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Peter Fahey Wins
2012 Underwood Commission

Peter Fahey, 2012 Underwood Commission Winning Composer

ACO is pleased to announce that composer Peter Fahey has been named the winner of ACO's 2012 Annual Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in a future season. Chosen from six finalists during ACO's 21st annual Underwood New Music Readings on June 1 and 2, 2012, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, Fahey won the top prize with his work Impressions.

Listen to an excerpt:

Of Peter Fahey’s music, ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser said, “Peter uses sound and color as building blocks to create arresting structures. His language is filled with abstractions that aggregate into clear and vivid musical images.” Underwood New Music Readings mentor composer Steven Stucky praised Fahey’s “unconventional uses of the orchestra which create a world of beguiling fantasy and delicate poetry,” and fellow mentor composer Melinda Wagner described his work as, “elegant, meticulously crafted music, rich in sonic, rhythmic and textural complexity.”

In addition, for the third year, audience members at the New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. The winner this year was composer Ryan Chase, for his piece The Light Fantastic. As the winner, Chase was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which is available to everyone who voted, free of charge.


ACO in action at the Underwood Readings

Born and raised in Ireland, Peter Fahey studied composition with Eric Sweeney at the Waterford Institute of Technology, with David Horne and Anthony Gilbert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, and, informally, at the Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt Weimar, Germany. He has also attended the Darmstadt Festival; the TACTUS Young Composers' Forum, Belgium; the Weimarer Meisterkurse Kompositions-Workshop; and the Aspen Music Festival and School Advanced Masterclass Program. Fahey has studied with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and in spring 2012 was an exchange scholar at Columbia University. In addition to ACO, Peter has worked with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Continuum, Ensemble Musiques Nouvelle, the Festival Chamber Orchestra (Ithaca), the iO Quartet, the Players Chamber Ensemble, the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra, and the Talea Ensemble. He is currently an artist-in-residence at ART342 in Fort Collins, Colorado, and in spring 2013, he will be in residence at the MacDowell Colony, where he plans to work on his new piece for ACO. This is his first commission for a professional orchestra.

Upon winning the Underwood commission, Peter Fahey said, “Taking part in the ACO Readings back in June was by itself such a rewarding experience, I can hardly believe I've been given the commission as well. It's a wonderful opportunity. I'm looking forward to working with the orchestra again and am excited about writing a brand new piece especially for ACO.”

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About the New Music ReadingsUnderwood Participants


The 21st Annual Underwood New Music Readings were under the direction of ACO’s Artistic Director, composer Robert Beaser, and were led by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with ACO Creative Advisor Derek Bermel and mentor composers Melinda Wagner and Steven Stucky. The conductor, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO provided critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the sessions. In addition to the Readings, the composer participants took part in workshops and one-on-one sessions with industry professionals. This year's New Music Readings attracted 130 submissions from emerging composers around the country. In addition to Fahey, the participants were:

  • Ryan Chase has had music performed by ensembles such as Alaria, CIRCE, Contemporaneous, Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble, Mannes Orchestra, Chelsea Symphony, SUNY Purchase Percussion Ensemble, and new music soprano soloist Ariadne Greif. Chase’s awards include the William Schuman Prize of the 2011 BMI Student Composer Awards, First Prize in the 2011 National Association of Composers USA Young Composers' Competition, and the 2008 Bohuslav Martinú Award. Chase is currently pursuing a Doctorate at Indiana University.
  • Michael-Thomas Foumai, a Native Hawaiian, is a violinist, violist, conductor and composer. His music is "exciting, energetic, full of vivid passages and picturesque moods" (Honolulu Advertiser) and has been praised for its "technical mastery and grace" (Los Angeles Times). Foumai was recently awarded the 2012 Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival and School, and was a participant in the 2011 EarShot New Music Readings with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Paul Kerekes' music is described as “striking…ecstatic…dramatic” (WQXR), and has been performed by ensembles TwoSense, Second Instrumental Unit, Stonewall Chorale, Mannes Preparatory Division Choir, and Norfolk Contemporary Ensemble. After completing an undergraduate degree at Queens College, Kerekes was invited to accompany eighth blackbird as a composer and performer at the summer festival of Music10 in Blonay, Switzerland. Kerekes is currently completing a masters degree at Yale School of Music under the instruction of Martin Bresnick.
  • Pin Hsin Lin is currently a doctoral student in composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, where she studies with Erik Lund, Zack Browning, Steven Taylor, Reynold Tharp, and Scott Wyatt. Lin hails from Kaohsiung and Taipei in Taiwan, and received her Master’s degree in Composition from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and her Bachelor’s degree in Composition from Roosevelt University.

  • Benjamin Taylor writes music for a variety of chamber ensembles, jazz combos and big bands, wind bands, choirs, and experimental ensembles. His prizes and honors include a 2011 BMI Student Composers Award, a Barlow Endowment Commission, and a 2011 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Taylor recently started doctoral studies at Indiana University at Bloomington.

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    Underwood New Music Readings Participants and Mentors 2012

    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 130 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 ACO's Creative Advisor, Derek Bermel.

    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 2010 winner, Narong Prangcharoen, received the top prize for his work Pubbanimitta. His newly commissioned work, The Migration of Lost Souls, was premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 26, 2012, as part of Orchestra Underground: Dreams and Dances. The 22nd Annual New Music Readings are scheduled for June 8-10, 2013 at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City. The submission deadline for composers interested in applying is December 10, 2012 at 5pm Eastern. Complete submission guidelines and application are available at

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    Support for the Underwood New Music Readings comes from Paul Underwood, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.

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