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EarShot New Music Readings

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A.J. McCaffrey Wins
2013 Underwood Commission

AJ McCaffrey, 2013 Underwood Commission Winning Composer

Composer A.J. McCaffrey has been named the winner of ACO's 2013 Annual Underwood Emerging Composers 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 22nd annual Underwood New Music Readings in April, the Underwood Commission is one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, McCaffrey won the top prize with his work Thank You for Waiting.

“A.J.’s orchestral writing impresses at every level – the clarity of his sonic concept, the deft handling of often viscerally dense counterpoint, and above all, the energy that he gets from the ensemble through his orchestrational approach,” said Underwood New Music Readings mentor composer Christopher Theofanidis. Joan Tower, also a mentor composer this year, added, “A.J. McCaffrey is a composer with extraordinary chops. I am hoping his newly commissioned work will push the envelope further by taking musical risks that could create a formidable piece for orchestra.” Mentor composer and ACO Artistic Advisor Laureate Robert Beaser praised A.J. as well, saying, “A.J. is a composer who combines prodigious craft with a quirky sensibility. He produces works in a variety of styles – always surprising and arresting.” ”

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 Nina C. Young, for her piece Remnants. As the winner, Young has been commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which will be made available to everyone who voted, free of charge.


The 2013 Underwood new Music Readings

AJ McCaffrey is a songwriter and composer of instrumental, vocal and electronic music. With backgrounds and interests in theater, fine arts and literature, and an upbringing that fostered a love for a wide variety of musical styles, A.J. writes music that strives to tell a story. His works are theatrical in nature, employing harmonically rich and lyrically striking sound worlds to create moving, dramatic narratives.

A.J.'s music has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Tanglewood Music Center and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. His works have been performed by the New Fromm Players, the Radius Ensemble, the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble and by members of the Chiara Quartet, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Alarm Will Sound and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. A fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival and School, A.J. has been a featured composer on Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music , BMOP's The Next Next series, and the New Gallery Concert Series. In addition to his concert music activities, A.J. is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist with the band Planes Intersect.

A.J. holds degrees in music composition from Rice University, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the University of Southern California, and has studied with Richard Lavenda, James MacMillan, Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke. A passionate educator, A.J. is an instructor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Composer Fellowship Program and the Longy School of Music at Bard College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Music.

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About the New Music Readings2013 Underwood Participants

The 23rd 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 mentor composers Joan Tower and Christopher Theofanidis. 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:

  • Jonathan Blumhofer Jonathan Blumhofer earned his doctorate from Boston University, Master’s degree from the Boston Conservatory, and bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College. Blumhofer’s compositions have been performed and recorded by a number of ensembles in the United States and Europe, including the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra, Xanthos Ensemble, Juventas New Music Ensemble, and the Camerata Chicago. His compositions have received numerous awards and honors, including recognition from ASCAP, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, among others. As a writer and scholar, Blumhofer’s research interests include American music (particularly the music of Leonard Bernstein and John Adams), 20th century music, and modern European history.
  • Louis Chiappetta began studying composition at Mannes College of Music’s Preparatory Division at the age of 13. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and in 2011, was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study at the Guildhall School of Music in London. His works have been performed at London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Aspen Music Festival and School, Dartington International Summer School (UK), and MusicX Festival (Switzerland). Chiappetta has won several prizes including an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2010), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Scholarship (2011), and the Cleveland Institute of Music Donald Erb Prize (2011).His recent projects have included Fracture, a series of clarinet miniatures written in collaboration with choreographer Thomas Peacock and the London Contemporary Dance School, Echoes of Embers for baritone and small ensemble, and Chroma for orchestra.

  • Joshua Groffman has written works for orchestral, vocal, and chamber ensembles, as well as for electronic media, theater, and film. His works have been performed by groups including Ensemble Laboratorium, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the Delaware Valley Chorale, the Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and the Cornell University Chamber Singers, and selected for performance at festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, June in Buffalo, SEAMUS National Conference, Florida State University New Music Festival, the CUNY POP! Conference, Midwest Composers Symposium, and the 60x60 VoxNovus New York Minutes Mix. Groffman graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2007, where he completed double majors in music and history. holds Doctor of Music (2012) and Master of Music (2009) degrees from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He currently teaches composition and theory at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.
  • Saad Haddad is an Arab-American composer who has writes solo, chamber, choral, band, and orchestral works that showcase his Middle-Eastern heritage. He is currently pursuing a music composition degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. From 2007-2009, he was a member of the first group of high school composers to participate in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program under the direction of Steven Stucky. Haddad’s compositions have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, University of Michigan, The Juilliard School, USC Tribute Orchestra and at the international summer program, Freie Universitat, in Berlin. His honors include a 2010 ASCAP Morton Gould Award, ‘Finalist’ designation in the 2012 ASCAP Morton Gould Award and 'Alternate' designation (for Maelstrom) in the 2012 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute competition. In 2012 he was commissioned by USC’s Thorton School of Music to write an orchestral composition honoring American film composer James Newton Howard.

  • Nina C. Young is a New York-based composer who writes instrumental and electronic music for the orchestra, theatre, dance and film. Young’s music has been performed by the Orkest de Ereprijs, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, JACK Quartet, Yarn/Wire and Sixtrum and at the 17th International Young Composers Meeting, SEAMUS, Domain Forget, EAMA, the Atlantic Music Festival, and the Bennington Chamber Music Conference. Her music has received honors from BMI, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States. Young is currently a doctoral fellow at Columbia University and holds degrees for McGill and MIT. This summer, she is a Composition Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center.

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    Underwood New Music Readings Participants and Mentors 2012Writing 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 Artistic Director, 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 2012 winner, Peter Fahey, received the top prize for his work Impressions. His newly commissioned work, A Mirror to Kathleen's Face for orchestr and electronics, will be premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 25, 2013, as part of an Orchestra Underground program with guest conductor Robert Spano.

    The 23rd Annual New Music Readings are scheduled for June 6-8, 2014 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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