Music Director Riccardo Muti Appoints Jessie Montgomery as CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence for 2021-24

Jessie Montgomery (photo: Jiyang Chen)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) is pleased to announce the appointment of composer, violinist and educator Jessie Montgomery as its next Mead Composer-in-Residence. A winner of both the Sphinx Medal of Excellence and the ASCAP Foundation’s Leonard Bernstein Award, Montgomery has emerged as one of the most compelling and sought-after voices in new music today. Appointed by Music Director Riccardo Muti, she will begin her three-year tenure on July 1, 2021, and will continue in the role through June 30, 2024.
Described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (Washington Post), Montgomery’s music includes such frequently performed works as Banner (2014), Starburst (2012) and Strum (2006; rev. 2012), which have collectively been programmed almost 500 times to date, with more than 100 live and virtual performances of Starburst in the past year alone. As Mead Composer-in-Residence, she will receive commissions to write three new orchestral works for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one to premiere during each of her three seasons in the role. In addition, she will curate MusicNOW, the CSO’s annual contemporary music series, and will receive commissions for a number of new chamber pieces to premiere in the series’ 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. MusicNOW will also present the Chicago premieres of some of her existing works.
Founded in 1998, MusicNOW strives to bring Chicago audiences the widest possible range of today’s new music. As part of her work for the series, Montgomery will explore new artistic and multi-disciplinary collaborations within the Chicago community and beyond, helping to identify and evaluate composers new to the CSO, as well as nurturing its established cultural connections and partnerships. She will also collaborate with both the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO, which oversees the orchestra’s education and community engagement activities, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, its premier pre-professional training ensemble.
Music Director Riccardo Muti notes: “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has an important tradition of sharing new music with audiences. I am looking forward to continuing that tradition and introducing audiences to the music of composer Jessie Montgomery, whose work I have come to know and admire, in making this selection of the orchestra’s next composer-in-residence.” Montgomery responds: “It is an incredible opportunity and a tremendous honor for me to serve as the new Mead Composer-in-Residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I am deeply grateful to Maestro Muti for having faith in my experience and perspective, for giving me the chance to bring new and exciting music to the CSO, and for sharing his artistry to premiere my own works for symphony orchestra. In my curatorial role, I’m particularly excited about engaging more closely with the new music community in and around Chicago, as well as bridging connections between the CSO and other artists, especially composers with diverse backgrounds, experiences and approaches to music creation. I am truly honored to contribute to the CSO’s legacy at this time in history, and I can’t wait to get started!”

Montgomery is already fast developing a presence on Chicago’s new music scene. This is thanks in part to current CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli, under whose curation MusicNOW featured both Montgomery’s string quartet Break Away (2013) and the world premiere of her string ensemble arrangement of Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerrilla. These 2019 performances fostered a connection between Montgomery and Chicago audiences that helped inspire the CSO’s continued commitment to her music. The present season has already seen virtual performances of Starburst by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and of Strum by a quintet of CSO musicians. Next, on May 20, Montgomery looks forward to joining Mazzoli online for “From the Composer’s Studio,” a livestreamed conversation hosted by the CSO about what it means to be a composer working with symphony orchestras in 2021. The webinar will be followed by a Q&A and is free and open to the public. Advance reservation is required, and more information is available here.