Music Alive is an orchestral residency program administered in association with the League of American Orchestras that is designed to empower composers and positively change the culture of orchestras and their communities.
Over the past year, we were able to witness Music Alive’s ability to accomplish this through our one-week New Partnership residencies. We saw, for example, how a composer can help augment an orchestra’s relationship with their community. In his residency with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Rick Robinson encouraged the orchestra to give chamber performances in unconventional spaces such as bars, restaurants, and senior centers—something that he does with his own CutTime® ensemble. Through this experiment, the orchestra was able to serve larger segments of their community and also show that new music is truly for everyone. We also saw that many orchestras went above and beyond this round to secure additional funding to add either extra time or more content to their residency and that the relationships brokered by Music Alive often end up being long lasting and fruitful for the composer. For example, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra found additional funding to commission a piece from their Music Alive residency composer Clarice Assad. On top of that, the relationship did not end with the end of the residency, as Assad will be premiering a new concerto with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and Akron Symphony in 2017.
Residency pairings can also push orchestras to explore types of music they might not have otherwise. Sumi Tonooka is a jazz composer who applied to Music Alive in order to be able to work closely with an orchestra. The South Dakota Symphony was so excited about the possibilities of this unconventional residency that they used additional funds to commission a piece from Tonooka, and that opportunity has opened doors in the orchestra world for her. Derrick Spiva is a composer who is interested in “exploring connections between musical cultures” and brought this interest to his residency with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In addition to presenting his work Prisms, Cycles, Leaps which has West African and Balkan influences, Spiva spoke to students, gave West African music workshops for young musicians, and participated in pre-concert talks with the Zadonu African Music and Dance Company to help audiences understand the rhythmic complexities of his music. Spiva described his residency as being “humbling and inspiring. It has made me believe even more strongly in the power of music to bring people from different cultural backgrounds together through a shared, communal, experience.”
In the program cycle completed with the 2015/16 season, Music Alive offered two types of residencies. The first of these, Principal Residencies, were three years long and included deep engagement from the composer and the orchestra. These residencies featured premiers of new work, community engagement activities, and performances of other work by the composer. This past round, Music Alive awarded Principal Residencies to the Albany Symphony and the Sleeping Giant Collective (Timo Andres, Andrew Norman, Jacob Cooper, Christopher Cerrone, Robert Honstein, and Ted Hearne); the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance and Stella Sung; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Gabriela Lena Frank; the Pacific Symphony and Narong Prangcharoen; and the Seattle Symphony and Trimpin.
The New Partnership pairings that were supported by this past round of Music Alive are: Claire Assad and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Douglas J. Cuomo and the Grant Park Music Festival, Annie Gosfield and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Takuma Itoh and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Jingjing Luo and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Missy Mazzoli and the Boulder Symphonic Orchestra, Rick Robinson and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Carl Schimmel and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Laura Schwendinger and the Richmond Symphony, Derek Spiva and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Sumi Tonooka and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and Dan Visconti and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
While this past year marked the end of a multi-year round of Music Alive, New Music USA was recently awarded a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation that will support a reinvented version of Music Alive that beginning immediately with the 2016/17 season. This new cycle prioritizes collaborative work and immersive experiences for composers, orchestra musicians, artistic leadership, and community members. Through these changes to Music Alive, we hope to demonstrate—through active partnership with the participating residency pairings and our colleagues at the League—the power and value of living creative artists working at the center of American orchestras.