In ACO’s 40 year history, 26 of those years have included a New Music Reading program, first known as The Whitaker New Music Readings and subsequently as The Underwood New Music Readings. They have become one of this country’s most coveted opportunities for emerging composers. This year, six of the nation’s most promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers have been selected from over 200 submissions received from around the country.
Writing for symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. Learning the subtleties of instrumental balance and timbre, effective part preparation, and how to effectively communicate with the conductor and musicians are critical skills, but openings for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. The Underwood New Music Readings give emerging composers the opportunity to work with an orchestra singular in its commitment to the development of the American composer, and to hear their work performed by some of the country’s most outstanding contemporary music instrumentalists.
This year’s participants are composers with diverse backgrounds and stylistic approaches. Each meets with the conductor, key orchestra members, a publishing consultant and mentor composers in preparation for two sessions with the orchestra. Following the sessions with the orchestra, the composers will meet with ACO staff, orchestra members, the conductor and mentor composers to receive critical commentary and feedback. The Readings are professionally recorded to assist each composer in analysis and professional development. Additionally, ACO provides a Career Development Workshop with sessions and panel discussions on publishing, copyright law and promotional strategies with industry leaders. After the conclusion of the Readings, one composer will be awarded a $15,000 commission to write a new work to be performed by ACO in a future season. The audience is also invited to vote for an audience choice award.
To date, the New Music Readings have offered a vital resource to the industry by providing essential career development opportunities to over 150 composers, including such award- winning composers as Derek Bermel, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, Pierre Jalbert, Randall Woolf, Jennifer Higdon, and Augusta Read Thomas. Since participating in ACO’s readings, these composers have held important residencies and had scores of works commissioned, premiered, and performed by many of the country’s most prominent symphony orchestras.
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