Tag: grants

New Music USA announces $530,000 in awards to 108 projects

New Music USA announced today its eighth round of project grants, totaling $530,000 in funding to support artistic work involving a wide range of new American music. The 108 awarded projects include concerts and recordings, as well as support for dance, theater, opera, and more, all involving contemporary music as an essential element. Of the newly awarded projects, 44% feature people of color and 63% feature female or non-binary project organizers or main collaborators. Explore and follow the newly awarded projects to receive email updates as they unfold.

To date, an additional $80,205 over the program’s original annual budgets were made available through the actions of New Music Connect: The Network for Friends of New Music. This additional investment adds support to projects that qualified for funding as part of our grant program’s panel process. New Music Connect is designed to link and engage individuals from across the United States who advocate for and financially support the new music field.


‘Amplified’ — Tigue Commissions three electroacoustic works for 2018-2019
[Switch~ Ensemble] Commissions Katharina Rosenberger
{RE}Happening 2018 featuring Roomful of Teeth
15 Photos for extended technique vocalist
20 Minutes of Action
20th Anniversary MATA Festival
25 Minutes of New Music*
A New Work by Che Chen
Ain’t I a Woman
Alturas Duo: Vox Americana with Gwyneth Walker*
And so the heavens turned
Auxiliary Superpower
Bel Canto: A Symphonic Canvas
Body, the Shrine
Bravo! Vail’s 2018 New Works Project*
Carolyn Dorfman Dance Commissions New Work by Carolyn Dorfman and Renée Jaworski of Pilobolus
Color Theory 2.0
Conference of the Birds*
Dark Matter: A Tribute to Vera Rubin*
David Froom Commission for the 33rd Annual Irving M. Klein International String Competition*
David Sanford: Black Noise
Demon in the Heart (DH)
Deviant Septet Summer Composition Intensive
Documenting Three New Works
Ecstatic Music Festival 2018
Edgefest 2018: Chicago-Out Kind of Town
Eko Nova: Tornado
Fanm d’Ayiti
Filigree in Textile
Four Quartets: Residency and Commission for Pam Tanowitz and The Knights
Four Strings Around the World*
Fragility : An Exploration of Polyrhythms
From Out a Darker Sea
Gather Hear Alaska*
Giselle by Post:Ballet + The Living Earth Show*
Glass Works: new music inspired by the stained-glass artistry of Judith Schaechter*
Golden Hornet presents The Sound of Science*
Grackle Call
Hardness 10
Have You Seen Me*
Helga Davis Debut Album*
Hudson Valley Philharmonic Classroom to Concert Workshops & Young People’s Concerts*
I LAND 2018*
If You Listen
Inheritance – A Chamber Opera
Intricate Machines: Rising American Composers team up with Aizuri Quartet*
Invisible Anatomy’s debut album Dissections*
Iron Jane*
Jeffrey Brooks: The Passion
Joseph Daley’s Tuba Trio
Jukebox: Unplugged*
Living Voices*
Lucy Negro Redux
Madame Ovary
Michael Gordon’s Anonymous Man, Performed by The Crossing
Music in the American Wild: Soundscapes
Musical Creativity and Artistic Exploration in Puppet Theater*
Musical Crossroads: Classical and Jazz
Neil Feather Box Set*
New American Music for Violin and Voice*
New music and dance collaboration commission by Julianna Barwick and Jodi Melnick
New Work by Eve Beglarian for Roomful of Teeth
New Work Celebrates Seasons of the Catskill Mountains*
New work for orchestra by Gabriella Smith for Kaleidoscope*
Primero Sueño
Reading the Landscape
Recording Project: Music of Kotoka Suzuki*
Restagings No. 2: Of Serra (to movement)
Rivers Empyrean
RoseAnne Spradlin Project
Samuel Adler @90: Composer in the Community
Second Inversion – 2017/2018 On-Demand Videos
Solo Works for Prepared Soprano Saxophone
Songs of Protest*
Stray Bird*
STREYA – Album of new works for solo Violin
Symphony of Hawaiian Birds
Taina and Veena Music Collaboration*
TENDER (n): a person who takes charge
The 4th Annual New Music Gathering*
The All Around Us Project
The Darkest Light in the Heart
The Future is Bright: for soloist, film, and percussion ensemble*
The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series: Vol.5
The Oversoul
Veils and Vesper*
Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera
VocalEssence WITNESS: Of Such I Dream
What will we be like when we get there
Whole Sol Festival: Commissioning New Works
YDC Choreographer/Composer Project*

*indicates first-time awardee


Stefanie Batten Bland · Brian Baumbusch · Susanna Bolle · Amy Briggs · Kate Campbell · Katherine Ciesinski · Daniel Thomas Davis · Lorne Dechtenberg · Claire DiVizio · Tiffany Du Mouchelle · Kevin Ernste · James Falzone · Terry Fox · La Tanya Hall · Brian Harnetty · Liz Harris · Rennie Harris · Mila Henry-Moore · James Holt · Aurie Hsu · Ayako Kato · Lorna Krier · Carolyn Kuan · JoAnn Kulesza · Anna Kuwabara · Megan Kyle · Richard Montalto · Kristin Norderval · Elizabeth Ogonek · Monica Ohuchi · Forrest Pierce · Jane Rigler · Matana Roberts · Baljinder Sekhon · Sarah Silver · Lauren Snelling · Derrick Spiva Jr · Maya Stone · Molly Sturges · Timothy Sullivan · Mihoko Suzuki · Courtney Swain · Mazz Swift · Ashley Kelly Tata · Carmen-Helena Téllez · Suzanne Thorpe · Fay Victor · Anna Webber · Marcus White · Rain Worthington · Giselle Wyers

With a continued desire to support the greatest possible breadth of artists and informed by the valuable feedback we’ve received from the field, the eighth round continued to include a special focus on requests of $3,000 and below. Approximately 46% of grants awarded were in this category. The next round of project grants will open for requests in Fall 2018.

Including the awards announced today, New Music USA’s project grants program, launched in October 2013, has now distributed $2,866,978 in support of 558 projects in 36 states. Of these projects, 50% were for the creation of new work. The public-facing gallery of projects from all eight rounds and the ability for artists to update their progress and interact with followers are important promotional tools that extend the program’s service to artists beyond financial support. The overarching goal of project grants is to reach and aggregate the communities of new music enthusiasts, irrespective of genre preferences, and allow the public to discover new artistic work.

Ed Harsh, president and CEO, comments: “We’re awestruck by the diversity of projects created by artists across the United States that are part of each round. It’s the strongest motivation we can imagine to find new ways to support and serve, both through seeking more funds and developing new ways for our online platform to deliver value to our nationwide community.”

How OPERA America Has Supported New Works

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing case studies that illuminate networks of support for new American music, as presented by a panel of musicologists at the third annual New Music Gathering this past May. The full series is indexed here.

In a 2015 interview, Marc Scorca, president and CEO of the non-profit service organization OPERA America, conveyed his optimism for the future of American opera:

Today, we see new operas being performed in our major companies and at new works laboratories, which ten years ago didn’t exist nearly in the numbers that they exist today. There are composers, librettists, directors, and designers who really want to do new American opera for a whole variety of reasons…We now have an American opera repertoire.

OPERA America was established in 1970 by professional opera companies for opera companies. While their professional company membership today continues to predominantly feature traditional opera companies in North America, they now offer artistic services to a wider range of nontraditional entities that operate within and beyond the field of opera. As a national organization, it makes sense that OPERA America’s current mission statement prioritizes the creation and excellence of North American works especially. But OPERA America was not always devoted to new works. In fact, this priority only developed after the organization’s first decade in response to critical changes in the field. OPERA America members became concerned with the dearth of new American operas and the stagnation of standard European repertoire. In response to this perceived crisis, they designated a landmark suite of grants to cultivate new music theater collaborations.

American opera’s previous heyday occurred in the 1960s when the Ford Foundation commissioned 22 works, two of which were produced by the Metropolitan Opera, one each by San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and 11 by the New York City Opera. Familiar titles include Robert Ward’s The Crucible (1961), Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra (1966), and Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra (1967). These new operas had mixed reception among audiences and singers, who often preferred 18th- and 19th-century standard repertoire. Opera houses also found that the new works required more costly preparations, such as extra rehearsal time for roles that singers usually never had an opportunity to perform again. Although the Ford Foundation successfully extended the American opera repertoire, their commissioning program was not sustainable and it ceased when the money ran out. Thus, during OPERA America’s formative years in the early 1970s, U.S. opera companies encountered a relative downturn in financial support for new works.

Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra

By the late 1970s, a cohort of progressive opera and theater administrators reached beyond the boundaries of opera by galvanizing grants for collaborations. The National Endowment for the Arts debuted the Opera-Musical Theater program in 1979, which enabled interaction between opera and theater companies that previously had been assigned to the separate divisions of music and theater, respectively. The NEA Opera-Musical Theater program’s advisory board listed diverse figures, including opera company general directors David Gockley and Kurt Herbert Adler, opera composers Thea Musgrave and Carlisle Floyd, musical theater composers Stephen Sondheim and John Kander, and theater producers Hal Prince and Stuart Ostrow. Although the Opera-Musical Theater program successfully funded premieres and fostered new works in their early stages, this program alone did not enact the transformation OPERA America professionals were pursuing. In the early 1980s, productions of new American operas by U.S. companies remained limited: 1981 saw four world premieres in the United States, 1982 had seven, 1983 had five, and 1984 had only three. At this juncture, the forward-looking members of OPERA America hoped to stimulate the creation of any new works, even if their ultimate desire was for the works to become canonical with repeat performances.

It was necessary to effect a change within the opera field and not let opera companies be ‘end run’ by the creation of new music theater within other fields.

A network of arts professionals, including Rockefeller Foundation Arts Director Howard Klein and impresarios Harvey Lichtenstein and David Gockley, believed the solution was to look beyond opera establishments to the vital world of experimental music theater, most successfully represented by the collaborative efforts of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson in Einstein on the Beach (1976). Many of these music theater artists were active in the Downtown New York scene—Glass, Wilson, Robert Ashley, Laurie Anderson, and Lee Breuer—but others, including Paul Dresher and George Coates, worked in San Francisco. They had little or no contact with U.S. opera companies at the time. OPERA America President David DiChiera contended that “it was necessary to effect a change within the opera field and not let opera companies be ‘end run’ by the creation of new music theater within other fields, for that would serve to accentuate even more the atrophy current within our industry.”

OPERA America initiated new undertakings to address these issues with the help of Klein and Ann Farris Darling, director of the NEA Opera-Musical Theater Program. In August of 1983, Klein, Darling, and OPERA America Executive Director Martin Kagan and President David DiChiera held a three-day meeting in Detroit with 32 participants: composers, conductors, playwrights, stage directors, and opera house general directors with experience in new opera and related music theater works. The invitees were strategic: the meeting planners specifically wanted to bring together artists from the worlds of opera and musical theater. All attendees considered the particular limitations or opportunities that influenced opera companies in the creation of new American works. They brainstormed methods to minimize the artistic and monetary risks that determined whether or not a company would commission new operas.

Klein believed that opera companies ought to observe the theater world for inspiration: “Unlike theater, which nourished playwrights through workshops and productions, opera had no farm team for creators.” This issue, along with the time and money needed for commissions and productions, drove Klein and others to set up a support system for creating new works titled “Opera for the 80s and Beyond” (hereafter OFTEAB). The program offered three types of grants: Exploration Fellowships (allowing personnel to see new works and meet artists), Team Building Grants (funding artist/administrator meetings for potential works), and Development Grants (subsidizing creative costs for commissions and productions).

Money was only part of the problem.

Yet even as OPERA America personnel launched OFTEAB, they were not convinced all opera companies would take advantage of its grants. Consequently, OFTEAB’s first project director had the key duty of visiting and interviewing opera company administrators across North America to diagnose the reasons why they did not program new works. Their hire, Ben Krywosz, was a stage director who had experience with innovative music theater creation through the National Institute for Music Theater at Minnesota Opera. After meeting with dozens of opera companies, he noted in his final report that “money was only part of the problem. In fact, the implicit (and sometimes explicit) mission of most opera companies was to produce masterpieces of 18th- and 19th-century European opera. Creating new work was a completely different activity that was not particularly compatible with the production process of most opera companies.” In order for OFTEAB to work, Krywosz felt these companies needed to broaden their horizons and mission statements to include the creation of new operas. Some companies resisted OFTEAB, as they were not keen to change their approach. “Playing a pro-active role in challenging the field’s assumptions about the operatic form,” Krywosz explained, “was seen by some in the field as a subversive activity, inconsistent with OPERA America’s broader goals of supporting opera.” The Detroit meeting participants had predicted this issue, which is why OFTEAB’s funding, namely the exploration fellowships and pre-commissioning grants, functioned as educational outreach for general directors who were unfamiliar with emerging artists and new processes of creating music theater.

For more details about the particular works that resulted from OFTEAB and the risk-taking arts administrators involved, see “Funding Opera for the 80s and Beyond: The Role of Impresarios in Creating a New American Repertoire” in the Spring 2017 issue of American Music.

The influence of “Opera for the 80s and Beyond” on the American opera landscape became clear by its completion in 1990. Nontraditional opera companies, among them the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia and the Music-Theatre Group in New York City, now appeared as OPERA America member organizations, which continued to grow in number throughout the 1990s. The annual number of American opera premieres had also increased throughout the decade (e.g., 1998 had 31). In fact, this rate has remained constant to the present day: an average of 30 works premiered each year between 1995 and 2015.

The above average of 30 new works per year resulted from a 2015 OPERA America study that tracked the numbers, names, and composer demographics of North American world premieres over the past 20 years. This document offers a useful window into the organization’s more recent institutional priorities. For instance, the report found that only 71 (11%) of the 589 works premiered during this period have had more than one production. OPERA America’s programs have triumphed with the rise of annual premieres, yet most of these works have not entered the operatic canon with revivals. The exceptions belong to composers Mark Adamo and Jake Heggie, who according to the report enjoyed the highest number of revivals: Adamo’s Little Women (1998) had 66 and Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (2000) had 42. Philip Glass followed with 25 revivals (of multiple operas) and the highest number of world premieres (12 operas). Another area of concern for OPERA America is the lack of gender diversity. Only 41 out of 373 total composers were female. Today OPERA America has addressed this gap by facilitating a Women’s Opera Network and new grants for female composers.

Despite these achievements, Krywosz looks back at the 1980s as “heady times” compared to today, in which new works are more common. He assessed the situation over email in 2014: “Most of the work is fairly staid, new wine in old bottles, and we are headed dangerously toward a rather boring convention of naturalistic prose librettos, set in an arioso/recit style that doesn’t even begin to take advantage of the power of music-theater.” Today Krywosz continues to advocate for boundary-crossing works over in Minnesota as artistic director of Nautilus Music-Theater, where he works as a producer, director, and dramaturg of new operas and other forms of music theater. Some may perceive OPERA America’s mission of reaching “within and beyond the opera field” as empty talk, but Krywosz points out “there is a contingent within the organization (Beth Morrison, Paul Dresher, HERE, etc.) that [is] more adventuresome and can’t be discounted.”

At the same time, as John Pippen argues in a previous article in this series, “New music is a culture that tends to romanticize risk, and I think we ought to push back on that romanticizing. For all its aesthetic innovation, new music remains a job for many people.” Perhaps the same could be said of new American opera. Debates over its future highlight a complex web of expectations concerning not only the importance of radical artistic vision but also the commercial realities and conventional operatic norms of larger institutions that cannot afford to fail in the same way that smaller organizations might.

Returning to Scorca’s point at the beginning, if “we now have an American opera repertoire,” what kind of repertoire is it? In addition to Beth Morrison Projects, American Opera Projects and the American Lyric Theater aim to shape this repertoire from the ground up. A range of small organizations, Opera Parallèle and The Industry among them, also champion contemporary opera and music theater, and their influence has radiated outward: Opera Parallèle’s artistic director Nicole Paiement is now a principal guest conductor at The Dallas Opera. Such larger institutions continue to sprinkle new works into their programming, often working with arts incubators and shouldering costs through coproductions. But the “American New Opera Machine” still has its downsides: Frank Pesci, for instance, recently described the challenges emerging artists face when trying to break onto the American opera scene. As the field continues to work for change, the legacy of OFTEAB remains at OPERA America with its New Works Forums, Exploration Grants, and Audience and Repertoire Development funds.

Sasha Metcalf

Sasha Metcalf

Sasha Metcalf will begin a new position this fall as a program analyst at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program. Her research, featured in NewMusicBox and American Music, examines the interplay between administrators, artists, and performing arts institutions during the late 20th century. Previously, Metcalf was a visiting assistant professor of musicology at Vanderbilt University and a lecturer in the writing program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

2016 Pew Arts Grants Announced

Pew 2016 Grants

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has announced their 2016 grants in support of the Philadelphia region’s cultural organizations and artists. Fifty three grants totaling more than $10 million will provide funding for twelve new Pew Fellowships for individual artists working in a variety of disciplines; thirty six Project grants for the presentation of exceptional cultural programs offered to a wide range of audiences; and five Advancement grants to support bold organizational initiatives led by exemplary arts and culture organizations.

Grants awarded to those working in the area of new American music include:

2016 Pew Fellows

Andrea Clearfield
Christopher Colucci
Matthew Levy
Jymie Merritt

2016 Pew Project Grants

That Which Is Fundamental

The Anchoress

Composing the Tinnitus Suites: 2016

Philadelphia Real Book Concerts – New Music in Jazz and Blues

Breath Beneath

Symphony for a Broken Orchestra

2016 Pew Advancement Grant


(–From the press release. Read the full announcement here.)

Loving the Lottery: Arts Funding for the Unfunded

Henry photostrip

The Strip

A self-destruct feature would have been nice, yet unlike those voice mails “archived for 30 days” (never to be retrieved, we’re going to be honest here), my grant application videos (all umpteen million takes) stood in a row across my phone, one thumbnail after another.

There should be a photo of those thumbnails right above this sentence, but I’m embarrassed. I don’t want you to see the sequence of images (yes, still stuck on my phone) of me peering into the camera with a ghost-white play button plastered over my begging face.

Instead here’s a photostrip of my dog Henry. Much like other focused and successful artists I know, Henry’s art entails being blissfully unaware of most of the world and begging only when he really needs to.

Henry photostrip

Can I describe what I didn’t want to show you? One of the new facets of arts funding applications is the “Introductory Video” (a.k.a. the “Video Statement” or “Virtual Pitch”) where you bid everyone a not-too-jaunty hello and then convince strangers on an arts panel that you are a genius, but still a nice person, not too threatening, not too arrogant. You hit Stop after your first try, just in time: There, you think, that should be the one!

Delete that file and try again, take two: A nice genius who is making art? Nope, not quite.

Attempt number three captures a nice, attractive genius who is making compelling art, but you left it in Pause or Still Photo Mode or you still don’t know what happened. Damn it anyhow.

Ah, the final take! A nice, attractive genius who doesn’t come off as a genius or too attractive at all AND instead makes compelling art and, after all that, would be an amazing collaborator, colleague, and friend. That better do it. If it doesn’t, what will?

None of my videos turned out well. After visiting the foundation’s website (which I am too kind to name), the ugly and unremarkably visaged need not have applied. Only the beautiful write symphonies while fixating on “transplanar strategies” and “extensible, multi-nodal resources.”

Instead, I’m left with a souvenir of what we artists do: Spend extensive time and money creating lottery tickets for arts funding organizations. To my shame, I did (for the first and last time) what I swore I would never do with my art: Abase myself for money, chasing the almighty dollar by presenting my work, myself, my life, as something it ain’t.

The Five Models of Arts Funding

I have experienced five models of arts funding for individual, non-corporate artists:

– Rely on paying audiences and other ancillary income (royalties, licensing, “merch”) to keep the art and artists afloat.

– Pay for everything yourself (even minimally, such as online), profits be damned. Being wealthy helps (I’m not, sorry; I’m missing an added “is” as in Giada De Laurentiis.”

– Find yourself on the receiving end of a “we love you award” from a foundation which bestows money while refusing to accept applications. One variant: You are invited (in my case, “solicited”) to apply and paid generously for your time and effort.

– Gather a coalition of donors and patrons who contribute to the cause via Kickstarter or by writing letters and taking people to lunch.*

– And lastly, apply to an arts funding organization for money by filling out an application and making a video better than mine.

Let’s get any axe grinding out of the way with full disclosure: I have never applied for nor received a grant from Meet The Composer or New Music USA or the American Music Center—all fine organizations, but I’m not sure what I make (found soundscapes, Activist Sound, interstitial work rooted in silence, and orchestra intermissions) fits with their respective mission(s).

Yet I have been blessed (and I use that verb sincerely as an atheist) with more than my fair share of artist fellowships, as well as funding for my projects and performances. And I’m lucky that many labels have released and advocated for my work. I treasure the occasional funded artist residency too, though if the artist is paying room and board to make art in seclusion for seven days, that’s a discounted resort, not an artist residency. (Let’s save that screed for another time.)

Playing the Lottery

The application is where we fib, lie, dream, and rhapsodize. We distill endless hours of creative investigation, failure, and triumph into punchy paragraphs. We suture in the buzzwords hinted at (or suggested by) the application, including “[insert adjective] community engagement,” “[insert weird noun] innovation,” “social latticework with sustainable [insert another weird noun with an adverb]” and so on.

Cash Week - sm

Read more new music and money coverage all this week on NewMusicBox.

You try to encapsulate yourself, wisely or at least without too much nonsense; if you have not read Nayland Blake’s Some quick notes on Artist’s Statements” please do so now. And (usually at the last minute) you try to cram a life’s work into less than ten minutes (cued and labeled, please) of uploadable work samples and hope someone cares.

During this application process you are doing something similar to what you do as an artist: Sending your gifts out into the world with little hope of recognition or remuneration. For most of us, the sending is enough. To quote Nayland Blake again, “If you get to experience being in the midst of the moment of creation, of exceeding what you thought was possible for yourself, you’ve already won.”

But you are not sending forth your art; instead you are launching a very elaborate lottery ticket into the world. There is a way to make that a win for you too, no matter what anyone says.

“Give them the fucking money!”

Here’s what I learned from serving on panels for arts organizations, almost more than I can count. There is never enough time to review all of the applications. The lack of time and overwhelming number of pages (e.g. 10 per app) all but guarantees that the process is akin to a lottery.

Promises, promises: I was a good panelist and diligently read every application before we convened. Then, I tallied the time, averaging ten minutes for each one of 200 applications, excluding bathroom breaks. Do the math and weep for me. While I did my darndest to treat every artist’s application like my own, not everyone does. And to think I can absorb a lifetime’s work in ten minutes—really?

At the panel, all it takes is one naysayer. At one contentious panel, a fellow panelist moaned, “She pointed a microphone into a tube, where’s the art in that?”

“Plenty, if you listen. Didn’t you just say you ranked her work high on the list?” Yes, I was irritated and I’m a Seattle native. We never get irritated, except after earthquakes.

“But where’s the WORK?” came the reply, rolling like thunder.

Exasperated and drained of diplomacy (hey, it was Day Three of deliberations) I fumed, “We have just heard the work, a good four minutes of it. We all liked it. If you mean labor, that’s another issue.”

I wish I had hammered my point home with “We’re rewarding art, not sweat!” Alas, by then the panel had Balkanized as many panels do. My two choices got funded, panelist X got their two choices funded, and so on.

But the best lesson came during my first panel. Another artist/panelist, furious at the interminable amount of time spent debating now-forgotten fine points of something or other, screamed, “Let’s give them the money! Give them the fucking money! They made art, they will make art again, give them the fucking money!”

Next week: Winning the Lottery

* I have to reserve a special word for Mark Radonich, who contributed to one of my projects back in 2004; he described it as modest, but without that “modest” amount my work since then would be very different. Thank you, Mark.

Money, Support, and the Voice of New Music

cash keyboard

cash keyboard

As a composer of new music, I sometimes feel “water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink” when it comes to resources. We hear about the recovery of the economy and “investment,” but in the field of new music, funds for our work and our organizations seem in short supply.

During fiscal year 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts gave 146 grants to music organizations or in support of programming for a total dollar amount of $3,777,500. That’s a lot of money, right? But the focus of these funds underwrite a wide variety of projects with relatively little dedicated to new music overall.

So how do we get our arms wrapped around the matter of money to support the creation, performance, and dissemination of new music? How do we, as individual performers, composers, and administrators help ourselves, and others, to support an infrastructure that enables new music to thrive? Is the new music community any better situated now than in 2000 when John Luther Adams lamented that new music needed a new model of funding?

Fifteen years ago, the funding options seemed straightforward, but limited:

  • Commissions
  • Grants
  • Foundations
  • Individual Donors
  • Prizes

While these are still significant sources of monetary support for the arts, we now have crowdfunding—a resource unimagined back then. Residencies have diversified from a solitary respite for composers to now include interactive work with scientist, doctors, and archeologists. I’m personally working with the Umatilla Tribe here in Oregon to connect our art and music with the restoration efforts of our state’s waterways and the traditions of First Foods.[1]

With the playing field reputedly leveling, the landscape becomes increasingly complex. Sitting in the trenches of new music, the struggle for funding still seems significant and intensely competitive. Former Koussevitzky foundation winner Jim Mobberley stated that without funding, his piece would not have happened. How many works or programmatically innovative projects slip through the cracks? What kind of support mechanisms do we need to ensure that new works are programmed and disseminated?

Moreover, as individual musicians and composers, most of us do not have the same funding choices as 501(c)(3) performing organizations. The biggest concern is continuing to put food on our tables while bringing to life compelling new music. I was inspired by Brian Chin’s article “On the Power of the Project-Based Life” in which he suggests that we think “of career as the sum of our daily practices and the thousands of individual projects we create along the way. These projects could be as simple as putting on a concert or building a teaching studio or as elaborate as building a business or working for a tech corporation.” The money earning and fundraising is part of our career, but it shouldn’t define us or our music. In addition to composing, I’ve worked as a new music curator for a museum, an executive director for an orchestra, and an arts consultant. I am currently working with a regional parks entity trying to bring music into our outdoor spaces.

Cash Week - sm

Read more new music and money coverage all this week on NewMusicBox.

We also need the means to support each other and the works we’re trying to produce. The dark truth is that much new music would not exist at all without a plethora of unpaid hours to make it happen! Synergetic partnerships can play an important role in fueling the creation of new works in such circumstances. So what opportunities are on the horizon to improve such activity? And what are the larger, underlying issues affecting all of us regarding money and support?

The reality that bites is that, externally to the field, people often think music creation is not a profession. A city that doesn’t blink at the six-figure cost of a highway, building, or park design cringes at commissioning a piece of new music for a fraction of that. I am fortunate to be involved with my state on a national initiative called Building Public Will[2], examining how to morph public perception of the arts from a “nice to have” to an integral foundation of our society that is critical to its thriving existence.

We all get caught up with the day-to-day in our own creative (and non-creative) caves. Sometimes, it’s tough just to remember to look up. How can each of us help to create a supportive community locally? Are there existing networks to do so, and do they still work, or are they outdated? If not, are there models, such as Seattle’s or Chicago’s, we can look to?

As we settle into the second decade of the 21st century, we have the opportunity to look beyond traditional funding models to keep our music fresh and authentic. A few months ago, a fellow composer and I talked about how we get commissions, marketing opportunities, etc. We all have the opportunity to share our journey and learn from each other. Most of my commissions have resulted from reaching out to people (organizations) and expressing the desire to compose a work about something that is meaningful to both of us.

Another choice is to build a diverse base of funding that may include sources outside of music to varying degrees, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Transportation, foundations for social welfare, or historic and preservation societies. I’ve been hired by the U.S. Forest Service, by a museum, and by Oregon State Parks. We all have social and political issues in our community we care about, and increasingly cities are looking to bring attention to and help solve these issues through the arts. Meeting with our civic leaders can lead to opportunities and partnerships with local agencies that others may not think of unless you bring it up.

I truly believe we are in an unparalleled golden age of new music. We have to come together to find equally innovative ways to bring this work forth.


1. A sample funding list can be found at savvymusician.com.

2. Oregon is one of the four initial states for the initiative. (Read more.)

New Music USA’s Project Grants Are Now Open

NMUSA Project Grants

New Music USA’s model project gallery

Get ready to get creative. As announced last May, New Music USA (publisher of NewMusicBox) has reconfigured five of its funding programs into a single stream of support for new music, and you can now apply by creating a project. Individual performers, composers, organizations, presenters, and other artists can all request funding on behalf of their projects simply and at no cost. The first deadline is November 4.

The new system boasts a streamlined process for applicants, designed to allow music makers to showcase their work and ask for the support they need in a succinct and efficient manner. No more mailing (sorry, USPS) hard copies of media and commitment letters! Work samples can be shared through services such as Vimeo, YouTube, and SoundCloud; collaborators can confirm their commitments with the click of a button. Funded projects will be showcased on New Music USA’s website and will be easily shared among patrons and fans.
Explore New Music USA’s project gallery, and read through the complete guidelines now on New Music USA.

New Music USA Announces New Grantmaking Strategy

New Grantmaking Strategy
Responding to changes in the ways artists create music and connect with audiences, New Music USA (publisher of NewMusicBox) has unveiled a preview of planned changes to its grantmaking strategy. The organization will reconfigure five of its current funding programs into a unified channel of flexible support for a wide range of new music projects. Awarded applications will then be promoted through dedicated, media-rich pages on newmusicusa.org, offering a new way for the public to connect with New Music USA-supported artists.

The program will offer an open call for applications from individual artists or organizations twice a year. Approximately 150 to 200 awards will be made annually, ranging in size from a minimum of $250 to a maximum of $20,000. The total projected award amount for the program’s first year is $650,000.

Today’s full announcement is available here.

A help site is currently available to answer questions. Additional details will be announced in July.

Three Musicmakers Awarded 2012 MacArthur Fellowships

Mandolinist and composer Chris Thile, arts entrepreneur Claire Chase, and bow maker Benoît Rolland are among the 23 recipients of 2012 MacArthur Fellowships. Often referred to as “genius grants,” the program awards five-year, $500,000 unrestricted fellowships “to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Each year, the MacArthur Foundation selects between 20-30 recipients. Between June 1981 and September 2012, 873 Fellows have been named from a range of disciplines. The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity. Individuals cannot apply for this award; they must be nominated.

(—from the MacArthur Foundation website)

Austin’s Conspirare Receives $1 Million Gift From the Kodosky Foundation

Austin choral ensemble Conspirare recently received a leadership gift of $1 million from the Kodosky Foundation towards their $2.2 million “A Legacy of Sound” major gifts campaign. This five-year fundraising initiative coincides with Conspirare’s 20th anniversary season in 2012-13. To date, Conspirare has raised a total of $1.5 million with additional support from the Still Water Foundation, Mattsson McHale Foundation, and other donors.

Conspirare artistic director Craig Hella Johnson said, “We at Conspirare are deeply grateful for the generosity of these donors; they are important parts of our circle of music through their friendship and support. We hope many other friends of Conspirare will join them by making gifts of all sizes to this campaign, which will help widen the circle even more.”


Conspirare – Photo by Karen Sachar

Notable in their plans is a $500,000 Fund for Artistic Innovation “to enable Conspirare to commission more new work from a range of established and emerging composers, explore new uses of technology and multi-media presentations, and develop new approaches to choral performance.” A $1 million expanded recording program will support Conspirare’s future releases and ongoing relationship with Harmonia Mundi, and $375,000 will go towards increased national and international touring efforts. Of this considerable goal, only $125,000 will go towards performance of classic repertoire.

Conspirare will announce details of its 2012-13 20th anniversary season, including the first projects supported by the “A Legacy of Sound” campaign, in early May.

NEA and Jazz, Part 1

According to its annual report, “The National Endowment for the Arts…carries out programs of grants-in-aid given to arts agencies of the states and territories, to non-profit, tax-exempt organizations and to individuals of exceptional talent.” It was established in 1965 but didn’t include jazz within its purview until President Lyndon Johnson appointed Duke Ellington and Willis Conover to its National Council on the Arts in 1968. The next year, $5,500 was allocated to foster jazz in the United States in the form of a single Jazz Composition Award given to George Russell. In 1970, the NEA established a real jazz panel and gave out 30 grants to institutions and individuals totaling $20,050—compared with half as many grants for orchestras totaling $931,600 and eight grants to opera companies totaling $836,000. Even Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (parenthetically allocated for the New York Film Festival) was given $25,000!

In 1980, one of the assistant directors of the NEA’s music board, Aida Chapman, suggested a Hall of Fame to honor the jazz genre. Two years later, the NEA announced the creation of the Jazz Masters Awards, to be “given to those musicians and advocates who have had a significant impact on the field” (according to NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman). These awards included a $20,000 gift and were privately given to three individuals annually (but in 1991 four were given out) until 2004, when the number of recipients was raised to seven, the amount of each gift was raised to $25,000, and the awards were presented at the annual International Association of Jazz Educators convention, wherever it was held. With the demise of the IAJE in January 2008, the award’s ceremony was moved to the Jazz At Lincoln Center’s facility in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in New York.

On Tuesday, January 10, I attended the NEA Jazz Masters 30th anniversary award ceremony. The five 2012 award recipients were: drummer/pianist/composer/bandleader Jack DeJohnette, who first came to prominence in Charles Lloyd’s quartet (which also included bassist Ron McClure and pianist Keith Jarrett) in 1966 and then debuting with Miles Davis’s group on Bitches Brew in 1969; Chicago-based saxophonist/bandleader Von Freeman, whose career spans over 70 years and who is the father of saxophonist Chico Freeman; bassist/composer/educator/bandleader Charlie Haden, who was part of the original Ornette Coleman Quartet, the original Keith Jarrett Quartet, and co-founder of the Liberation Music Orchestra; vocalist/educator/lyricist Sheila Jordan, who was one of the first and few, if not only, vocalists to record on Blue Note and ECM; and trumpeter/composer/educator/activist Jimmy Owens, who, when not teaching, composing and arranging, touring, and concertizing, dedicates much of his time to establishing and sustaining organizations, such as the Collective Black Artists and the Jazz Musician’s Emergency Fund, that help musicians in life/career crises.

As in previous Jazz Masters events, the awards’ presentations alternated with performances by select past Masters that occasionally included “emerging” artists considered worthy of inclusion. I don’t know exactly how or who decides this. To be honest, I haven’t thoroughly read all the literature handed to my wife, Francesca, as we entered and exited the event (a playbill listing all of the event’s performers and a program of the concert, a large book that includes single-page biographies of all the past Jazz Masters, and a folder with letter-size descriptions and vision statements of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and some of their ancillary programs); but my initial perusal hasn’t revealed anything about that. Maybe the next read-through will be more informative.

The event opened with a performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Things to Come,” an up-tempo minor-key variation on “I Got Rhythm,” by the JALC Orchestra that featured the 2007 Jazz Master Phil Woods and Grace Kelly as guest soloists. Both played alto saxophone. At 80, Woods is venerable, legendary, and still plays his ass off. Nineteen-year-old “saxophonist/vocalist/composer/lyricist/arranger” Kelly’s website lists an impressive career that dates back to 2002 when her first CD was released. Her performance kept up with Woods and matched the tightness of the Orchestra’s execution of Gil Fuller’s arrangement. Because the entire 134-minute concert and ceremony are available to be viewed online, I won’t go into a play-by-play (although the well-paced ceremony’s musical performances are well worth words, of which jazz journalist Howard Mandel has written wise ones (another excellent synopsis, ostensibly by NEA’s Liz Auclair, is worth reading, too).

One thing about this year’s event I thought was interesting and significant was a slant towards the “political” that might have been a reaction to the recent National Public Radio article suggesting that the Jazz Masters program will be discontinued, but this is not the case. (It looks like opera funding will be cut instead.) There is a possibility that the ceremony/concert might be scaled back or eliminated, or even that fewer awards might be given, but the individual award amount will not be reduced.

The political slant began when 2007 Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis, before introducing Chairman Landesman, made a point of “declaring that this music is vibrant, that it’s here now, and it will be here forever.” While Lewis’s oration was presented in a dignified manner in perfectly spoken English, the NEA Chairman’s presentation was peppered with jazz-style colloquialisms (“really knocked-out,” “really cool”). But one got the feeling that Landesman’s enthusiasm for jazz is sincere as he announced that $135,000 will be given to twelve presenting organizations this year.

The evening’s politicalness continued in Jack DeJohnette’s award reception, emphasizing his connection to the avant-garde of the 1950s and ’60s Chicago scene (being “discovered” by 2010 Jazz Master Muhal Richard Abrams, founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, who also introduced him to the audience) and his prominence in the 1970s music of Miles Davis and other artists at a time when “consciousness was rising up” and “everything felt possible.” He underlined this experience in his acceptance speech: “It seems to me that, once more, we are in momentous times, historically. As in the sixties, it is a time of changes and huge paradigm shifts. I believe the music has always played a profound part in the emotional and the spiritual development of people and, therefore, we as artists have a great responsibility to contribute to the ongoing changes in a positive way and contribute to the future of world peaceful co-existence.”

Von Freeman, who could not attend, was represented by his sons, Chico and Mark Freeman. They described their father as a musician dedicated to the furtherance of a musical legacy that included very close ties to Louis Armstrong, who used to stay with the family on his earliest forays to the Windy City and play duets with his father, a policeman who also played piano. Von Freeman, who will turn 90 this year, has been playing since 1938 but recorded his first album as a leader in 1972. But, as 1996 Jazz Master Benny Golson attested to in Freeman’s introduction, he has always been a moving force on the Chicago scene and an advocate for maintaining high standards in a local jazz milieu that may have felt second rate when compared to New York. Mark quoted his father’s response to the question of why he kept working in such a difficult career stream as, “for the love of the music.”

Bassist Ron Carter (1998 Jazz Master) and flutist Hubert Laws (2011 Jazz Master) performed a subdued and heartfelt duo (“Memories of Minnie” and “Little Waltz” ) that reminded me, by contrast, of the work of Eric Dolphy and Richard Davis, as well as Sam Rivers and Dave Holland. Rivers, who passed away on December 26 at the age of 88, will not receive a Jazz Masters award, which are only bestowed on the living. When A. B. Spellman read a list of recently deceased Jazz Masters, the unspoken name of Sam Rivers rang in many ears in the audience.

Rising star trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, soprano saxophonist (incorrectly listed in the program as an alto saxophonist) Dave Liebman (2011), pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi (2007), and conguero Candido Camero (2008) joined the JALC Orchestra in Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues” (arranged by Carlos Henriquez). Akinmusire clearly felt the heat of having four of the world’s heaviest trumpeters sitting behind him, and still put in a fantastic performance. Akiyoshi channeled Silver’s style perfectly and Liebman proved why he is a Jazz Master with an amazing performance consisting of his trademark chromaticism.