American Composers Orchestra
Selects Nation’s Top Emerging Composers
for 18th Annual New Music Readings

Five Premieres to be Presented May 7 & 8 in NYC

American Composers Orchestra announces the winners of its 18th annual Underwood New Music Readings, one of this country’s most coveted opportunities for emerging composers. The Readings will be held Thursday, May 7th and Friday, May 8th, 2009, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Five of the nation’s most promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers have been selected from more than 100 submissions received from around the country. This year’s winners are Ivor Francis, Jesse Jones, Eric Nathan, Wang Jie, and Reiko Yamada, representing a broad range of sound worlds, life experience, and intentions. It should be a lively and ear-provoking few days!

The Readings are under the direction of ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser. Guest conductors are Delta David Gier and José Serebrier; mentor composers are Derek Bermel, ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence, Margaret Brouwer, and John Corigliano. The conductors, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO serve as liaisons and provide critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the Reading sessions. Following the Readings, one of the young composers will receive a $15,000 commission to write a new work to be performed by ACO. Last year’s winner, Roger Zare, won the top prize with his work Green Flash. His newly commissioned work will be premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in January 2009. The 2007 winner, Clint Needham, heard his Underwood-commissioned work, Chamber Symphony, premiered by ACO at Zankel Hall on November 14, 2008.

Writing for the symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. The subtleties of instrumental balance, timbre, effective part preparation, and communication with conductor and musicians are critical skills. But openings for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. ACO’s New Music Reading Sessions are designed to 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. Since 1991 the 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 American composers.

To date, more than 100 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, and ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence, Derek Bermel. 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 prominent symphony orchestras. The New Music Readings continue ACO’s emphasis on helping to launch 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 coM.M.issions; 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.

Composers Selected & Works to be Performed
Ivor Francis: Out of Line
Ivor Francis (b. 1960) is currently in the D.M.A. program in music composition at USC, where he studies composition with Stephen Hartke. He received his bachelor of music degree in composition from California State University, Northridge, in 1985, where he studied with Aurelio de la Vega. After fifteen years of professional experience in the music business as a composer, producer, and record-company entrepreneur, he returned to academic studies at San Francisco State University in 2000. In San Francisco, he received professional performances of his chamber works by Earplay and The Left Coast Ensemble; his composition Flashback on 52nd Street won the Herb Bielawa Award for Composition in 2001 and earned him a residency at the university for the following year.

After graduating from SFSU with a master of arts in composition, he attended the Composers Conference at Wellesley College, under the directorship of Mario Davidovsky, as one of ten composition fellows. In 2007, he began his doctoral studies at the University of California, Thorton School of Music. In 2008, he received the Sadye J. Moss Composition Award for his orchestral tone poem, The Isle of Eriska.

The Isle of Eriska is a work for large orchestra inspired by a small, magical island off the west coast of Scotland. Francis’ goal was to capture the essence of the island and his experience of it. The work endeavors to deliberately integrate certain Romantic and Impressionistic sensibilities such as lush tertiary harmonies and the use of melody in a traditional sense with a more atmospheric atonal world of suspended motion and subtle changes in coloration.

Jesse Jones: Toccata for Orchestra
Jesse Jones (b. 1978) received his M.M. at the University of Oregon under teachers David Crumb and Robert Kyr, and his B.M. at Eastern Oregon University under John McKinnon and Leandro Espinosa. He is pursuing his D.M.A. at Cornell University with teachers Steven Stucky, Roberto Sierra, and Kevin Ernst.

Jones is the recipient of Aspen’s Susan and Ford Schumann Fellowship, Cornell’s Sage Fellowship, and Eastern Oregon University’s Outstanding Music Student Award. Jones also received honorable mention in the 2007 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

Jones’s compositions have been featured on the nationally broadcast A Prarie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor and have been performed at the Oregon Bach Festival, the Portland Rose Festival, in the Oregon Composers Forum, and by So Percussion, the iO String Quartet, Eastman’s Ossia New Music Ensemble, the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Eastern Oregon University Chamber Choir, the Eastern Oregon Opera Club, Capella Romana, the Pacific Rim Gamelan, the Cornell Contemporary Chamber Players, the Oregon Composers Orchestra, the New Frontiers Chamber Orchestra, and the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra. His choral music is published internationally by earthsongs.

The composer, noted for his “good ear for color,” describes Toccata for Orchestra as “equally haughty and aggressive, with equal amounts of pomposity and humor. In the middle of the piece, a slow lyrical section gives a brief respite from the storm, but this reverie soon disintegrates into an instrumental battle to claim the foreground. The piece resumes its rollicking, with aggressive jabs and playful turns, and increases in intensity and momentum, eventually culminating in ecstatic flourishes that form its end.”

Eric Nathan: Icarus Dreamt
Eric Nathan (b.1983) is a doctoral student in composition at Cornell University, where he studies with Kevin Ernste, Roberto Sierra, and Steven Stucky. He received his M.M. at Indiana University, B.A. at Yale College, and a diploma from the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. He has also worked with George Tsontakis at the Aspen Music Festival and School and has attended the Wellesley Composers Conference.

Recent awards and honors include the William Schuman Prize in the B.M.I Student Composer Awards (2008), an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2008), First Prize in the SCI/ASCAP Student Commission Competition (2008), the Brian M. Israel Prize from the New York Federation of Music Clubs (2007), Second Prize in the NACUSA Young Composer Competition (2007), New York Art Ensemble Young Composer Competition (2005), the Dean’s Prize from Indiana University, and the Abraham Beekman Cox and Beekman Cannon Friends of Music Prizes from Yale College.

The concept for Icarus Dreamt is from the inspiration of Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculpture, Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper, Henri Matisse’s collage, Icarus, and the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Icarus Dreamt combines allusions to the fluttering scraps of paper in Ganson’s sculpture, lyrical gestures of Matisse’s collage, and the narrative trajectory of the Greek myth.
Wang Jie: Symphony No. 1
Wang Jie was born and raised in Shanghai during the economic expansion that followed the Cultural Revolution. In 2000, she moved to the United States to begin composition studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where she received her Master’s degree in composition, graduating with honors in May 2007. She is currently enrolled in the Artist Diploma program at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studies with Richard Danielpour.

Her music, which has been described as sensitive and dramatic, has been performed at the Museum of Modern Art “Summer-Gardens”; VOX by New York City Opera; opening ceremony of Beijing Modern Music Festival; a solo concert produced by Music-Theatre Group, and a recent nomination for the 2009 Berlin Prize. She held fellowships and residencies from the Aspen Music Festival, the Curtis Institute of Music, The Banff Centre, The Hermitage, and most recently became the first composer awarded the Milton Rock Fellowship. She received honors and generous support from organizations such as ASCAP (Morton Gould Young Composer), B.M.I Foundation, American Music Center, Opera America, Music-Theatre Group, Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Northridge Composition Prize, among others.

Wang describes Symphony No. 1 as her most personal work, a journey from yearning and tempest to peace. Agile and powerful, the piece explores a full spectrum of emotions.

Reiko Yamada: When a Cardinal Fell from the Sky
A native of Hiroshima, Japan, Reiko Yamada holds a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Composition from the Berklee College of Music and a Master’s degree in Classical Composition from Boston University. Her compositions include solo, chamber, choral, and orchestral music, as well as collaborative projects with jazz musicians and dancers.

 Yamada has been an Artist-in-Residence at Wildacres (NC), the Helene Warlitzer Foundation (NM), and the Millay Colony for the Arts (NY). She has been a student of Vuk Kulnovich, Theodore Antoniou, Samuel Headrick, and Lukas Foss, among others. Her music has been characterized as colorful, imaginative, and original.

As Yamada explains, the inspiration for When a Cardinal Fell from the Sky came from the body of a “stunningly beautiful female cardinal,” found lifeless near the composer’s house on a chilly morning of January 2007. The piece offers both the composer’s emotional reaction to the discovery and an attempt at reconstructing the last moments of the bird’s consciousness.

There are three significant musical elements in the piece. The series of strikes by the entire orchestra represents both the emotional shock of finding the beautiful creature lying on the ground and the imagined cause of the bird’s fall. The chatter created by the strings throughout the piece represents birds in busy conversation. It also refers to daily conversation, the source of information and social identity that is often lost in the buzz of individual worries and self-consciousness. The last of these three elements, repeated notes appearing in the last half of the piece, are sung by an imaginary chorus of bird angels and symbolize the resilience of creative minds. They accompany the listener through the final segment of the piece, representing the hope and liberation that come with the final ascension to the sky.

Delta David Gier, conductor
The 2009 Readings mark Delta David Gier‘s first appearance with ACO. He has been called a dynamic voice on the American music scene, recognized widely for his penetrating interpretations of the standard repertoire and his passionate commitment to new music. In summer 2000 he conducted the New York Philharmonic in what were described as “splendid performances … exploiting the subtlety of the timbrel combinations and expressive devices with a zeal not usually found.” Gier came to national attention in 1997 while conducting a tour of Carmen for San Francisco Opera’s Western Opera Theater. For the past six seasons. Mr. Gier has served as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic and recently for the Metropolitan Opera as well.

As a Fulbright Scholar (1988-90) Gier led critically acclaimed performances with many orchestras of Eastern Europe. He was invited to the former Czechoslovakia to conduct Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its premiere. Gier took this opportunity to introduce Eastern European audiences to many American masterworks, such as Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Presidential Symphony of Ankara, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring with the Bucharest Philharmonic.

Gier earned a Master of Music degree in conducting from The University of Michigan under Gustav Meier. As a student at Tanglewood and Aspen he studied also with Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Erich Leinsdorf, and Seiji Ozawa, and was later invited by Riccardo Muti to spend a year as an apprentice at the Philadelphia Orchestra. At the invitation of the League of American Orchestras he participated in their National Conductor Preview, a highly selective showcase for young conductors.

Mr. Gier has been increasingly in demand as a teacher and conductor in many highly regarded music schools. Within the last two years he has served as a visiting professor at the Yale School of Music, the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, the San Francisco Conservatory, and SUNY Stony Brook.

José Serebrier, conductor
No stranger to ACO, Grammy-winning conductor and composer José Serebrier returns to conduct at this year’s Readings. He is one of most recorded classical artists in history and has received thirty-two Grammy nominations in recent years.

When he was 21 years old, Leopold Stokowski hailed Serebrier as “the greatest master of orchestral balance.” After five years as Stokowski’s Associate Conductor at New York’s Carnegie Hall, he accepted an invitation from George Szell to become the Composer-in-Residence of the Cleveland Orchestra for Szell’s last two seasons. Szell discovered Serebrier when he won the Ford Foundation American Conductors Competition (together with James Levine). He was music director of America’s oldest music festival, in Worcester, Massachusetts, until he organized Festival Miami and served as its artistic director for many years. In that capacity, he commissioned many composers, including Elliott Carter’s String Quartet No. 4, and conducted many American and world premieres.

Serebrier has toured internationally with the Juilliard Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Toulouse Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Spain, and others.

Serebrier’s recording of the Mendelssohn symphonies won the UK Music Retailers Association Award for Best Orchestral Recording, and his series of Shostakovich’s Film Suites won the Deutsche Schallplatten Award for Best Orchestral Recording. Soundstage magazine selected Serebrier’s recording of Scheherazade with the LPO as the Best Audiophile Recording. He has recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Bournemouth Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Bamberg Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Barcelona Symphony, Czech State Philharmonic Brno, Weimar Staatskapelle, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide symphony orchestras and many others. “Serebrier Conducts Prokofiev, Beethoven and Tchaikowsky” filmed at the Sydney Opera, has been shown over 50 times on U.S. television. He presently records for Naxos, BIS, Warner Classics, RPO Records, and Sony/B.M.G.

Born in Uruguay of Russian and Polish parents, he has composed more than 100 works, published by Peer Music, Universal Edition Vienna, Kalmus, Warner Music, and Peters Corporation. In 2005, ACO premiered his Symphony No. 3, Symphonie Mystique, for string orchestra.

Admission & Info
The Underwood New Music Readings take place Thursday and Friday, May 7th and 8th, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Miller Theatre at Columbia University in New York City, Broadway at 116th Street. The Readings are free and open to the public.
About ACO
Now in its 32nd year, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO is extending its mission, making the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through its concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. ACO also serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent, as a catalyst for growth and change among orchestras, and as an advocate for American composers and their music.

To date, ACO has performed music by 500 American composers, including 150 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra’s innovative programs have been Sonidos de las Américas, six annual festivals devoted to Latin American composers and their music; Coming to America, a program immersing audiences in the ongoing evolution of American music through the work of immigrant composers; Orchestra Tech, a festival and long-term initiative to integrate new digital technologies in the symphony orchestra; Improvise!, a festival devoted to the exploration of improvisation and the orchestra; Playing it UNsafe, a new laboratory for the research and development of experimental new works for orchestra; and, of course, Orchestra Underground, ACO’s entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, eclectic instruments, influences, and spatial orientation of the orchestra, new experiments in the concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations.
Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from B.M.I recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 30 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States,” and most recently Awarding ACO the 2008 ASCAP Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming. ACO received the inaugural METLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, and New World Records. More information about American Composers Orchestra is available online at

Lead support for the Underwood New Music Readings comes from Mr. Paul Underwood, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, FroM.M. Music Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, along with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by The Achelis Foundation, Amphion Foundation, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, ASCAP Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, BMI, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Fromm Music Foundation, GAP Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, Jerome Foundation, John and Evelyn Kossak Foundation, Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, Meet The Composer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Virgil Thomson Foundation, Paul Underwood Charitable Trust, The Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund.
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 and by NY City Council Member Gale A. Brewer.
Derek Bermel is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with American Composers Orchestra. Music Alive is a national program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer.
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The full text of this press release is available online at:


american composers orchestra
Robert Beaser, Artistic Director | Dennis Russell Davies, Conductor Laureate
Steven Sloane, Principal Guest Conductor | Derek Bermel, Music Alive Composer in Residence
240 West 35th Street, Suite 405
New York, NY 10001-2506
Phone: 212.977.8495 Fax: 212.977.8995

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