Counterstream Radio
Inspect the unexpected
Media on Demand
Browse Music and Interviews

Present Music

Milwaukee, WI         

Present Music is one of the nation’s leading ensembles specializing in the commissioning and performance of new music. Its mission is to “engage artists and audience members in imaginative and provocative experiences with new music through ensemble performance and education.” Founded and based in Milwaukee since 1982, Present Music has worked closely with many of the nation’s most exciting and important composers, and has firmly established one of the largest audiences for new music in the country.

At its heart, Present Music is an ensemble of musicians. Five to times a year, Artistic Director Kevin Stalheim develops a program to be performed in Milwaukee by the Present Music Ensemble, which ranges from a core group of seven musicians to an ensemble of twenty. The ensemble expands and contracts to allow for a diversity of instrumental combinations and the requirements of each program. The artists that make up Present Music engage audiences by presenting concert experiences that are artistic events in their own right and have been described as “crackling with wit and intelligence,” “wildly varied,” “fun,” and “unpredictable.”

Adding to the national catalog of innovative new music, Present Music has commissioned more than sixty-five major new works in the past thirty-six years. Composers who have worked in residence or have been commissioned by Present Music include Pulitzer-prize winning composers such as John Adams, Henry Brant and David Lang, and such luminaries as Michael Torke, Elena Kats-Chernin, Kamran Ince, Roberto Sierra, Annie Gosfield, Bright Sheng, Jerome Kitzke, and Daron Hagen. Present Music also works with many of today’s most exciting emerging composers. Recent commissions include works by Christopher Cerrone, Ryan Carter, Cory Smythe, Robert Honstein, Marcus Rubio, and Ingram Marshall.

Present Music shows the world that Milwaukee is a center for creativity by touring regularly throughout the United States and has participated in major international music festivals including the 1992 Interlink Festival of New American Music in Japan, the Bang on a Can Festival in New York City, the 1999 Istanbul International Music Festival with the Istanbul Symphony, Beijing and Shanghai, China in 2005, and most recently, at Columbia University’s Composer Portrait Series in New York City.

Among the numerous important national grants Present Music has received are awards from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Multi-Arts Production Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Reader’s Digest / Meet the Composer Commissioning Program, and the Aaron Copland Fund for American Music. Present Music is also the unprecedented, six-time winner of ASCAP/Chamber Music America’s Adventurous Programming Award, including first place for the 2009-2010 season. The ensemble has been broadcast on National Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, and Counterstream Radio, a project of the American Music Center.

Present Music can be heard on nine compact disc recordings that include the composers Kamran Ince, Michael Torke, Jerome Kitzke, Kimmo Hakola, Daniel Lentz, Joseph Koykkar, Randall Woolf, Armando Luna and Elena Kats-Chernin on the Naxos, Argo, innova, Albany, and Northeastern labels.


Excerpt from The Somnambulist (2016) by Eric Segnitz

Audio performed by the Present Music Ensemble and recorded live on October 21, 2016 at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The Somnambulist was commissioned by Present Music for “Angst, Horror & Fun,” a multimedia performance at the Milwaukee Art Museum on the opening night of the special exhibit “Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s.” Eric Segnitz created a new video work inspired by “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” (featured in the museum’s exhibit), and composed the original score, which was performed live with the video on a giant screen.

Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Still Life with Avalanche, by Missy Mazzoli

Performed by the Present Music Ensemble and recorded live on June 3, 2016 at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Alleluia Grace – Ingram Marshall |Marked Excerpt Score

Excerpt of the written score for “Alleluia Grace” written by Ingram Marshall. Commissioned and premiered on November 19, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI for Present Music under the direction of artistic director, Kevin Stalheim.
This excerpt begins on page 24 at measure 150 and coincides with the starting point of our “Alleluia Grace” Projects Work Sample (1) – audio excerpt also of the same title. The excerpt features the four voices and four instruments amplified through independent digital delays closing the piece with additional pre-recorded voices.