American Composers Orchestra's (ACO) 22nd Annual Underwood New Music Readings will take place on Monday, April 8 and Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music (450 W. 37th St., NYC). The Readings include two public events - a working rehearsal on Monday at 10am, and a run-through on Tuesday at 7:30pm. Both events are free and open to the public, giving audiences a chance to look behind the scenes at the process involved in bringing brand new, stylistically diverse orchestral music to life.
For more than a generation, ACO's new music readings for emerging composers have been providing all-important career development and public exposure to the country's most promising up-and-coming composers, with over 130 composers participating. Readings alumni have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes. Orchestras around the globe have commissioned ACO Readings alumni.
This year, six of the nation's most promising composers in the Early Stages of their professional careers have been selected from over 150 submissions received from around the country. The selected composers - Jonathan Blumhofer, Louis Chiappetta, Joshua Groffman, Saad Haddad, Arthur J. McCaffrey, and Nina Young - represent a broad spectrum of musical backgrounds and sound worlds. Following the Readings, one composer will be chosen to receive a $15,000 commission to write a new piece for ACO, to be premiered during the orchestra's 2014-2015 season.
The 2011 Underwood New Music Readings winner, Narong Prangcharoen, wrote The Migration of Lost Souls for ACO, which premiered it in October 2012 at Carnegie Hall. The New York Times hailed the piece as the "most successful" of the evening, praising it as an "atmospheric work that weaves some of the spiritual and vernacular sounds of Mr. Prangcharoen's native Thailand into a skillfully orchestrated tapestry." ACO's 2012 winner, Peter Fahey, received the top prize with his work Impressions. His newly commissioned work, A Mirror to Kathleen's Face, will be premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 25, 2013.
Audience members at the Readings will also have a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. On both April 8 and 9, audience members will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite pieces, and the winning composer will be commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone. The ringtone will be available free of charge to everyone who voted.
The 22nd Annual Underwood New Music Readings are under the direction of ACO's Artistic Director, composer Robert Beaser, and will be conducted by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with Christopher Theofanidis and Joan Tower as mentor composers. The conductors, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO provide critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the sessions.
In addition, this year the Readings offer composers, students, or anyone interested in learning more about the business of being a composer a Professional Development Seminar on Tuesday, April 9 from 10am-2:30pm at the DiMenna Center. Workshop topics include Intellectual Property and Copyright Law, Engraving and Self-Publishing, Support and Fundraising for Composers, and Publicity and Promotion. The cost for the Seminar is $25, which includes lunch. Reservations can be made at http://unmrworkshop.eventbrite.com.
Writing for the symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. The subtleties of instrumental balance, timbre, and communication with the conductor and musicians are critical skills. Opportunities for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. Since 1991 ACO's New Music Readings have provided invaluable experience for emerging composers while serving as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of American composers. To date, more than 130 composers have participated in the Readings, including such award-winning composers as MeLinda Wagner, Pierre Jalbert, Augusta Read Thomas, Randall Woolf, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, and ACO's Creative Advisor, Derek Bermel.
The New Music Readings continue ACO's emphasis on launching composers' careers, a tradition that includes many of today's top composers, such as Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for ACO commissions; and Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, Sebastian Currier, and Tobias Picker, whom the orchestra championed when they were beginning their careers.