August 2, 2023
5 min read

American Composers Orchestra Announces 2023-2024 Season

Credit: Alfred Kan

“For a young composer of orchestral music, the greatest challenge is getting one’s works played and heard. Addressing that challenge is… American Composers Orchestra.” – The Dallas Morning News

New York, NY (August 1, 2023) – Hailed as an “essential organization” (The New York Times) with “an expansive vision of orchestral composition” (Represent Classical), the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces an ambitious 2023/2024 season. In addition to annual performances at Carnegie Hall and a debut at New York City’s brand new Perelman Performing Arts Center, ACO continues to act as a vital conduit for new voices in orchestral music through its national composer development program, EarShot, promoting diverse talent, cultivating the careers of emerging composers, and serving as the nation’s first systemic program for building relationships between composers and orchestras nationwide. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States.”

The Quest: Epic Journeys on November 9, 2023 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall

During the 2023/2024 season, ACO gives two performances presented by Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, both highlighting world premieres of works by living American composers. On November 9, 2023 at 7:30PM, ACO performs The Quest: Epic Journeys, with Vimbayi Kaziboni conducting. Among four world premieres on the program, ACO will perform Nina C. Young’s Out of whose womb came the ice, a work co-commissioned by ACO and Carnegie Hall. Also receiving world premieres are ACO commissions by George Lewis, Jack Hughes (a commission from EarShot’s Underwood Readings), and Guillermo Klein (an EarShot CoLABoratory commission). An arrangement of Augusta Read Thomas’s Sun Dance—In memoriam Oliver Knussen makes its New York premiere.

America in Weimar: On the Margins on March 12, 2024 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall

On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, ACO again performs in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall for America in Weimar: On the Margins, a program led by Rei Hotoda exploring the United States’ influence on the pre-World War II Weimar period – and elements of that society that are echoed in our culture today. The performance features the world premieres of Tonia Ko’s Breath, Untamed, as well as a new work for mezzo-soprano, accordion, and orchestra by John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke, featuring Chrystal E. Williams and Felipe Hostins as soloists, commissioned by American Composers Orchestra. In addition, award-winning Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichcha̱achaaha’ Tate serves as narrator in his own re-orchestration of Clans, a movement from his larger composition Lowak Shoppala’.

ACO Debuts at the Perelman Arts Center in NYC, Performing New York Premiere of Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang’s Opera, An American Soldier

In May 2024, ACO debuts at Manhattan’s newly opened Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) in the New York premiere of An American Soldier, an opera co-produced by ACO along with PAC NYC and Boston Lyric Opera. Composed by Huang Ruo with libretto by David Henry Hwang, the opera is based on the true story of Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who died while serving in Afghanistan – not by enemy fire, but under a completely different set of unjust and shocking circumstances. Carolyn Kuan conducts performances at Sunday, May 12, 2024 at 3:00PM, Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at 7:00PM, Thursday, May 16, 2024 at 7:00PM, Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 8:00PM, and Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 3:00PM.

2023 Gala and Creative Catalyst Awards on October 25, 2023

ACO will also be in its hometown of New York on Wednesday, October 25, 2023 for its second annual Gala and Creative Catalyst Awards. Held at Fogo de Chão (40 W 53rd Street), this year’s gala honors GRAMMY-winning composer and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera; producer, educator, artist and scholar Dr. Indira Etwaroo, of Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater; and Edward Yim, Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President at WQXR; as exemplars of core ACO values: artistry, creativity, community, and equity. The program includes musical performances by D’Rivera, mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams, forró musician Felipe Hostins, composer Raquel Acevedo Klein, and a sound installation by Chris Kallmyer, among others. For information on sponsorship levels and tickets, please email Lyndsay Werking at

National EarShot Readings Pair Emerging Composers with Accomplished Mentors and Major American Orchestras

Credit: Alfred Kan

This season, EarShot presents three major programs: Earshot Readings with orchestras around the country to mentor and promote new composing talent, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions Program with 11 major orchestras, and the EarShot CoLABoratory program to commission and workshop new works by Guillermo Klein and John Glover as well as four new works by Indigenous composers: Laura Ortman, Kite, Michael Begay, and 2022 Pulitzer Prize-winner Raven Chacon.

Beyond its own performance schedule, American Composers Orchestra coordinates this year with multiple world-class ensembles to open up opportunities for emerging talent. As part of its ongoing national EarShot composer advancement initiatives, organized in partnership with the American Composers Forum, New Music USA, and the League of American Orchestras, ACO holds composer readings in five cities this season:

On October 3 and October 4, 2023, ACO hosts readings with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, featuring emerging composers and works as follows: Leyou Wang (Impressions from Tianqiao), Martin Hebel (Radiant Pillars), Giuseppe Gallo-Balma (Los Huesos de Yayael), and Joseph Sowa (Summer Has Ten Thousand Stars). The four composers will be mentored by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and ACO board member Melinda Wagner; ACO Artistic Director Curtis Stewart; the prolific Texu Kim; and CSO Music Director Louis Langrée in feedback sessions and discussions on aesthetics and compositional issues. The composers will also have the opportunity to engage with CSO musicians, assistant conductors, and section principals in private sessions. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led by CSO Assistant Conductors Samuel Lee and Daniel Wiley, will perform the new works in a public concert at Cincinnati Music Hall on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 at 7:30pm, preceded by a pre-performance Q&A with the featured artists and composers.

From Wednesday, March 20 to Friday, March 22, 2024, EarShot Readings will be held at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Call for scores opens in early August.

On Monday, April 15 and Tuesday, April 16, 2024, EarShot Readings come to Palo Heights, Illinois, where featured composers will work with mentor composers Jessie Montgomery and James Stephenson, along with Stilian Kirov, music director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. Call for scores recently closed, with featured artists to be selected and announced by August 2023.

From Tuesday, June 4 to Friday, June 7, 2024, EarShot Readings will be held in conjunction with the League of American Orchestras conference in Houston, TX. Composers selected for these readings will work with mentor composers Valerie Coleman, Jennifer Higdon, and Nina Shekhar, as well as conductor Mei-Ann Chen, Artistic Partner to Houston’s River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO). Call for scores recently closed. Featured artists will be selected and announced by August 2023.

ACO’s own EarShot Readings will be set at New York’s Manhattan School of Music Thursday, June 13 and Friday, June 14, 2024, with ACO itself as the participating ensemble. Call for scores opens in August 2023.

Call for scores recently closed for EarShot Readings with Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and ROCO. Featured artists will be selected and announced in August 2023.

For EarShot Readings with ACO and Indiana University, the call for scores will open in August 2023. This call seeks scores that highlight and celebrate the unique musical and cultural contributions of the Americas to global musical ecosystems. While all submissions will be considered, works that highlight styles/genres that are unique to the Americas (including, but not limited to: American pop, jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, rock, rock and roll, R&B, pop, hip-hop, soul, funk, gospel, disco, house, techno, ragtime, doo-wop, folk, Americana, boogaloo, tejano, reggaeton, mariachi, and salsa) will be given prioritized consideration.

EarShot Commissions: 5 New Works from Recent Alumni

ACO and partner orchestras are also co-commissioning composers from last season’s EarShot Readings to write new pieces for future programs, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Composer TBA), Dallas Symphony Orchestra (Composer: Iván Enrique Rodríguez), Naples Philharmonic (Composer: Meilina Tsui), The Next Festival of Emerging Artists (Composer: Michael Dudley Jr.), and American Composers Orchestra (Composer: Oswald Huỳnh).

Ongoing Premieres of New Works by Female and Nonbinary Composers in the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions Program

Through the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions Program, ACO and the League of American Orchestras have jointly established a 30-orchestra consortium to support commissions by six female and nonbinary composers – all alumni of ACO’s EarShot program. Besides supporting new works and performance opportunities, all participating composers and orchestras will collaborate on programs to benefit education efforts and communities. In a series of 11 performances, commissioned works by featured composers will be performed by major North American Orchestras, as follows:

On Thursday, September 28 at 7:30PM and Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 8:00PM, the Rochester Philharmonic performs Gity Razaz’s composition Methuselah (In Chains of Time) during its program titled The Four Seasons. Violinist Sarah Chang appears as featured soloist in a program also showcasing works by Vivaldi and Mendelssohn.

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Anna Clyne’s piece This Moment during its program Trifonov Plays Brahms, with performances held October 6, 2023 at 2:00PM and October 8, 2023 at 8:00PM. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts, with Daniil Trifonov featured on piano.

Arlene Sierra’s piece Kiskadee makes its world premiere with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during its program Korngold’s Violin Concerto, featuring Clara-Jumi Kang on solo violin. Performances are scheduled for Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 7:30PM, Friday, October 20, 2023 at 10:45AM, and Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 8:00PM.

On Friday, November 24, 2023 at 8:00PM and Sunday, November 26, 2023 at 2:30PM, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performs Sarah Gibson’s piece to make this mountain taller as part of its Thanksgiving with the Symphony concert. The program also features violin virtuoso Randall Goosby in a performance of Korngold’s Violin Concerto.

On January 25, 2024 at 7:30PM, Arlene Sierra’s Kiskadee is featured in a second performance, this time as part of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s program Birth of a Culture. During this program, the LPO also previews Wynton Marsalis’s new Concerto for Orchestra.

In two concerts on February 7 and 8, 2024 both at 8:00PM, Ottawa, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra performs the Canadian premiere of Gity Razaz’s Methuselah (In Chains of Time) during its program Pouliot & Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto & Shelley conducts Scheherazade. In addition, Blake Pouliot is featured on solo violin for a performance of Tchaikovksy’s Violin Concerto.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performs Sarah Gibson’s to make this mountain taller during its Beethoven Violin Concerto program February 22 and 23, 2024, both nights at 7:30PM. The program also features works by Debussy and Dame Ethel Smyth, with violinist Geneva Lewis featured on the Beethoven concerto.

During its program Matthias Pintscher Welcomes Violinist Philippe Quint, the Kansas City Symphony performs a new work by Angel Lam. Also spotlighting Quint on Errollyn Wallen’s Violin Concerto, this concert takes place Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23, 2024 at 8:00PM, and on Sunday, March 24, 2024 at 2:00PM.

A new work by Angel Lam is also featured Saturday, April 6, 2024 at 7:30PM and Sunday, April 7, 2024 at 2:00PM in the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s season finale concert Masterworks VI: The Force of Fate. Additional selections for this concert include Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, Op. 36 and Jacob Bancks’ Clarinet Concerto, with featured soloist Ricardo Morales.

The National Symphony Orchestra performs Anna Clyne’s This Moment during its program Randall Goosby plays Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto; Thomas Wilkins conducts Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Making his NSO debut, Goosby is featured on Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Performances take place Thursday, May 16, 2024 at 7:00PM, Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 8:00PM and Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 3:00PM.

EarShot CoLABoratory Fellowships Support 9 Artists

Over the course of the season, ACO also offers several ongoing programs to support music students and emerging composers focusing on participants from marginalized communities. Through its CoLABoratory Fellowships, ACO seeks to advance the work of composers whose work is experimental or rooted in musical traditions underrepresented in the orchestral repertoire. Its model emphasizes addressing systemic barriers in orchestral commissioning, while fostering equitable, inclusive, collaborative processes that generate adventurous work. Fellowships advance composers’ programming and curatorial skills, positioning them as catalysts for change and establishing a replicable model for composers who come after them.

During 2024, ACO will work with six fellows. Among them is Guillermo Klein, an Argentinean pianist and composer who will create a work adapting jazz band charts for orchestral performance; and composer John Glover, librettist Kelley Rourke, soprano Chrystal E.Williams, and forró musician Felipe Hostins co-creating a new work for mezzo-soprano, accordion, and orchestra. Led by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, ACO and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra will develop works for orchestra by four Indigenous composers, including 2022 Pulitzer Prize-winner Raven Chacon and three composers selected by him: Laura Ortman, Michael Begay, and Kite. These four fellows will each complete their first orchestral work through the program.

Partnership with ACF, ROCO, and National Sawdust for Anatomy of a Commission

New for this year, ACO has joined with American Composers Forum, National Sawdust, and ROCO to offer a digital resource – Anatomy of a Commission – for music creators and their collaborators. Designed to provide transparency about the commissioning process, this year-long program aims to amplify the impact of collaborating with living creators while encouraging equitable experiences and expanding commissioning efforts overall. Rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, the project supports the dynamic nature of each unique commissioning scenario with information, insights, and resources in multiple formats. Tools offered through Anatomy of a Commission include:

  • Discussion Guide to pre-contract conversations between artistic parties, updated contract templates for a variety of scenarios, articles written by composers (and others) describing their own positive or negative experiences, filmed conversations among artistic collaborators on the keys to an equitable experience
  • National Co-Commissioning Hub for those seeking to join a commission consortium
  • “Office Hours” open to those with questions on the legal process of commissioning new music

Sonic Spark Serves 515 New York City Public School Students and Partners with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and New York University

Credit: Alfred Kan

ACO spearheads several music education programs for students in elementary through high schools. In 2024, its Sonic Spark program will serve 515 New York City Public School students across seven middle and high schools – 74% of those students coming from ALAANA/BIPOC backgrounds and 85% from low-income households. All Sonic Spark programs have been shown to meet and exceed federal, state and city education standards. The effort comprises three sequenced programs developed around music composition and arts-integrated curricula:

  • Sonic Spark Ensembles (SSE), providing vocal and instrumental music making in grades 4-12
  • Sonic Spark Lab (SSL), a range of arts-integrated programs to promote creative thinking in grades 7-12
  • Compose Yourself! (CY), offering composition instruction, culminating in a performance, for students with some musical experience in grades 9-12.

Since 2022, ACO has partnered with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to provide a special Sonic Spark Lab program led by composer Trevor New for students in grades 6-9 with some prior music experience. Offered simultaneously to students in New York City and Detroit (10 students per city), the program allows students to collaborate in real time through Cohere Touch, a networked learning environment developed by New with support from ACO’s EarShot CoLABoratory Fellowship. During class time, students play together while exploring improvisation and its role in developing fully formed compositions.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the Sonic Spark program also takes part in research exploring the impact of arts-based instruction on behavioral and mental health through NYU’s Music and Audio Research Laboratory (MARL) and Center for Music, Language, and Emotion. Based at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School, the project will evaluate students enrolled in Sonic Spark in contrast with a second group of students taking a photography course and a third group with no arts intervention at all. Methods for measuring student outcomes include MRI scans and evaluations of their social media interactions before and after exposure to arts education.

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