American Composers Orchestra (ACO) has appointed Garrett McQueen as its new Director of Artist Equity. McQueen will be responsible for ensuring the successful realization of ACO’s national composer advancement programs and for supporting the organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion vision and actions. McQueen will report to ACO President and CEO Melissa Ngan, and succeeds Aiden Feltkamp who held the position of Director of Composer Advancement and Diversity since 2018. He will first join ACO at the 2022 ACO EarShot Readings in New York City on June 16 and 17, 2022, held at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music.
“We are thrilled to welcome Garrett to the ACO family. From his many vantage points as an artist, content creator, speaker, and advocate, Garrett has meaningfully advanced the national dialogue around an expanded definition of American orchestral music, inclusive of the styles, aesthetics, and traditions that continue to be born right here in this country,” Ngan says. “We look forward to Garrett’s leadership of ACO’s EarShot partnerships with orchestras and music creators nationwide, and to the new and beautiful work that will flourish as a result of his imagination and advocacy.”
McQueen says, “After spending years making a living as an orchestral bassoonist, it became increasingly difficult for me to justify an American orchestral experience that centered the music, stories, and people of Western Europe. In an effort to engage conversations that could lead toward measurable impact and change in the field of ‘classical’ music, I shifted my career away from the stage and toward digital and broadcast media, where I quickly became one of the nation’s most outspoken radio and podcast hosts on the topic of decolonizing ‘classical’ music in America. While I do plan to continue in that work, I’m excited to join the American Composers Orchestra as Director of Artist Equity so that I can help lead in the creation, maintenance, and implementation of orchestral programming and partnerships that will help transform the American orchestral ecosystem into one that centers today’s America.”
Ngan adds, “As we open this next chapter, I’d like to extend my profound gratitude to Aiden Feltkamp on behalf of all of us at ACO and the many composers we have been fortunate to work with over the last four years. By constantly interrogating and iterating our practices, Aiden has transformed ACO’s composer advancement programs and partnerships, opening the door wide for artists to create in orchestral spaces.”
As Director of Artist Equity, Garrett McQueen will play an essential role in the documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of ACO’s 40-year history of composer discovery and development, driving composer advancement and programming at the national level. ACO’s composer advancement programs include its EarShot Readings in NYC and in partnership with orchestras nationwide; CoLABoratory, which provides composers with opportunities to workshop and premiere adventurous new work; Commissions and Consortia, including the Virginia B. Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program, a program of the League of American Orchestras in partnership with ACO. ACO supports composers whose work expands the definition of American orchestral music. Within ACO’s composer advancement programs, 79% of participants identify as BIPOC, 37% as female, and 5% as nonbinary.
Originally from Memphis, TN, Garrett McQueen began his career as a professional bassoonist, performing with groups including the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Giving voice and offering space to works by Black creators and marginalized composers drives his passion for music and continues to be his primary focus as a musician, with notable performances including the world premiere of Miss Me by Marcus Norris, the orchestral premiere of Three Songs by William Grant Still, and conducting the Marble City Opera’s world premiere of I Can’t Breathe by Leslie Burrs and Brandon Gibson.
In addition to remaining active in performance spaces, McQueen is the host and producer of widely syndicated radio programs, including The Sound of 13, The Sounds of Kwanzaa, and Gateways Radio. Away from the airwaves, McQueen offers music and racial equity presentations with past collaborators including the Gateways Music Festival, the Sphinx Organization, the Kennedy Center, the Apollo Theater, the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, and countless schools, colleges, and universities. In the press, McQueen has been noted as not only a “classical agitator” (Star Tribune) and “one of America’s most interesting classical musicians” (Cesare Civetta, author of The Real Toscanini), but also “a Black talent in public media that you may not know, but should” (Current). In 2021, The New York Times noted his weekly podcast, TRILLOQUY, as a standout and one that is “required listening for industry leaders and listeners alike.”
Garrett McQueen holds a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance from the University of Memphis where he studied with Lecolion Washington, and a Master of Music in Bassoon Performance from the University of Southern California where he studied with Judith Farmer. He serves on the board of the American Composers Forum as Equity Committee Chair and maintains leadership and advisory positions with the Black Opera Alliance, the Gateways Music Festival, and the Lakes Area Music Festival. Off the clock, McQueen spends most of his free time with his friend and podcast co-host, Scott Blankenship, and his boyfriend, Dell.
About American Composers Orchestra: Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, middle school through college composer education programs, and composer advancement programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders. ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those who are lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age diversity. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual New Music Readings in New York City, which has served over 350 composers since its inception in 1991, and EarShot Readings, which since 2008 have been offered in partnership with orchestras across the country in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.
ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. Read more: www.americancomposers.org
American Composers Orchestra is grateful to the many organizations that make its programs possible including Herb Alpert Foundation, American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, Amphion Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, AmazonSmile Foundation, ASCAP Foundation, BMI Foundation, BMI, Inc., Cheswatyr Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Ford Foundation’s Good Neighbor Committee, Francis B. Goelet Charitable Trust, Fromm Music Foundation, Steven R. Gerber Trust, Hearst Foundations, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jephson Educational Trusts, Mellon Foundation, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Morgan Stanley, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in The New York Community Trust, Rexford Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Public support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts.