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Auburn Symphony Orchestra Unites with Over 30 Orchestras to Co-Commission and Share Repertoire by Black and Latinx Composers

New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, launched in January 2020 to promote marginalized voices in orchestral music, is growing to include at least 35 orchestras, which are working together to shift the canon for future generations. This increasing momentum, made possible by new funding from the Sorel Organization and industry partners ASCAP and Wise Music Trust, demonstrates recognition amongst orchestras that new and inclusive approaches to programming are critical for the sector’s future relevance. They join The Sphinx Organization which kick-started this initiative with a generous contribution from the Sphinx Venture Fund.

Support from the Sorel Organization has contributed to two new consortia led by Dallas Symphony and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, which will each commission a woman of color. ASCAP and Wise Music Trust will support the Amplifying Voices Learning Lab, facilitating conversations with composers, orchestras, and industry guests. Anticipated focal points include best approaches to co-commissioning, centering existent repertoire by BIPOC composers, and enabling more audiences around the country to discover the most exciting music of our time.

Amplifying Voices’ promotion of collective action will be explored at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Women in Classical Music Symposium at a panel on November 11, 2020 at 12:15pm CST. Panelists include representatives from four of the Amplifying Voices consortia:

• Jennifer Barlament, Executive Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra;
• JoAnn Falletta, Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra;
• Shelley Washington, commissioned composer for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; and
• Joseph Young, Music Director, Berkeley Symphony


Amplifying Voices fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. The program was initiated by New Music USA last fall, with support from the Sphinx Venture Fund being confirmed in December 2019. Through a national call launched in January 2020, New Music USA asked orchestras to come forward with proposals for co-commissions and a commitment to promote existing repertoire that deserves further performances. Learn more about Amplifying Voices here.

The consortium leads are:

• Arkansas Symphony commissioning Tania León,
• Atlanta Symphony Orchestra commissioning Tyshawn Sorey,
• Berkeley Symphony commissioning Brian Raphael Nabors,
• Dallas Symphony Orchestra commissioning Jessie Montgomery,
• Las Vegas Philharmonic commissioning Juan Pablo Contreras,
• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioning Shelley Washington,
• The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioning Valerie Coleman,
• and the most recent addition, Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, commissioned composer TBD.
Partner orchestras include: Aspen Music Festival and School, Auburn Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, California Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, New World Symphony, Richmond Symphony, ROCO, and Seattle Symphony.
These consortia are continuing to grow. Orchestras interested in becoming involved are invited to contact Scott Winship ([email protected]).

Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA:

“We’re thrilled to welcome more orchestras, composers, and partners to the Amplifying Voices movement – which has grown to involve over 30 orchestras following our launch in January 2020. Music by women and composers of color has for so long been omitted from orchestral programming. Sustained, collective action is the only path to achieving tangible, sector-wide change.”

ASCAP Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Matthews:

“The music world is richer when we hear from a diverse spectrum of voices. ASCAP is committed to creating inclusive opportunities for composers to have their work heard and Amplifying Voices’ plan to organize eight consortia spanning the country will open doors for both composers and music lovers. We are excited to support this program, which will provide a valuable platform for these incredibly talented music creators.”

Wende Persons, Interim Executive Director of The Sorel Organization:

“For 25 years the Sorel Organization has focused its charitable work pushing the boundaries for women in classical music, especially composers. Through Amplifying Voices, we are thrilled to be able to help increase the representation of music by women and composers of color that is programmed and performed across the country, amplifying the variety and richness of America’s musical and cultural story.”

Afa S. Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of The Sphinx Organization:

“At a critical time in our nation’s history, Sphinx looks forward to helping to amplify the most important voices in classical music. There is a rich tradition of excellence in repertoire by Black and Latinx composers, ranging from Florence Price, William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, Manuel Ponce, Silvestre Revueltas, and countless other voices who have shaped the fabric of classical music. This is a hopeful avenue to live by our commitment to diversity and profoundly shift our canon. By giving the spotlight to diverse voices, this New Music USA initiative can help to evolve our entire field.”


Valerie Coleman is among the world’s most played composers living today. Described as one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by the Washington Post, Colemen serves as Assistant Professor and Director of Chamber Music at the Frost School of Music, and was named one of American Public Radio’s “2020 Classical Woman of the Year.” With works ranging from flute sonatas recounting stories of trafficked humans, orchestral works based on nomadic Roma tribes, to scherzos about moonshine in the Mississippi Delta, her works are regarded as deeply relevant contributions to modern music. Coleman has received awards and honors from the National Flute Association, The Herb Alpert Awards, MAPFUND, ASCAP Concert Music Awards, NARAS, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund, Artists International, Wombwell Kentucky Award, and more. vcolemanmusic.com

Juan Pablo Contreras, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, is a Latin Grammy®-nominated composer and Universal Music recording artist who combines Western classical and Mexican folk music in a single soundscape. His works have been commissioned and performed by orchestras throughout the Americas
including National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra. Winner of the BMI William Schuman Prize, Presser Music Award, and the Young Artist Fellowship of Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and the Arts, Contreras holds composition degrees from California Institute of the Art, Manhattan School of Music, and is pursuing his DMA at University of Southern California. juanpablocontreras.com

Tania León, a Cuba-born composer and conductor, settled in New York in 1967. She has played important roles at Dance Theater of Harlem, Brooklyn Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. León is the founder and artistic director of Composers Now. Notable commissions include works for the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. León’s honors include induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters; recognition from the Fromm, Koussevitzky, and Guggenheim Foundations; ASCAP’s Victor Herbert Award; and a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship. Her works have received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. tanialeon.com

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. Her profoundly-felt works are described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (Washington Post). jessiemontgomery.com

Brian Raphael Nabors, originally of Birmingham, AL, is a composer of emotionally enriching music that tells exciting narratives with its vibrant themes and colorful harmonic language. Nabors draws from combinations of jazz, funk, R&B, and gospel. His music has been performed by the Cincinnati, Atlanta, Nashville, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, as well as ROCO. Nabors is also a 2020 Fulbright scholarship recipient to Sydney, Australia, studying with composer Carl Vine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He earned both a Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degree in Composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. briannabors.com

Tyshawn Sorey, a Newark-born multi-instrumentalist and composer, is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. The Wall Street Journal notes Sorey is, “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas.” The New Yorker recently noted that he is “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.” Sorey has received support from The Jerome Foundation, The Shifting Foundation, Van Lier Fellowship, and was named a 2017 MacArthur fellow and a 2018 United States Artists Fellow. tyshawnsorey.com

Shelley Washington is a composer, performer, collaborator, and educator who writes music that draws elements from jazz, rock, American folk and other musical spaces. She also performs as a saxophonist and vocalist, and doubles on flute, piccolo, and clarinet. She is a founding member of the composer collective Kinds of Kings. Her music explores emotions and intentions, and it uses intricate rhythms with grooves, melody, and harmony. It sometimes confronts social injustices. Washington has a B.A. in music and an M.A. in education from Truman State University, a Master of Music in composition from NYU, and is currently working on a PhD in composition at Princeton. shelleywashington.com

Learn More: Amplifying Voices

The above is a press release from New Music USA.  The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents

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