New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices Announces First of Nine New Co-Commissioned Works in Program to Premiere This Spring
New Music USA Voice Amplification program, which encourages collaboration toward racial and gender equity in new orchestral music, has more than thirty orchestras from across the United States signed up to create co-commissioned new works from nine of today’s leading composers : Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Brian Raphael Nabors, Nina Shekhar, Tyshawn Sorey and Shelley Washington. Each of the composer’s pieces will be performed by a minimum of four orchestras.
The first premieres of these new works will begin this spring. On April 9 and 10, 2022, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Akiko Fujimoto will premiere the new work Pasajes (“Passages”) by Tania León in Little Rock, Arkansas. On May 7, 2022, MeChicano by Juan Pablo Contreras will be premiered by the Las Vegas Philharmonic, led by Music Director Donato Cabrera. On July 10, 2022, Shelley Washington’s new work, Both, will be premiered by the Aspen Music Festival and School, directed by Ludovic Morlot. Tyshawn Sorey’s new piece, a saxophone concerto for Timothy McAllister, will be premiered on August 20, 2022 by the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Elena Schwarz, in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The new orchestral works reflect the composers’ life experiences:
Pasajes de Tania León recalls scenes from her life growing up, including a song reminiscent of the melodies of Latin American cultures, rhythms indicating the pulse of Caribbean culture, and carnival dances.
Of his new piece, Juan Pablo Contreras says, “MeChicano (a combination of Mexican and Chicano) – is the first piece I composed as a Mexican-American composer, having finally become an American citizen after living here during the 15 years. The work is a celebration of the Mexican-American communities that have flourished in the United States, honoring in particular those of Las Vegas, Fresno, Tucson, Louisiana, Richmond and Walnut Creek, cities whose orchestras have co- ordered MeChicano.”
Amplifying Voices encourages collaboration and collective action towards equitable representation of classical music composers. This long-term program aims to increase support and promotion of composers who have historically been marginalized, create space for their contributions to artistic planning in major national orchestras, and make major strides towards transforming the classical canon for the future generations. In addition to facilitating co-commissions, Amplifying Voices is also asking orchestras to commit to sharing the existing repertoire of BIPOC composers.
Along with the co-commissioning program, participating orchestras, composers and industry guests come together in the Amplifying Voices Learning Lab. Anticipated focal points of these regular conversations include the best approaches to co-commissioning, the centering of existing repertoire by BIPOC composers, and the opportunity for audiences across the country to experience the most exciting music of our time. Amplifying Voices is made possible by funding from Sorel Organization and The Sphinx Organization, who launched this initiative with a generous contribution from the Sphinx Venture Fund in 2019. Additional funding is provided by ASCAP, Wise Music and The Wise Family Charitable Foundation , and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation; Toulmin supports two other Amplifying Voices consortia that will be created by the end of April 2022.
Participating orchestras across the country include:
- The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioned Tania León, with co-curators from the Auburn Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra
- Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Lucerne Festival commission Tyshawn Sorey, with other co-curators to join
- Berkeley Symphony commissioning Brian Raphael Nabors, with co-curators Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, ROCO and Seattle Symphony
- The Dallas Symphony Orchestra commissions Jessie Montgomery (Sorel Fellow) with co-curators from the Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony and Seattle Symphony
- Las Vegas Philharmonic commissions Juan Pablo Contreras, with co-curators California Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Tucson Symphony and Richmond Symphony
- The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioned Shelley Washington, with co-curators Aspen Music Festival and School, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Kansas City Symphony
- Oregon Symphony commissioning Vijay Iyer, with co-curators Boise Philharmonic, Fresno Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Las Vegas Philharmonic and London Philharmonic
- Philadelphia Orchestra commissions Valerie Coleman, with co-curators New World Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and San Diego Symphony Orchestra
- YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) commissions Nina Shekhar (Sorel Fellow), with other co-curators to join
Amplifying Voices aims to make major strides in diversifying the orchestral repertoire. According to the Institute for Composer Diversity’s analysis of the 2019-2020 plans of 120 U.S. orchestras, 94% of the music scheduled for orchestra concerts on the main stage this season was written by white composers. For the 2021-22 season, which includes the first set of Amplifying Voices premieres, that number is 83%.
Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, said, “Orchestras participating in Amplifying Voices program new music from some of America’s most talented composers while recognizing that our musical canon will only evolve. that if these pieces are performed more than I am so glad this program is giving more audiences across the country a chance to experience the power of these composers’ work as we all strive towards a more open and equitable future for the classical music.
The Amplifying Voices program continues New Music USA’s legacy of connecting composers and orchestras living in the United States to create new works. From 2011 to 2019, New Music USA ran the Music Alive Composer in Residence program with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This built on the work of one of New Music USA’s founding organizations, Meet The Composer (MTC), which launched its groundbreaking Composer In Residence program in 1982. Over its 20-year history, Music Alive, which was run in partnership with the League of American Orchestras, supported 116 composers, 79 orchestras and 121 distinct residencies.
For more information, visit the Amplify Voices program page.