Welcome Back Family and Friends Chamber Concert
September 28, 2021 at 7pm | DiMenna Center for Classical Music

New Canons
October 16, 2021 at 7pm | A Hybrid Virtual & In-Person Performance
Co-presented with Groupmuse Foundation
Featuring Ray Lustig’s Latency Canons & the World Premiere of Trevor New’s Cohere

Sanctuary at Carnegie Hall Conducted by Marin Alsop, with Violinist Jennifer Koh
March 25, 2022 at 7:30pm | Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
Premieres by Lisa Bielawa, Dai Wei, & Paula Matthusen, plus works by Anna Clyne & Hannah Kendall

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout
May 7, 2022 at 8pm | Apollo Theater
Co-presented with the Apollo & Co-curated with National Black Theatre
Conceived & Directed by Jonathan McCrory | Conducted by Michael Morgan
Premieres by Joel Thompson, Jason Michael Webb & Lelund Thompson, Toshi Reagon, & Carlos Simon, plus Sanctum by Courtney Bryan

ACO EarShot Readings in New York
June 2022

EarShot Readings for Emerging Composers with the Houston, Oregon, and Tucson Symphonies

ACO’s Sonic Spark Education Programs Continue Serving New York City Students

Fifth Annual ACO Commission Club to feature Composer Carlos Simon

ACO Gala 2022 at Bryant Park Grill on March 22, 2022


Read ACO President Melissa Ngan’s I Care If You Listen Interview Previewing the Season

New York, NY – American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces its 2021-2022 season, under the leadership of Artistic Director Derek Bermel and President Melissa Ngan. ACO continues its commitment to the creation, performance, preservation, and promotion of music by American composers with programming that sparks curiosity and reflects geographic, stylistic, racial, and gender diversity. This season’s slate of performances includes eleven premieres of new works by American composers, as well as new and ongoing partnerships with the ApolloNational Black TheatreGroupmuse Foundation, and Carnegie Hall.

“ACO’s 2021-22 season reflects a complex web of musical expression as we emerge from a year of lockdowns into a future that is uncertain yet defined by a determined, collective consciousness,” says ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel. “Sanctuary can reflect our common desire for safety and self-care, The Gathering touches upon the yearning for community and healing, and New Canons explores bridge-building through music at a moment that seeks fresh modes of interaction and conversation.”

ACO President Melissa Ngan adds, “Our upcoming season is all about creating opportunities to gather as we emerge from the sanctuary of our homes. While we’re in the business of making great music on the face of it, what we really do as performing arts organizations is to bring people together through collective experiences that create human connections, memories, and meaning. What I most look forward to is a season that explores so many different ways we can connect with one another through the music of our time.”

The season opens on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 with a Welcome Back Family and Friends Chamber Concert at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. The concert features ACO musicians performing chamber music for combinations of violin, cello, piano, flute, clarinet, percussion, and voice by a broad array of composers, many of whom are near and dear to the orchestra – including current and former ACO Board of Directors members Alvin SingletonMelinda WagnerRobert Beaser, and Jonathan Bailey HollandRead more background about the program and composers >

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, ACO and Groupmuse Foundation co-present New Canons, a hybrid virtual and in-person performance featuring the world premiere of Cohere by Trevor New and an ACO-commissioned work, Latency Canons by Ray Lustig, from 2013. Both works allow audiences to surf the boundaries between in-person and remote environments and will take place simultaneously at four New York City locations with additional musicians participating from cities worldwide. ACO welcomes audience members to choose to experience this performance at a public gathering space, as an intimate concert in a private home, or as a fully digital event via Groupmuse’s online platform. Tickets will go on sale in August 2021; locations will be announced at that time. Read more background about the program and composers >

On Friday, March 25, 2022, ACO returns to Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall for Sanctuary, a concert that explores the places, company, and states of mind in which composers seek inviolable refuge, led by conductor Marin Alsop and featuring violin soloist Jennifer Koh. The program includes the New York premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Sanctuary, a concerto written for Koh. Bielawa’s Sanctuary is an extraordinary historical research project around this powerful word, documenting the rhetoric around founding American principles and every important struggle along the way. Anna Clyne’s Restless Oceans from 2018 is inspired by a poem by Audra Lorde; the musicians raise their voices in song and use their feet to stand united in a defiant work that embraces the power of women. Hannah Kendall’s alternately buoyant and serene Tuxedo: Vasco ‘de’ Gama takes its title from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s iconic collection of diagrammatic block pieces. With a nod to the traditional African American spiritual “Wade in the Water,” the work conjures both the majesty and elegance highlighted by the artist as well as Kendall’s own reflective take on the history of globalization and multiculturalism ushered in by the Portuguese explorer. Newly commissioned works by Dai Wei and Paula Matthusen complete this rich musical odyssey. Read more background about the program and composers >

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Apollo Theater is a sonic quest rooted in the African and African American ritual of the Ring Shout, co-presented by ACO and the Apollo and co-curated with National Black Theatre. A Shout, or Ring Shout, is an ecstatic, transcendent religious ritual, first practiced by African slaves in the West Indies and in the United States, in which worshipers move in a circle while shuffling, stomping, and clapping. Woven together through a diverse array of multidisciplinary artists featuring new musical works for orchestra and choir, this evening-length event brings the ancestral tradition of the Ring Shout into a contemporary context, opening a space to collectively grieve, to awaken joy as a source of liberation, and to find love as a form of resistance. Directed by National Black Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan McCrory and conducted by Michael Morgan, the program features Carlos Simon’s Amen!Courtney Bryan’s Sanctum, and the New York premiere of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson. These works are in conversation with new commissions from Herb Alpert Award-winner Toshi Reagon, Tony Award-winner Jason Michael Webb, and Lelund Thompson created to honor our present needs for a collective space of remembrance. The performance is anchored by an 80-member orchestra and a 50-voice choir composed of singers, professional and amateur, from multiple African American churches and choral ensembles in New York. Read more background about the program and composers >

ACO will hold its 30th EarShot New Music Readings (formerly Underwood New Music Readings) in June 2022 in New York City, conducted by George Manahan.Through these Readings and EarShot partnerships with orchestras across the country, ACO is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of composers.In what has become a rite of passage for aspiring orchestral composers, 18 composers from throughout the United States will be selected to receive a reading of a new work. As in the past, commission opportunities will be available to the participants. This season, ACO also partners with the Houston Symphony (TBD 2022), Oregon Symphony (April 18-20, 2022), and Tucson Symphony (May 17-21, 2022) for EarShot Readings, in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA, and American Composers Forum. ACO Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, Guggenheim, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes.  Read more about ACO’s EarShot Readings program >

ACO’s Sonic Spark education programs will reach at least 500 students in New York City this season. Sonic Spark, led by ACO Education Director Kevin James, uses composition as a platform to unlock students’ creativity. Sonic Spark Lab, in partnership with Harlem School of the Arts, is offered for middle and high school students. These eight-week courses teach students to engage with their creativity, harness their curiosity, and collaborate to complete original musical works. Four composer teaching artists teach the curriculum, including Jess Marlor, Mary Prescott, Nate May, Nick Dunston. Sonic Spark Ensembles engage students with active music-making, whether through song, percussion, or other instruments. This school-based program is customized to enhance and magnify the educational and social objectives of the school and taught by a dedicated team of accomplished professional Teaching Artists. Compose Yourself provides advanced curriculum in two formats, in-school and out-of-school. The program serves approximately 50 high school age musicians with direct instruction in music composition. Classes help young composers develop their creativity and learn professional standards in a supportive, hands-on environment; the program has a strong record of preparing students for the rigors of college and beyond. Ten high school composers who are participating in the Compose Yourself Summer Intensive Readings, focused on traditional and non-traditional ways of scoring music, will have their original works read on August 31, 2021 at 4pm at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music; six students enrolled in the collegiate level Compose Yourself classes will share their original works on October 1, 2021 at 7pm at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Read more about ACO’s Sonic Spark education programs >

Now in its fifth year, ACO’s Commission Club invites individuals to follow the creative process from start to finish, from discussing the composer’s first creative spark, through the process of composing, and finally to the premiere. Membership fees support expenses related to composer commission fee, printing, rehearsal, and performance costs. In return, members are invited to exclusive events to interact with the artists. This season, the Club will support the new orchestration of Carlos Simon’s work Amen!, to be premiered at the Apollo in May 2022. Two preview events, including a cocktail reception, short musical performances, and Q&A with the composer, will take place in fall 2021 and spring 2022 (more details to be announced in September). Read more about ACO’s Commission Club >

American Composers Orchestra – 2021-2022 Program Highlights

Welcome Back Family and Friends Chamber Concert

Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 7pm

DiMenna Center for Classical Music | 450 W. 37th St. | NYC

Performed by ACO Musicians

Tickets & Information: bit.ly/ACOFamily

STEVEN GERBER: Five Greek Folksongs (after Ravel)

AUGUSTA GROSS: Towards Night (New York Premiere)


KAREN LEFRAK: Daybreak; When (New York Premiere)

MELINDA WAGNER: Unsung Chordata

EDWARD THOMAS: Reflections

JONATHAN BAILEY HOLLAND: Mobius (New York Premiere)

ROBERT BEASER: Selections from Souvenirs

New Canons

Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 7pm | In-Person & Virtual

Co-Presented by American Composers Orchestra and Groupmuse Foundation

Online and at New York City locations to be announced

Performed by ACO Musicians, with six soloists located around the world

Tickets & Information: bit.ly/ACONewCanons

RAY LUSTIG: Latency Canons (ACO Commission)
TREVOR NEW: Cohere (ACO Commission, World Premiere)

Friday, March 25, 2022 at 7:30pm
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall | 57th St. & 7th Ave. | NYC
Marin Alsop, Conductor
Jennifer Koh, Violin
Tickets & Information: bit.ly/ACOSanctuary

ANNA CLYNE: Restless Oceans (2018)
HANNAH KENDALL: Tuxedo: Vasco ‘de’ Gama (2020)
DAI WEI: New Work (ACO Commission, World Premiere)
PAULA MATTHUSEN: New Work (ACO Commission, World Premiere)
LISA BIELAWA: Sanctuary (Co-commissioned by ACO, New York Premiere)

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout
Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 8pm
Apollo Theater | 253 W 125th St. | NYC
Tickets & Information: bit.ly/ACOGathering

Co-Presented by the American Composers Orchestra and the Apollo
Co-Curated with National Black Theatre
In Partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players
Conceived & Directed by Jonathan McCrory
Conducted by Michael Morgan

JOEL THOMPSON: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (New York Premiere) 
JASON MICHAEL WEBB & LELUND THOMPSON: New Commission (World Premiere) 
COURTNEY BRYAN: Sanctum for orchestra and recorded sound
TOSHI REAGON: New Commission (World Premiere)
CARLOS SIMON: Amen! (New York Premiere of orchestral version)

About American Composers Orchestra

Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, middle school through college composer education programs, and emerging composer development programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.

ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those who are lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age diversity. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records, InstantEncore, Amazon, Spotify, and Apple Music.

ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual New Music Readings in New York City, which has served over 150 composers since its inception in 1991, and EarShot Readings, which since 2008 have been offered in partnership with orchestras across the country in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum. These Readings provide the rare opportunity for emerging composers to hear their original works played by a professional orchestra; the residencies, performances and composer-development programs speak directly to the orchestras’ communities and leverage local resources. Annually, ACO-produced Readings support 15-20 emerging composers, who receive mentorship and a professional orchestra reading and recording of their work. ACO’s New Music Readings in New York include a multi-performance commission awarded to the most promising participant through the Composing a New Orchestra Audience platform. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.

Since 1999, ACO has brought composers and musical teaching artists into New York City public schools through Sonic Spark (formerly known as Music Factory). Sonic Spark aims to leverage composition as a platform for creativity, and creativity as a platform for achievement in all areas of student’s life. Students in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, work directly with professional composers to create and perform original music. ACO also offers the intensive Compose Yourself! seminars, during which high school and college composers participate in hands-on composition classes, culminating in a performance of student compositions played by ACO’s professional musicians.

ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. 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.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council.

More information about American Composers Orchestra and resources about American orchestral composers is available online atwww.americancomposers.org.