kennedy Center commissions over the course of Bates’s residency include works for the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera, the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts, and performances of contemporary dance. He will also be featured as a performer at many Kennedy Center performances across genres.

The new contemporary music series will present the works of living composers using Bates’s signature re-imagining of the classical music experience. His innovative ideas for integrating traditional symphonic works with new music and performing them in alternative venues have attracted large and enthusiastic crowds to new music concerts throughout the United States and abroad. More information on Bates’s work as Composer-In-Residence—including new commissions, the contemporary music series, and other performances during the 2015-2016 season—will be announced at the Kennedy Center’s season announcement in March.

(—from the press release)

Visconti Chosen as California Symphony Young American Composer-in-Residence

The California Symphony has named Dan Visconti as their latest Young American Composer-in-Residence. Selected from a pool of over 80 applicants from across the country, Visconti will be given the opportunity to work directly with the orchestra and its music director Donato Cabrera over three consecutive years to create, rehearse, premiere, and record three major orchestra compositions, one each season. Visconti’s residency will begin in the fall and his first commissioned work, Power Chords, will premiere on May 1, 2015.

Dan Visconti

Dan Visconti

Dan Visconti (born 1982) composes concert music infused with the directness of expression and maverick spirit of the American vernacular. His compositions often explore the rough timbres, propulsive rhythms, and improvisational energy characteristic of jazz, bluegrass, and rock. Visconti studied composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music, primarily with Margaret Brouwer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and Zhou Long. Recent concert seasons have showcased several Visconti premieres, including a work commissioned by the Jupiter Quartet for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s international string quartet series; a work featuring experimental video commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra for premiere at Zankel Hall; an extended work for cellist Joshua Roman and pianist Helen Huang commissioned by Town Hall Seattle; and a work for soprano Lucy Shelton and the Da Capo Chamber Players for premiere at Weill Recital Hall. His compositions have been honored with the Rome Prize and Berlin Prize fellowships, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Performing Arts, the Barlow Prize, and the Cleveland Arts Prize; awards from BMI and ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Society of Composers, and the Naumburg Foundation; and grants from the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Chamber Music America. He has also been the recipient of artist fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, the Lucas Artists Program at Villa Montalvo, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Visconti has additionally been awarded a 2014 TED Fellowship and delivered a TED talk at the 30th Anniversary TED Conference in Vancouver. Visconti was a regular contributor to NewMusicBox from 2008 to 2013.
Seven composers have previously completed residencies with the orchestra since the program was established in 1991: Kamran Ince (1991-1992); Christopher Theofanidis (1994-1996); Kevin Puts (1996-1999); Pierre Jalbert (1999-2002); Kevin Beavers (2002-2005); Mason Bates (2007-2010); and most recently D. J. Sparr (2011-2014).

(from the press release)

Derek Bermel Named New Artistic Director of American Composers Orchestra

Derek Bermel

Derek Bermel
Photo courtesy Dworkin and Company

Composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been named the new artistic director of the American Composers Orchestra commencing with the 2013-14 season. Bermel has been ACO’s creative advisor since 2009, and succeeds composer Robert Beaser who has been ACO’s artistic director since 2000 and was ACO’s artistic advisor from 1993. Beaser will continue as ACO’s artistic advisor laureate. Bermel joins Music Director George Manahan, who has just renewed his contract with ACO for an unprecedented five years, in leading the ensemble in its mission to be a catalyst for the creation of new orchestral music.

Derek Bermel first came to ACO’s attention in 1994 as a participant in the Whitaker Emerging Composers Readings (now the Underwood New Music Readings) with his piece Dust Dances. ACO has since commissioned and premiered Bermel’s work on numerous occasions, including his first professional orchestral commission and Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with Voices, a clarinet concerto. ACO also commissioned and premiered A Shout, A Whisper, and a Trace (2009); Elixir (2006); and The Migration Series with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Bermel was ACO’s Music Alive composer-in-residence from 2006-2009, joining ACO’s board and becoming the orchestra’s creative advisor in 2009. In his role as creative advisor, Bermel programmed the ACO’s Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall and ACO’s citywide new music festival SONiC, Sounds of a New Century, in 2011, which featured 21st-century music by 120 emerging composers. Bermel has also been active in several of ACO’s composer development initiatives including serving as a mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings and EarShot programs, and serving as an artist-faculty member for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute. In addition to his new appointment with ACO, Bermel will continue to serve as director of Copland House’s Cultivate! Program for emerging composers.

(—from the press release)

Opera Company of Philadelphia Appoints Missy Mazzoli as Composer-In-Residence

Missy Mazzoli

Missy Mazzoli – Photo by Stephen S. Taylor

The Opera Company of Philadelphia, in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York, has announced that composer Missy Mazzoli has been selected as its second composer-in-residence. Mazzoli, currently working on her second full-length opera, was chosen from over 100 applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized, three-year development track focused on the advancement of her career as an operatic composer.

“Missy has already proven herself as a significant composer with stories to tell,” says OCP General Director David B. Devan. “This program will connect her with world-class professionals who can mentor and collaborate with her to support her continued growth as an artist.” For the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the program complements the American Repertoire Program (ARP), a commitment to producing an American opera in each season for the next decade, announced in 2011.

The composer-in-residence program, funded over five years by a $1.4 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides a living stipend ($60,000, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) and benefits to two composers, each following a three-year track, with the goal of “fostering tomorrow’s American operatic masterpieces through personalized creative development and intensive, hands-on composition.” Mazzoli will begin her appointment on September 1, 2012. She joins Lembit Beecher, who was appointed in September 2011.

In February 2012, Mazzoli premiered her first full-length opera, Song from the Uproar, at The Kitchen in New York. The Wall Street Journal called the work “powerful and new”, while The New York Times said that, “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score you felt the joy, risk, and unlimited potential of free spirits unbound.” Her new, 25-minute opera entitled SALT, a multi-media collaboration based on the biblical story of Lot’s wife, will premiere at UNC Chapel Hill in October 2012. Mazzoli attended the Yale School of Music, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, and Boston University, and is published by G. Schirmer.

(—from the press release)

The Ties that Bind, Part II

Family Concert

Shepherd speaking at a Reno Philharmonic Family Concert – Photo by Stuart Murtland

In my last NMBx post, I explored what I believe to be some big issues surrounding notions of community on the part of arts organizations in the U.S., and titled the essay with a “Part I.” At long last comes “Part II,” which was always intended as a reflection on what my experiences with “the hazy nebulae of education and outreach” in my residencies with orchestras have taught me. I said that I was in for lots of surprises. Very true. But since July 11, I made another trip to Reno (continuing my tenure as the Reno Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence), and I now have even more thoughts to share. We (Reno Phil President Tim Young, Music Director Laura Jackson, Education staff Amy Heald and Grace Hutchinson, and myself) spent time and effort taking those surprises and doing our best to capitalize on them: moving from a general introduction—“Hey everyone, here’s a composer!”—in my first season, to something deeper—“Maybe composing is interesting?”—and finally, working toward a definite goal—“Let’s compose.”

Out of all of the possible responsibilities discussed in my early conversations with Tim and Laura, education made me the most nervous. I had my reasons. My family still points out that I wasn’t really ever a kid even when I really looked like one, and I’ve barely spent any time amongst them since. How do I talk to them (a genuine concern!) and how could my work be interesting to them? And really, how would I frame a class or activity to find the right balance: I wanted to walk out knowing that they had learned something, but I really wanted to replicate my own outreach memories; I wanted to connect.

Every residency is different, and it became clear, due to a strong, long-forged partnership between the orchestra and the local school district, that a large focus of my time in Reno would be devoted to facing my fears. As we began shaping our plans, I began researching. I talked to Derek Bermel and Andrew Norman, composers who’ve had experience with composing and kids. I re-read Belinda Reynolds’s posts on NMBx about working with and composing for kids, and I talked to lots of people with lots of experience, like Ralph Jackson and Steven Stucky, about presentation. How much is it about my story, and how much about them? (About 10%/90%, it turns out.)

We cast a wide net at first. Last season I spent time with students at the University of Nevada, speaking in composition classes and to the entire music department, visited and chatted with the Philharmonic Youth Orchestras (of which I was once a member), and worked in classrooms with students from varied backgrounds at the high school, seventh/eighth grade, and third grade levels. I also worked closely and observed an elementary after-school program of the Philharmonic’s, which puts string instruments in the hands of kids as young as five years old. My conversations and approaches were different for each group, and overall I was surprised at how responsive the kids were, although there were some frustrations on my part. I felt openly disrespected at one point, and made it clear to organizers afterward that I did not intend to return. And nope!—the attitude didn’t come from a bunch of rowdy 13-year-olds as I might have guessed; in this case, the offending parties were paying by the credit-hour to be there. It certainly made me aware of my expectations for different audiences, and it’s possible that the 13-year-olds would have gotten more of a pass in my mind. At every turn, I was reminded that I did possess a skill set, and I thoroughly depended on my classroom teaching experience in graduate school; reading the room, setting the pace, when to dig in, when take the reigns, when to relax, when to interject, when to stop talking.

Everyone told me, “The third graders will be the best. They’ll be your favorite!” I couldn’t believe them, but oh, how right they were. Brimming with positivity and curiosity, able to focus and happy to work together, they are shrewd and sweet at the same time. An early moment, as I was coming around to speak with them in small groups, with three girls, sitting upright, cross-legged on the floor:

Me: “So, ladies, are you ready to share your ideas for your group piece with the whole class?”

Them, completely ignoring my question, and staring intently: “How old are you, Sean?” (They leapt at the chance I’d offered not to call me by Mr., of course.)

(aback) “Well, you three are all 8 or 9 right? I actually left Reno before you three were born. I’m pretty old.”

“Yeah, probably over thirty, but *you* look young enough to pass for 26 or 27.”

Oh, how I loved these kids: wide eyes, a hand shooting in the air, fleeting moments of self-satisfaction and disappointment throughout the class, and when it came time to listen to music, a hush and a focus. Their insights about what they heard were amazing to me; their intuition led them toward the conclusions I’d expect much more quickly than the twelfth graders, who second-guessed themselves.

Treasured correspondence. Image courtesy Sean Shepherd.

Treasured correspondence: Thanks for the memories. Image courtesy Sean Shepherd.
This fall, we took a look at areas where my longer stay and some specific planning would prove to be most useful. I wanted to work with 9-year-olds again, and we developed a larger project, with homework and group work, bridging vocabulary and sound and, in the end, encouraging the students to think abstractly about a concept and responding creatively to it. We were composing. A pet project of mine—seeking out and mentoring young composers, who, like myself years ago, were excited about stretching their wings—also came to fruition on this year’s annual Philharmonic family concert (theme: Composers!). A piece by a 13-year old named Paul was programmed and performed by the orchestra: the culmination of months of his composition work, email attachments, phone conversations (involving transposing instruments, part formatting, percussion writing, Finale fixes, the frustrations of Kinko’s, etc., etc.), a reading by the youth orchestra, a rehearsal by the Philharmonic, an on-stage interview, and lots of edits and changes. I felt privileged to be witness to so many firsts and “A-ha!” moments for a composer, and distinctly remember a similar feeling while escorting him back into the hall after his piece was performed. The first time hearing an orchestra play his music, his first applause: it was an out-of-body experience for him, and he seemed to have momentarily lost his sense of direction. He just needed a little help finding his way back to his seat.

Shepherd working with young composer Paul Novak at an RPYO rehearsal.

Shepherd working with young composer Paul Novak at an RPYO rehearsal.

That family concert provided another special moment: the culmination of another composing project; this time with students in the advanced group of Celebrate Strings (the Title I School after-school strings program spearheaded and funded by the Philharmonic), who arrived dressed to the nines for their first time in the concert hall. We had spent two weeks working on a variations project, taking a tune out of the Suzuki book that everyone knew, and composing variations (all by ear and from memory) using devices like mode mixture and changes of textures/techniques. The two most advanced students, fifth graders Julien and Javier, composed a few solo variations of their own, branching out harmonically while the rest of us devised an appropriate accompaniment. This was the boys’ second appearance with us onstage; Julien, already the professional, wondered aloud if and when they would be getting paid. This group of musicians played for a captivated audience full of their peers (children of all ages were welcome to bring their families along, and if you’d assume that a concert hall full of 2-11 year-olds isn’t a discerning and attentive audience, I’d stand to correct), and behind them sat the beaming faces of the members of the Reno Philharmonic. I also had a piece performed on that concert, and never did I pay so little attention.

Earlier that morning, I had spoken with Laura at an impressive triennial conference on art and environment at the spectacular new home of the Nevada Museum of Art, giving a talk about the importance of place in my work to a room full of fellow serious artists from around the world. And during those weeks, I had donor lunches and drinks with the musicians of the orchestra. I hosted a pre-concert social gathering for young professionals in Reno and thanked them for their continued curiosity and interest in the arts, and attended several beautiful events in my honor at extremely beautiful homes and thanked the hosts for their support of the arts. I spoke to the board about my work and my plans and gave lots of pre-concert lectures and onstage teasers. On the phone, via email, on camera, in the classroom, in the studio: I gave a lot of interviews. I wrote two pieces.

But if you ask me now what being a composer-in-residence has shown me so far? In seeing kids from ages 5-18 respond to music and to sound (often of my making), I’m gleefully reminded that what I do can have a visceral and immediate impact on those who are curious. I remember that sometimes the thing you fear is thrust at you right when it will do you some big favors. And I learned, all over again, that in art, it’s 10% me/90% you; a pretty good equation to remember.