Wise Music Trust and ASCAP Support Diversity Initiative 'Amplifying Voices'

Wise Music Trust and ASCAP Support Diversity Initiative 'Amplifying Voices'
© New Music USA

New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, launched in January 2020 to promote marginalized voices in orchestral music, is growing to include at least 35 orchestras, which are working together to shift the canon for future generations. This increasing momentum, made possible by new funding from the Sorel Organization and industry partners ASCAP and Wise Music Trust, demonstrates recognition amongst orchestras that new and inclusive approaches to programming are critical for the sector’s future relevance. They join The Sphinx Organization which kick-started this initiative with a generous contribution from the Sphinx Venture Fund.

Support from the Sorel Organization has contributed to two new consortia led by Dallas Symphony and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, which will each commission a woman of color. ASCAP and Wise Music Trust will support the Amplifying Voices Learning Lab, facilitating conversations with composers, orchestras, and industry guests. Anticipated focal points include best approaches to co-commissioning, centering existent repertoire by BIPOC composers, and enabling more audiences around the country to discover the most exciting music of our time.

Amplifying Voices’ promotion of collective action will be explored at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Women in Classical Music Symposium at a panel on November 11, 2020 at 12:15pm CST. Panelists include representatives from four of the Amplifying Voices consortia:
Jennifer Barlament, Executive Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Shelley Washington, commissioned composer for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Joseph Young, Music Director, Berkeley Symphony

Amplifying Voices
Amplifying Voices fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. It was initiated by New Music USA last fall, with support from the Sphinx Venture Fund being confirmed in December 2019. Through a national call launched in January 2020, New Music USA asked orchestras to come forward with proposals for co-commissions and a commitment to promoting existing repertoire that deserves further performances.

Six composers have been co-commissioned to write new orchestral works through the New Music USA Amplifying Voices Program, supported by the Sphinx Venture Fund. Composers Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Tania León, Brian Raphael Nabors, Tyshawn Sorey, and Shelley Washington will each write new works to be premiered during the 2021-22 season and performed by a total of at least 24 orchestras. Each of the six composer’s pieces will be performed by a minimum of four orchestras.

The lead orchestras co-commissioning new works are The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioning Valerie Coleman, the Las Vegas Philharmonic commissioning Juan Pablo Contreras, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioning Tania León, the Berkeley Symphony commissioning Brian Raphael Nabors, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra commissioning Tyshawn Sorey, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioning Shelley Washington. Leadership at each orchestra will also work with their partner composer to increase the programming of works in their mainstream seasons by composers of all generations whose voices have not been represented in orchestral programming. (Additional orchestra consortium members are to be announced and interested orchestras are invited to put themselves forward to participate in one of the six consortia being established.)

Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, says, “We created Amplifying Voices at the end of last year to support the programming of composers and repertoire that could and should be more regularly enhancing our experience of orchestral music. Congratulations to the orchestras and composers who’ve been selected for this unique initiative — I can’t wait to hear their new pieces that result from these collaborations as we strive towards an open and equitable future for classical music.”

Photo courtesy of New Music USA. Clockwise from upper left: Jessie Montgomery, Tania León, Shelley Washington, Tyshawn Sorey, Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Brian Raphael Nabors.