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National Sawdust

Brooklyn, NY            

National Sawdust (NS) is a Brooklyn-based non-profit whose mission is to provide state-of-the-art facilities and programmatic support to a wide range of composers and musicians – particularly emerging talents – fostering their artistic progress and nurturing their musical discoveries. NS also seeks to build a new audience – for existing repertoire and new music alike – through vibrant, progressive, and genre-spanning programs presented in the culturally rich neighborhood of Williamsburg.

 NS (originally known as Original Music Workshop) was incorporated in New York in 2010, and in 2015 opened the doors of its new home: a century-old sawdust factory that has been transformed into a versatile, purpose-built facility that gives composers and musicians a space to experiment, perform, record, and broadcast. Indeed, NS is artist-led. Creative and Executive Director Paola Prestini, herself an award-winning composer, has assembled a diverse roster of world-class artists and composers to work with her in curating the space. As she describes it, “Our hope is to create an inclusive home where artists and audiences can learn, explore and listen creatively. I want to give other composers and artists the kinds of opportunities that would have helped me when I was an emerging artist in my 20s. I believe that by giving artists the reins to program the space and by lending support to their projects in the early phases of development we will make a unique contribution to New York City’s musical ecosystem.” 

Opening Night on October 1, 2015 was a critical and popular success that showcased NS’ acoustics and the range of music that would fill the space all season long. New York Magazine wrote that NS “seemed tough and full of magic.” In the fifteen months since, more than 35,000 audience members have experienced 460 NS performances. Programming highlights have included “Orphic Moments,” an evening of opera that combined the Gluck classic Orfeo ed Euridice with the premiere of a new opera by Matthew Aucoin; “Afripedia,” which put a spotlight on the thriving artistic communities of Ghana and Kenya; the NS+ series of concerts and talks, which featured artists including legendary rocker Patti Smith and director Julie Taymor, among others; family programming, including a popular “Jazz for Kids” series; and the Very Young Composers project, through which local students had their original compositions performed by a professional ensemble for their friends and families.

Concerts at NS regularly receive glowing reviews from top arts critics, and we were named in the Best of 2015 lists by both the Times and New York Magazine. The Times called NS “the city’s most vibrant new music hall” and we were finalists for receiving the Classical:NEXT Innovation Award, which honors “forward-thinking activities taking place around the world.” For her part, Paola Prestini was recently named as an “Innovator” in the list of Top 30 Professionals of 2016 by Musical America.