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Six $50,000 Commissions for Composers Awarded by the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Jan 22, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO and MENLO PARK, Calif.—The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are pleased to announce the recipients of a $300,000 initiative to support the creation and production of new music compositions by California composers. The funds are directed toward innovative California composers who represent a wide spectrum of cultural and aesthetic perspectives.

The works will be commissioned and premiered by Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Each organization will receive a $50,000 grant divided into two parts: $12,500 or more will be a commissioning fee to a California-based composer, while the remaining funds will go to the presenting organization for expenses related to the creation and world premiere of the commissioned compositions. The resulting works will have their world premiere public performances in the San Francisco Bay Area between December 2014 and June 2016. The recipients of the 2013 Music Commissioning Awards are (in alphabetical order by organization):

Circuit Network (San Francisco Electronic Music Festival) / Pamela Z

Started in 1999, the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival provides a home for composers and sound artists working with electronic-based technologies. The annual festival is located at Brava Theater in the Mission District, but the festival has also collaborated and presented works at SFMOMA and deYoung Museum. The proposal is for the festival’s co-founder, Pamela Z, to create a new five-movement work inspired by the history, architecture, engineering, and cultural impact of bridges and scored for a chamber ensemble with real-time live electronic processing, text, and sampled sounds. The project will premiere in spring of 2015.

Door Dog Music Productions (a.k.a. S.F. World Music Festival) / Anuradha Sridhar

Door Dog Music Productions has produced the San Francisco World Music Festival since 1995, bringing exemplary artists from around the world to Bay Area audiences and schools. Composer, teacher, and musician Anuradha Sridhar will lead a collective music process for The War Project: Propaganda, Protest, Prayer. Her training is in Carnatic music, a vocal-based style, and she will create prayer-like songs for woman and girls impacted by wartime. Guest artists will include other leading Bay Area world music artists. The project will premiere in winter of 2014.

Gamelan Sekar Jaya / Wayne Vitale

Formed in 1979, Gamelan Sekar Jaya is a sixty-member company of musicians and dancers that specializes in the cross-cultural transmission of Bali’s living artistic traditions. The ensemble performs annually in the Bay Area, and has performed in New York and Los Angeles, as well as four tours to Indonesia. Wayne Vitale (a founding member and director of the ensemble from 1992 to 2009) will create a suite of five experimental works for a smaller ensemble using both traditional and newly constructed and tuned instruments. Themes will be drawn from Balinese cosmology. The project will premiere in spring of 2015.

Kronos Quartet / Jonathan Berger

For the past forty years, the Kronos Quartet has integrated classical, jazz, rock, and world cultures, collaborating with composers and performers from the Near East, Far East, Europe, Africa, South America, Latin America, and North America. Jonathan Berger will create My Lai, an opera monodrama scored for tenor, string quartet, traditional Vietnamese percussion instruments, and digitally processed sounds, which will explore first-hand reflections on the My Lai tragedy. Joining Kronos will be tenor Rinde Eckert and Vietnamese performer Vân-Ánh Võ. The project will premiere during Kronos Quartet’s 2015–2016 home season.

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra / Amy X Neuburg

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra was founded fifty years ago and is dedicated to making classical music accessible by providing admission-free concerts and educational programming. Since 2004, the orchestra has commissioned nineteen new works. The organization will work with Amy X Neuburg to develop a thirty-minute song cycle for voice, live looping, electronics, and chamber orchestra, which is inspired by the composer’s experience with hunger in America today. The first electronic work to be performed by the orchestra, the project will premiere in spring of 2016 as part of SFCO’s Main Stage Concert series.

Volti / Mark Winges

Volti, a twenty-person professional choir, was founded in 1979. It has commissioned an impressive seventy-five new works by emerging and established composers, and has won the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming six times. Mark Winges has been Volti’s resident composer since 1990. He proposes to combine the Volti adult choir with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir for The Pandora Project. For the piece, poet Denise Newman will update the classic Pandora’s box legend. Singers will be unaccompanied (no piano or orchestra), and a choreographer will integrate movement aspects into the presentation. The project will premiere in spring of 2015.


“I am so thrilled to continue the partnership with the Hewlett Foundation to commission new works by California artists for Bay Area arts organizations,” said Stacie Ma’a, the president of the Gerbode Foundation.  “This year, our grants will support six stellar music projects featuring a wide array of aesthetics, different genres, and myriad traditions.  Of particular note, was how many of the contemporary composers were infusing narrative structures and voice into their compositions.”

“The recipients of this year’s grants are some of the most dynamic and exciting creators of new music in our community,” said John E. McGuirk, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program. “New work like this is essential to cultivating a vibrant arts community, and we are proud to be able to support these artists.”

The Gerbode and Hewlett foundations were assisted in making these grants by an advisory panel composed of the following nationally respected music experts:

  • Philip Blackburn works at the American Composers Forum, running the innova Recordings label while developing re-granting programs and opportunities for composers. He is also a composer/environmental sound artist and has served as a teaching artist for school residencies. Blackburn’s works have been heard in ships’ harbors, state fairs, forests, and coming out of storm sewers, as well as in galleries and on concert stages. Blackburn’s book, Harry Partch: Enclosure Three, won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.
     
  • Will Hermes is a senior critic at Rolling Stone. He has published features, profiles, essays, criticism, and reviews in the New York Times, the New York Times Book Review, Slate, The Believer, Rolling Stone, Spin, GQ, Utne Reader, the Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and City Pages. On radio he has contributed commentary to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered since 1994 and served on the programming committee for “NPR 100” (a series on the greatest works of twentieth-century American Music) and for “Present at the Creation” (a Morning Edition series on American pop culture). His most recent book is Love Goes to Buildings on Fire.
     
  • Robin Holcomb is a pianist, composer, librettist, singer and songwriter who has performed internationally as a solo artist and the leader of various ensembles. She is a founder and co-director of the New York Composers Orchestra and WACO (the Washington Composers Orchestra). She creates scores for dance, film, and theatre and has recorded for Nonesuch, Tzadik, Songlines, and New World Records. Her most recent song cycle, We Are All Failing Them, is a sideways regard of the Donner Party saga with film and magic objects, which premiered at the Northwest Film Forum in June 2013.
     
  • Mary Rowell, a traditional and electric violinist, has performed with the National Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, New York Chamber Orchestra, Eugene Symphony, Vermont Symphony and the Albany, New York-based Dogs of Desire. She has also toured performed and recorded with Joe Jackson, Todd Rundgren, Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, John Lurie, Steve Coleman, Scott Johnson, and many others. As a co-founder of ETHEL—a modern music string quartet—Rowell toured the U.S., Europe, and Australia. She is currently concertmaster of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra and the hit Broadway show Newsies.
     
  • Helen Sung was an award-winning classical pianist before discovering jazz. A graduate of the first Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance class, she went on to win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition and work with luminaries such as Regina Carter, Steve Turre, Clark Terry, Steve Wilson, and Wayne Shorter. In addition to her albums and ensemble, Sung currently appears with the Mingus Big Band, T.S. Monk, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project. Sung also stays involved with music education through artist residencies and workshops, and is an associate professor at the Berklee College of Music.


About the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation is interested in programs and projects offering potential for significant impact. The primary geographical focus is on the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. The Foundation’s interests generally fall under the categories of arts and culture, environment, reproductive rights and health, citizen participation, building communities, inclusiveness, strength of the philanthropic process and the nonprofit sector, and Foundation-initiated special projects.

About the Special Awards Program
For over twenty years, the Gerbode Foundation has made innovative grants through its Special Awards Program to Bay Area arts institutions to commission new works from gifted individual artists: playwrights (including Tony Kushner, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America and Luis Alfaro, renowned Chicano performance artist and writer), choreographers (such as Amara Tabor-Smith and Jo Kreiter), composers (including Marcus Shelby, John Adams, and Tony Williams), as well as visual artists, poets, and multimedia artists.
In a time of cultural shifts and fiscal insecurity in the arts, these coveted, nationally respected awards have helped underwrite culturally and aesthetically diverse, acclaimed new works by prominent artists and emerging ones. These grants have supported artists at critical junctures in their careers; enabled nonprofit local arts groups to develop and debut substantial, original works; and enriched Bay Area audiences, readers, and viewers by giving them first access to ambitious new creations.


About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, and philanthropy, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found here.

The Foundation’s Performing Arts Program is founded on the premise that the experience, understanding, and appreciation of artistic expression give value, meaning, and enjoyment to people’s lives. Its goals are to ensure that exceptional works of art are created, performed, and preserved, and to provide more opportunities for participation in arts experiences. The Program supports artistic expression and its enjoyment through grantmaking to a wide range of high-quality arts organizations in one of the most culturally diverse regions in the country. The Foundation’s Performing Arts Program currently supports more than 200 organizations throughout the Bay Area. Both the scale of funding and the singular nature of multiyear general operating support have made the Hewlett Foundation a key investor in the cultural life of the Bay Area.  

Contact:  
Stacie Ma'a, President
Gerbode Foundation
415-391-0911, info@gerbode.org
 
John McGuirk, Director
Performing Arts Program, Hewlett Foundation
650-234-4500, performingarts@hewlett.org