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Music Alive: 2016

Music Alive supports composer-in-residence positions in orchestras of all sizes.

Deadline: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 5PM Eastern Time

Program Summary

Music Alive, a national residency program of New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras, invites Letters of Intent as application for three-year composer-orchestra residencies beginning during the 2016-17 season through the 2018-19 season. More than $1 million will be awarded to support and develop a total of five residency pairings, each between an orchestra and a single lead composer. In this iteration of Music Alive, the program prioritizes collaborative work and immersive experiences for composers, orchestras’ musicians and artistic leadership, and their community members. The program seeks to harness the desire and potential in the field for in-depth, multifaceted relationships between composers, orchestras, and communities through transformative residencies. Programs and activities will be developed through a cohort-based planning process with a centrally embedded and engaged composer-in-residence.

Music Alive: Fundamental Assumptions

  • The composer-orchestra relationship is a vital symbiosis, with strong benefits for both partners and rich possibilities for enhancing an orchestra’s ability to deliver public value to its community.
  • Extended involvement between composers and orchestras including residency is a powerful structural tool to realize those benefits and possibilities.
  • A key goal for systemic change is to secure a vital role for living artists as key factors in the orchestral world of the future.


Organizations must be U.S.-based members in good standing (current in dues payment) of the League of American Orchestras. Composers must be based in the US (and remain so for the duration of the three-year program) and must not be enrolled in a degree-granting program.

Two Commitments

Essential to participation in this iteration of Music Alive: the orchestra-composer pairing must commit to the following two core commitments. Specific residency activities will be developed as part of this process.

1) Centrally Embedded Composer

Key to the success of each residency will be the incorporation of the composer into the orchestra’s operations and activities in ways that foster collaboration and creativity.  As an artist who resonates strongly with the organization and its values, the composer will play a vital role in strengthening the orchestra’s relationship with existing audiences while reaching new ones in the larger community. The composer should be considered more than just a visiting artist but as a colleague whose work will be supported through access to and familiarity with the orchestra’s musicians, music director, staff, and other stakeholders; involvement in a range of creative projects; and by feeling at home in the local environs.

The composer need not be local, but involvement should be substantial and considered an ongoing and regular commitment over the three-year period. Compensation will be executed by the orchestra on a set schedule (in accordance with their payroll) in reflection of this ongoing commitment. We anticipate composers will spend approximately one quarter to one third of their time on the residency, both on and off site, either in direct residency activity or through planning and communication.

2) Cohort-Based Planning Process

Residency activities will be developed through a cohort-based planning process during the first season of the residency. The cohort includes leadership teams representing the five host orchestras, the respective composers-in-residence, and program staff, who will collectively aim to:

  • Create a community of practice, collaboration, and sharing to produce fresh thinking and generate creative solutions to the opportunities and challenges orchestras face.
  • Think beyond the current scope of activity and take substantive time to work with program staff and peer residency teams to innovate and experiment.

The cohort will commit to sharing ideas and helping each other brainstorm potential residency activities during the planning period, creating customized programmatic responses to a few identified thematic priorities addressing contemporary issues identified by New Music USA and the League in cooperation with members of the field.

Residency Priorities

These thematic priorities will form the basis of the residency activities. Participants will receive dedicated funding to assist in addressing the following:

Workshopping, rehearsing, and developing new works

The orchestra is expected to perform the composer’s work during the residency. Resources will be provided for the workshopping, rehearsing, and performance of a number of existing works or developing new works, as well as encouraging the orchestra to involve the composer in programming and curatorial discussion over the course of the residency. Details will grow out of the planning process, but could include providing extra services, partnering with local organizations or universities for workshopping, etc.

Mentoring composers less experienced with and connected to the orchestral field

Committed to serving the full spectrum of composers and their development, this area will provide opportunities for the principal composers-in-residence and music directors to mentor composers less experienced in working with orchestras and provide entrée into the orchestral world by building relationships that lead to professional growth. The details of mentorship activity will grow out of the planning process and likely take place later in the residency, but could include opportunities for readings of new work, development of young composer programs, shadowing and mentoring opportunities, etc.

Creating public access to the artistic process

The program is committed to providing increased access to composers and the artistic process which can help the orchestra respond to changing community interests and enhance the role and relevance of orchestras in the community. Activity may include collaborating with community organizations and/or providing audiences with more access to the creative process through open rehearsals, access to media, or other points of entry.

Planning will begin quickly after selection in December and will lead to activity taking place as early as spring 2017, but primarily during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Initial planning will involve two to three development workshops during 2016-17 with regular virtual communication and an annual in-person convening during the League’s National Conference each year of the residency.


Participation in the program will involve grant awards of approximately $220,000 for each residency over the three-year period. We expect the funding offered through the program to cover a majority, but not the totality of expenses related to the residency. Some residency activities may overlap with and augment the orchestra’s existing activities.

Allocation of Music Alive funding
  • Composer compensation ($20,000 for the first year and $35,000 each in years two and three)
  • Travel (for non-local composers and convening travel for participants; approximately $16,400)
  • Program expenses for the thematic priorities ($13,000 for the first year and $38,000 in years two and three)
  • An administrative stipend ($5,000 for the first year and $10,000 in years two and three)
Orchestra investment beyond Music Alive funding
  • Composer accommodation (for non-local composers)
  • Commission fees (if applicable)
  • Potential expenses incurred in implementing the thematic priorities beyond available funds
  • Potential administrative expenses incurred as part of the residency beyond available funds


Materials must be received by 5 p.m. (EDT) on September 30, 2016. Notification will be made via email by early December.


Initial convening of the cohort will take place virtually (via Skype) on December 12, 2016. The cohort includes composers, artistic and administrative leadership from orchestras, and staff from New Music USA and the League. At least one orchestra representative needs to be an artistic decision-maker at their organization (i.e., the Music Director). The first in-person meeting of the cohort will take place in late January in Dallas in conjunction with the League’s Mid-Winter Managers Meetings. Subsequent annual convenings will take place during the League’s National Conference. In June 2017, the conference will be held in Detroit. Further details to follow.

Review Process and Criteria

Successful residency pairings will be those involving a generous and engaged composer and organizations that demonstrate excellence in programming and performing the work of living composers, have a fully engaged music director, a committed artistic team, and are meaningfully engaged with their community. A peer review panel will initially evaluate all materials and recommend a group of potential residency pairings for further consideration. Stage two of the review process will involve interviews with orchestra staff and their music director, the composers, and New Music USA and League staff.

The review criteria are:

  • Artistry – the artistic merit of the composer’s work and orchestra’s performances
  • Opportunity – the partnership’s potential for depth and innovation in residency work and in tackling the thematic priorities.
  • Capacity and commitment – the ability of the orchestra and composer to make the residency a success and to commit to the two commitments outlined above.

How to Apply

To apply, the organization, music director, and composer will need to submit Letters of Intent as outlined below.  The orchestra and composer must also create/update their respective profiles on www.newmusicusa.org as outlined. If you do not have a profile, you may register for one here. It can be updated at any time. If you have any questions about the program or submission process, please contact us at info@newmusicusa.org.



  • Please include an organization bio that incorporates information about the orchestra’s commitment to, and experience with, new music and living composers.


  • Please include a recent bio that includes any information about past work with orchestras.


  • Please supply one to three recent media samples that reflect the organization’s or composer’s artistic achievement. If possible, composers please supply at least one sample of past work with orchestras or large ensembles. Samples should be from the past three to five years and can be links to YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, or uploaded directly as mp3s. Samples may be any length, however if especially long please provide a cue point to begin listening. Please note that samples are public unless password protected on YouTube or Vimeo. If providing private samples please be sure to include the password in your Letter of Intent.
Letters of Intent

Orchestra (signed by the Executive Director):

  • Please explain why you have chosen this composer and why you think s/he is a strong partner for this residency.
  • Describe any past relationship or experience with the composer (past relationship is not a requirement).
  • Please provide any initial thoughts regarding how you might respond to the two core commitments outlined above.
  • Please confirm the commitment of the full organization to participate in the cohort-based process as outlined above.
  • Please provide a three-year budget (past fiscal year, current fiscal year, projected next fiscal year) and most recent audited statement.

Music Director (signed by the Music Director):

  • Please explain why this partnership fits well with your artistic goals for the ensemble.
  • Please confirm your commitment to participate fully in the cohort-based process, including involvement in convenings (at least once in-person and virtually otherwise) and to engage in the residency through conducting performances of the resident composer’s work, involvement in mentorship activities, etc.

Composer (signed by the composer):

  • Please explain why you are interested in partnering with the orchestra and how the partnership aligns with your artistic goals.
  • Please confirm your commitment to participate fully in the cohort-based process as outlined above.

Please collect materials into a single PDF and email to info@newmusicusa.org by 5 p.m. (EDT) on September 30, 2016.


Launched in 1999 as a joint program between Meet The Composer (now New Music USA) and the League of American Orchestras, Music Alive has been a steward and partner in a multitude of projects that foster strong working relationships between American orchestras and accomplished composers across the country. In its 17 years, the program has supported 110 composers, 76 orchestras, and 114 distinct residencies.

Music Alive is made possible through a lead grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Amphion Foundation, and The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.

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