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Roger Zare Wins ACO's
2008 Underwood Commission

Composer Roger ZareComposer Roger Zare has been named the winner of American Composers Orchestra's 2008 Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, bringing him a $15,000 commission for a work to be premiered by American Composers Orchestra. Chosen from six finalists, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in America, Mr. Zare won the top prize at ACO's annual Underwood New Music Readings with his work, Green Flash. In awarding Zare the Underwood Commission, ACO has singled him out as a composer whose "lapidary orchestrations, formal clarity, and alluringly mercurial surface give his music a strong and personal profile," says ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser.

Originally from Sarasota, FL, Zare began composing at age 14, writing a composition for string orchestra premiered by the Pine View School Chamber Symphony in Sarasota. In 2003, he won the National Federation of Music Clubs' Composition Competition with his Frolic for violin and piano. In 2005, the New York Youth Symphony commissioned Zare to write an orchestral piece for them as part of their First Music competition. The work, The Other Rainbow, received its premiere in Carnegie Hall in February 2006. Last year, he received a 2007 BMI Student Composer award for Green Flash. Mr. Zare's other performances have included the Shawnee Mission Northwest High School Orchestras, the Florida West Coast Symphony, ensembles at the Sarasota Music Festival, the Santa Monica Symphony Wind Quintet, and the USC Thornton Symphony and Wind Ensemble.

Zare is completing his studies as a masters candidate at Peabody Conservatory, where he has been studying with Christopher Theofanidis. He holds a bachelor of music degree in composition from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Donald Crockett, Tamar Diesendruck, Frederick Lesemann, and Morten Lauridsen.

Anne Manson and Roger ZareChristopher Rouse comments, "Roger Zare writes for orchestra like a real natural. It's a medium that seems to be in his blood." "Roger is an exciting and sophisticated young composer and a wonderful orchestrator. It will be fascinating to see how he develops over time," adds conductor Anne Manson. "Roger's work shows an extraordinary ear for orchestral texture and dramatic tension. Green Flash appealed to both the musicians and the audience on intellectual, spiritual, and visceral levels. We look forward with great anticipation to his Underwood-commissioned work," said ACO's Music Alive composer-in-residence Derek Bermel.

The same day the young composer was awarded the Underwood Commission he also heard about becoming composer in residence for 2008-2009 with SONAR, a Peabody Conservatory student ensemble, for which he will be writing a chamber opera and other works. "I've got a lot of music to write in the next year. I'm excited!" Zare said.

About the New Music Readings

The 17th annual Underwood New Music Readings were held at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York on May 6 and 7, 2008, under the direction of ACO's artistic director, composer Robert Beaser. Mentor composers included Chen Yi, Christopher Rouse, and Christopher Theofanidis, as well as Derek Bermel, ACO's Music Alive composer-in-residence. Guest conductors were Brad Lubman and Anne Manson. This year's New Music Readings attracted nearly 200 submissions from emerging composers around the country. In addition to Roger Zare, the finalists were:

  • Ruby Fulton, who studied at Boston University and the San Francisco Conservatory before moving to Baltimore, where she is currently working towards a doctorate at the Peabody Conservatory.

  • Takuma Itoh, who received a BM at Rice University, where he studied with Shih-Hui Chen, Anthony Brandt, Pierre Jalbert, and Karim Al-Zand. He is pursuing a master of music degree at the University of Michigan, where he has studied with Bright Sheng and William Bolcom.
  • Andrew McKenna Lee, who completed his undergraduate work in composition at Carnegie Mellon University in 1997 and received a master's degree in 2000 from the Manhattan School of Music. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University.
  • Leanna Primiani, who completed a DMA in composition at USC and has studied with Leonard Slatkin, Peter Eötvös, and Steven Stucky, among others.
  • Conrad Winslow, who is pursuing a master of music degree in composition and film scoring at New York University, where he is a student of Justin Dello Joio.

2008 Underwood New Music Readings Participants, Conductors and Mentor Composers

Since 1991, ACO's New Music Readings have provided invaluable career-development opportunities for emerging composers and served as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of important American composers. To date, more than 100 composers have participated in the New Music Readings, hearing a full orchestral rendering of their work, receiving critical professional feedback and mentoring from conductors, composers and performers, and obtaining a professional-quality recording to assist in their advancement. Past participants have included such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Derek Bermel, Pierre Jalbert, Randall Woolf, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Jennifer Higdon. Since its inception in 1977, ACO has helped launch the careers of many of today's top composers, including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for their ACO commissions. Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, and Tobias Picker were also championed by the orchestra when they were beginning their careers.

Last year's winner, Clint Needham, won the top prize with his work Earth and Green, to be premiered by ACO November 14, 2008 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky. The 2006 winner, Fang Man, will see her commissioned work, Resurrection, premiered by ACO on February 20, 2009, at Zankel Hall, conducted by George Manahan.

The 18th annual New Music Readings are scheduled for May 7 and 8, 2009, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University. The submission deadline for composers interested in applying is Friday, November 21, 2008. Complete submission guidelines and application will be available in print and online in August at, via email at, or via telephone at 212-977-8495.

Lead support for the Underwood New Music Readings comes from Mr. Paul Underwood, with additional support from The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Fromm Music Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and Aaron Copland Fund for Music. ACO's emerging composers program is supported by The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Greenwall Foundation, Jerome Foundation and with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Derek Bermel is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with American Composers Orchestra. Music Alive is a national program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet The Composer.

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