Christopher Stark Wins ACO's 2010 Underwood Commission
ACO is pleased to announce that composer Christopher Stark has been named the winner of ACO’s 2010 Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in a future season. Chosen from seven finalists during ACO’s 19th annual Underwood New Music Readings on May 21 and 22, 2010, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, Stark won the top prize with his work Ignatian Exercises.
In addition, this year, for the first time audience members at the New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through a new Audience Choice Award. On both May 21 and 22, audience members voted for their favorite pieces. The winner of the Audience Choice Award was composer Ricardo Romaneiro, for his piece Sombras. As the winner, Romaneiro was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone, available to everyone who voted, free of charge.
Born in 1980, Christopher Stark spent his formative years in rural western Montana. His music is deeply rooted in the American West, always seeking to capture the expansive energy of Montana’s quintessential American landscape. In addition to ACO, he has worked with ensembles such as Brave New Works, the Momenta Quartet, the Israeli Chamber Project, Janus Trio, NeXT Ens, the Tipping Point Saxophone Quartet, and Juventas. The Underwood Commission is Stark’s first from a professional orchestra.
“We had seven incredible composers whose music was both challenging and entertaining at this year’s Readings,” said ACO Music Director George Manahan. “I'm so glad that Christopher Stark is the winner of the Underwood Commission,” he continued. “I found his music to have a strong individual sound, and his musical profile comes out in every measure.” Derek Bermel, ACO’s Creative Advisor, and a mentor composer during the Underwood Readings says that Stark’s music, “bubbles and seethes with kinetic energy.”
Stark is currently a doctoral student in composition at Cornell University, studying with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky. He previously studied at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Cincinnati Conservatory, and the University of Montana. At these institutions and abroad in Vienna, he studied with notable composers Samuel Adler, Michael Fiday, Joel Hoffman, David Maslanka, Charles Nichols, Wolfram Wagner, and Patrick Williams.
Upon winning the commission, Stark said, “I am incredibly humbled and honored to receive this year's Underwood commission.” “I am from a very small town in Montana, and I never thought I’d participate in the ACO readings let alone receive the commission,” he continued. “I almost fainted when I found out, and I still feel as if I am dreaming.”
About the New Music Readings
The 19th annual Underwood New Music Readings were held at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre on May 21 and 22, 2010, under the direction of ACO's Artistic Director, composer
Robert Beaser. Mentor composers included ACO’s Creative Advisor
Derek Bermel and George Tsontakis. The Readings were conducted by ACO’s Music Director Designate
George Manahan and guest conductor José Serebrier. This year's New Music Readings attracted 150 submissions from emerging composers around the country. In addition to Christopher Stark, the participants were:
Since 1991, ACO's New Music Readings have provided invaluable career-development opportunities for emerging composers and served as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of important American composers. To date, more than 100 composers have participated in the New Music Readings, hearing a full orchestral rendering of their work, receiving critical professional feedback and mentoring from conductors, composers and performers, and obtaining a professional-quality recording to assist in their advancement. Past participants have included such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Derek Bermel, Pierre Jalbert, Randall Woolf, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Jennifer Higdon. Since its inception in 1977, ACO has helped launch the careers of many of today's top composers, including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for their ACO commissions. Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, and Tobias Picker were also championed by the orchestra when they were beginning their careers.
Writing for the symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. The subtleties of instrumental balance, timbre, and communication with the conductor and musicians are critical skills. Opportunities for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. Since 1991 ACO’s New Music Readings have provided invaluable experience for emerging composers while serving as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of American composers. To date, more than 100 composers have participated in the Readings, including such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Pierre Jalbert, Augusta Read Thomas, Randall Woolf, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, and Derek Bermel.
Since participating in ACO's Readings, composers have held important residencies and had many works commissioned, premiered, and performed by the country's prominent symphony orchestras. The New Music Readings continue ACO's emphasis on launching composers' careers, a tradition that includes many of today's top composers, such as Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for ACO commissions; and Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, Sebastian Currier, and Tobias Picker, whom the orchestra championed when they were beginning their careers.
ACO’s 2009 winner, Wang Jie, garnered the top prize for her work Symphony No. 1. Her newly commissioned work, From the Other Sky, will be premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 15, 2010.
The 20th Annual New Music Readings are scheduled for June 3 and 4, 2011, at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. The submission deadline for composers interested in applying is Monday, December 6, 2010 at 5pm Eastern. Complete submission guidelines and application will be available in September 2010 at
via email at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or via telephone at 212-977-8495.
Christopher Stark's commission is made possible by Paul Underwood.