Release (2007/04/13)

American Composers Orchestra
Selects Philadelphia Area’s Top Emerging Composers
for ACO/Penn Presents New Music Readings & Lab

Five Premieres to be Presented
April 13 & 14
at Annenberg Center
for the Performing Arts

Jeffrey Milarsky and ACOAmerican Composers Orchestra and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts announce the winners of the first annual ACO/Penn Presents New Music Readings & Lab, an unparalleled performance and professional development opportunity for Philadelphia-area emerging composers, featuring ACO’s groundbreaking Orchestra Underground ensemble. Five promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers have been selected on the basis of a competitive regional search that encompassed the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey tri-state area. The participating composers are Michael Djupstrom, John B. Hedges, David Laganella, Greg Spears, and Alan Tormey.

The proceedings commence with a free public reading Friday, April 13th from 1:30pm to 4:30pm, providing a glimpse at a working rehearsal and the collaborative process between composer, conductor and instrumentalists required to prepare new music. The following evening, Saturday, April 14th at 7:30pm, the new works will be premiered by ACO in a Laboratory-Performance with commentary from the composers. All events take place at the Prince Theater at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

The Readings & Lab are under the direction of ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser, Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel,conductor Jeffrey Milarsky, ACO musicians, and an esteemed panel of Philadelphia-area mentor composers, including Jennifer Higdon, Gerald Levinson, and Jay Reise. The Readings and Lab continue ACO’s emphasis on launching up-and-coming composers’ careers, providing invaluable professional-development programs, experience with an ensemble whose expertise in new music is unparalleled, and high-profile public performances of their music.

Orchestra Underground is ACO’s groundbreaking small orchestra ensemble that challenges conventional notions about orchestra music with a focus on new music with a wide gamut of aesthetics, unusual instrumentations, technological innovation, and multimedia and interdisciplinary collaborations. Since its launch in 2004, Orchestra Underground has commissioned and premiered fifteen cutting-edge new works at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in New York and the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

The ACO/Penn Presents New Music Readings & Lab round out an extended two-year residency for ACO at the Annenberg Center, made possible by The Philadelphia Music Project, an Artistic Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by The University of the Arts.

Composers Selected & Works to be Performed

Michael Djupstrom: Gaeng

Michael Djupstrom, composerMichael Djupstrom was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1980 and began music studies at the age of eight. He began formal composition study at the University of Michigan, where he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Other training included fellowships at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival, as well as postgraduate studies in Paris with composer Betsy Jolas. He currently lives in Philadelphia, where he teaches piano and theory at Settlement Music School, is a member of the Phoenix Trio, and works as an accompanist and vocal coach at the Little Lyric Opera Theater. Djupstrom has been recognized through honors and awards from institutions such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Composers Forum, the Chinese Fine Arts Society, the ASCAP and BMI Foundations, and the Lotte Lehmann Foundation. His music has been performed by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Haddonfield Symphony Orchestra, and the new music ensembles Brave New Works, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and the New Fromm Players at Tanglewood.

John B. Hedges: Scirocco Dances

John B. Hedges, composerJohn B. Hedges was born in 1974 in Wilmington, Delaware. The son of a rock musician, he began studying classical music at the University of Pennsylvania with post-graduate degrees from Westminster Choir College and the Curtis Institute of Music. In his summers, Hedges attended the Aspen Music Festival and the Britten-Pears School (as both composer and conductor). He subsequently served as assistant to composer/conductor Oliver Knussen in the U.K. He has participated in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Composition and Conducting Institute, and assisted composer Tan Dun in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of The First Emperor. His music has been performed in the U.S., Canada, France and England. Hedges has worked with the Ensemble Modern, New Jersey Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. He received a 2006 Independence Foundation Fellowship as well as a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and residencies at the artist’s colony Yaddo. In his spare time, Hedges loves to play and sing lots of funk music.

David Laganella: Under Ethereal

David Laganella, composerDavid Laganella was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1974, and grew up playing guitar and cello. Today, as a composer and electric guitarist, he has had music performed by such new music artists and ensembles as Flexible Music, Avian Music, the Haddonfield Symphony (where he was selected as the winner of the orchestra’s composers competition), the Serafin Quartet, Kevin Gallagher’s Electric Kompany and Marilyn Nonken. He has received honors from ASCAP, The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer and American Composers Forum. He holds degrees in music composition from New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds a Performance Certificate in electric guitar from Berklee College of Music. Laganella is the author of “The Composer’s Guide to the Electric Guitar” (Mel Bay Publications), a manual addressing all performance practice and notational issues for the instrument. Laganella is Artistic Director of Chamber Music Now, a contemporary music concert series in Philadelphia.

Gregory Spears: Finishing

Gregory Spears, composerGregory Spears was born in 1977 and grew up in Virginia Beach receiving his first musical recognition at age 16 as the soloist in his own Piano Concerto. Since then Spears’ music has been played by the Yale Philharmonia, NOW Ensemble, So Percussion, the vocal group Ars Nova, the Zapolsky Quartet and his own group, the Owen Quartet. Spears was selected as a participant in the 2001 American Composers Orchestra Whitaker New Music Readings. Eighth blackbird’s performance of his piece Soar-Stop was described by The New York Times as “scintillating.” In 1999, Spears was awarded a First Music Commission to write a piece for the New York Youth Symphony, which was given its premiere in Carnegie Hall. His music has won prizes from ASCAP and BMI as well as grants and honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Yaddo. Recent commissions have come from the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra, the Present Music Ensemble in Milwaukee, and Brooklyn-based choreographer Christopher Williams. Spears studied composition at the Eastman School of Music, Yale University and the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen as a Fulbright Scholar. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. at Princeton University where he teaches a writing seminar called Music and Madness.

Alan Tormey: Cleveland is a State of Mind

Alan Tormey, composerAlan Tormey was born in 1974 and currently resides in New Jersey where he is a doctoral candidate in music composition at Princeton University. His previous studies were at the Univ. of California at Berkeley, and Oberlin Conservatory. Tormey’s compositions have been performed by So Percussion, the Tarab Cello Ensemble, Synergy Vocals, Ensemble Surplus, and eighth blackbird. The 2002 Sonic Circuits Festival presented his multimedia work Interior of the New York Subwayat the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Upcoming events include a solo recital of live electronic music as a part of the Princeton Terrace Club’s acclaimed Free Form Mash-Up concert series, performances by the Catch Guitar Quartet, marimbist Doug Perkins, the New York Miniaturist Ensemble, and pianist Marilyn Nonken. Alan is a also member of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLORK), an ensemble comprising 15 laptop computers, 90 loudspeakers and a variety of performance interfaces. This spring, the orchestra will premiere his work&ldots;To Shining Sea.

Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor

Jeffrey Milarsky, conductorJeffrey Milarsky is one of the leading conductors of contemporary music in New York City. In the United States and abroad, he has premiered and recorded works contemporary composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Lasse Thoresen, Gerard Grisey, Ralph Shapey, Luigi Nono, Mario Davidovsky and Wolfgang Rihm. His wide-ranging repertoire, which spans from Bach to Xenakis, has brought him to lead such accomplished groups as the New York New Music Ensemble, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Columbia Sinfonietta, Speculum Musicae, Cygnus Ensemble, The Fromm Players at Harvard University, the Composers’ Ensemble at Princeton University, the New York Philharmonic chamber music series, and ACO, where he has served as Assistant Conductor. Increasingly in demand as a Music Director, he has been named to that position for New Jersey’s Musica Viva Festival. Most recently, he has joined the faculty of The Manhattan School of Music as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Percussion Ensemble. Mr. Milarsky is Professor in Music at Columbia University, where he is the Music Director/Conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra.

Mr. Milarsky received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding leadership and achievement in the arts. He regularly conducts The Juilliard Orchestra, with whom he has premiered over 70 works of Juilliard student composers over the past fifteen years. He is also on the Faculty at Juilliard, where has been, until recently, Director of the Composition Forum and of the Pre-College Percussion Ensemble.

Tickets & Info

The ACO/Penn Presents New Music Readings & Lab commences Friday, April 13th at 1:30pm with a new music reading that is free and open to the public. The following day, Saturday, April 14th at 7:30pm, the winning musical works will be premiered in a culminating Laboratory-Performance that includes discussion with the composers. All events take place at the Harold Prince Theater at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The Prince Theater is located at 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Tickets for the Lab-Performance on Saturday are $30 and available by telephone at 215-898-3900, or online at

The ACO/Penn Presents New Music Readings & Lab have been made possible by The Philadelphia Music Project, an Artistic Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by The University of the Arts.

ACO’s emerging composers program is supported by The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Greenwall Foundation, The Henfield Foundation, Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and ACO’s Inner Circle. The residency of Derek Bermel is made possible through Music Alive, a program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer. This program is designed to provide orchestras with resources to support their presentation of new music to the public and build support for new music within their institutions. Funding for Music Alive is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by ACO Inner Circle, American Symphony Orchestra League, Amphion Foundation, Anncox Foundation, The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, ASCAP Foundation, 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, Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Fidelity Foundation, Fromm Music 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, 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, The Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation, Paul Underwood Charitable Trust, The Watchdog and Sonata Charitable Trust and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund. 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.