Release NMR 2005 Winner

Composer Michael Gatonska
Wins 2005 Underwood Commission

Michael Gatonska, winner of 2005 Underwood Emerging Composers CommissionComposer Michael Gatonska has been named the winner of American Composers Orchestra’s 2005 Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, bringing him a $15,000 commission for a work to be premiered by American Composers Orchestra.  Chosen from the ten finalists in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in America, Mr. Gatonska won the top prize at ACO’s annual Underwood New Music Readings with his work, An Expedition Aboard the Third Mind. Mr. Gatonska’s texture-oriented work has been described as “highly original.” Melinda Wagner, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and a composer-mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings stated, “Michael has demonstrated a unique ability to thread together finely-carved, diverse & ‘glimpses’ of music into a convincing, organic whole–a kind of temporal kaleidoscope of style and color. I look forward eagerly to his new piece for ACO!”

Michael Gatonska studied composition with Krzystof Penderecki, Marek Stachowski, and Zbigniew Bujarski at the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland.  For several years, he traveled between Krakow and New York City, where he studied with Elias Tanenbaum at the Manhattan School of Music. His compositions have been awarded two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, two Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute awards (2002, 2004), the 2005 Pacific Symphony Composer Competition, and the Chicago Symphony First Hearing Award in 1999.  Now residing in Hartford, Connecticut, he is currently at work on a commission from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and recent past commissions include SONYC (String Orchestra of New York City) and the MATA (Music At The Anthology) Festival 2003, a solo work for the electric cellist Jeffrey Krieger, and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.

Mr. Gatonska has been singled out for his “naturally symphonic imagination and his gift for rich textures and urgent melodic gestures,” with works “concerned with expansion in the realm of form–moving toward evolution in the relationships between expository material and symphonic textures.” Michael’s participation in the MATA Festival in New York introduced his music to the String Orchestra of New York City, which commissioned and premiered his piece Transformation of the Hummingbird and bringing it to Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.Transformation of the Hummingbird demonstrates Mr. Gatonska’s expansive compositional sensibilities in its coaxing of a full symphonic sound from an orchestra of strings alone.  In the medium of electronic music, Mr. Gatonska conveys a strong sense of nature as well as a loud, imposing human presence in On Connecticut Naturalism, for solo electric cello, commissioned and premiered by Jeffrey Krieger. The composer uses a digital delay/sampler unit, with which the cellist is able to build up sound by adding more and more layers to a sample in real-time, creating long, sustained phrases, as well as one of the oldest real-time electronics, the wah-wah pedal, which helps create the wind sounds that begin the piece.

In 2005, Mr. Gatonska received a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, and grants from Meet the Composer, and the American Music Center. He is also a MacDowell Colony Fellow and a recent recipient of two post-graduate research grants from the Kosciuszko Foundation for music composition studies in Poland.

The 14th annual Underwood New Music Readings, held in New York on May 5-6, 2005 under the direction of ACO’s artistic director, composer Robert Beaser, with mentor-composers Steven Mackey and Melinda Wagner, and conductors Steven Sloane, Paul Dunkel, and James Lowe, attracted more than 150 submissions from emerging composers around the country. This year’s finalists were: Jennifer Fitzgerald, who holds a Ph.D. in Composition and a Women’s Studies Certificate from Duke University; Gregg Wramage, currently a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center where he studied with David Del Tredici and George Tsontakis; Joseph Sheehan, who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in music composition at Indiana University;Kenneth Froelich, who holds a Doctorate in Music degree from Indiana University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Ball State University; Spencer Lambright, currently completing his doctoral studies at Cornell University and also holds degrees from the Yale School of Music and the University of Oregon;Zhou Tian, who came to the U.S. from Hangzhou, China and graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, studying with Richard Danielpour and Jennifer Higdon; Daniel Visconti, winner of the most recent Kronos Under 30 Project and working on the resulting commission from the Kronos Quartet; and Stefan Weisman, who is a graduate of Bard College and Yale University, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University.

The tenth finalist, Carlos Rivera, was awarded Honorable Mention by ACO for his work Popol-vuh, Four Mayan Dance Scenes for Orchestra. A composer and guitarist of Cuban/Guatemalan descent, Mr. Rivera is currently pursuing a Doctoral in Musical Arts degree at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Since 1991, the 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, some 75 composers have participated in the Reading Sessions, 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, 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, who both received Pulitzer Prizes for ACO commissions; Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, and Tobias Picker were all championed by the orchestra when they were beginning their careers.

Kristin Kuster, winner of the 2004 New Music Readings, is writing her commissioned work, Myrrha, for premiere by ACO at Carnegie Hall on May 3, 2006. Blanco, Azul, Rojo, by Manly Romero, the 2003 commissionee, was premiered by ACO on February 23, 2005 at Carnegie Hall. And Paul Yeon Lee, winner of the 2001 New Music Readings commission, will have his Ballade No. 1 premiered by ACO during the 2006-07 season. In all, 20 young and emerging composers have been commissioned by ACO as a result of their participation in the New Music Readings.

The 15th annual New Music Readings are scheduled for Thursday, May 18 and Friday May 19, 2006 in New York City. The submission deadline for composers interested in applying is Wednesday, November 18, 2005. Complete submission guidelines and application will be available in print and online this August by contacting, email, or telephone 212-977-8495.

Lead support for the Underwood New Music Readings comes from Paul Underwood, the Fromm Music Foundation and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund.

ACO’s emerging composers programs are made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and with the support of Jerome Foundation and the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust.

Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by Amphion Foundation, Anncox Foundation, The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, The Bagby Foundation for the Musical Arts, Bodman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, BMI, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Citigroup Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Fidelity Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Estate of Francis Goelet, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, Henfield Foundation, Victor Herbert Foundation, Christian Humann Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, John and Evelyn Kossak Foundation, Helen Sperry Lea Foundation, Meet the Composer, Neil Family Fund, The New York Community Trust, Bay and Paul Foundations, PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Rodgers Family Foundation, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The Susan and Ford Schumann Foundation, Smith Barney, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Oakleigh L. Thorne Foundation, and The Watchdog and Sonata Charitable Trust. ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.