On Friday, June 12, President & CEO Vanessa Reed accepted the League of American Orchestras’ highest honor, the Gold Baton, on behalf of New Music USA. The award was presented at the closing event of the League’s virtual conference. We are pleased to share Vanessa’s acceptance speech with you below.
It’s a huge honor to be accepting this award on behalf of New Music USA’s Board of Directors and staff, past and present, our Program Council and everyone who has supported and taken part in our work across the years. It also feels very fitting to be receiving this award alongside our sister organization, American Composers Forum – congratulations to Vanessa Rose and ACF as well.
New Music USA supports the creation, performance and appreciation of new music through our work as advocate for the field, through a growing number of grantmaking programs and through our media platform NewMusicBox. We were founded in 2011 through the merger of Meet the Composer and American Music Center.
When I moved to New York last August to take up this leadership role at New Music USA I was really inspired by the extraordinary commitment this organization had made over the years to supporting long term relationships between composers and orchestras. That’s why the film we’ve shown on acceptance of the League’s Gold Baton award (see below) focuses specifically on this work which positions new music at the heart of orchestral life.
Our Music Alive program was launched in 1999 by one of our founding organizations Meet The Composer and the League of American Orchestras. Across two decades, it supported hundreds of composer residencies in orchestras of all sizes across the United states. Thanks to support from The Andrew W Mellon Foundation, this program demonstrated the vital role of living composers in extending the art of symphonic music and its relationship to the orchestra’s community. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made this critical work happen – from John Duffy and Fran Richard who received a Gold Baton for their work on the Composer Residency program in 1992, to Ed Harsh my predecessor, Scott Winship from our current staff and our partners Jesse Rosen and Susan Feder. This work changed the lives of many composers as you saw from Derrick Spiva’s comment in the film and it created many new opportunities for orchestras and their audiences.
As we build on this deep collaboration with orchestras, we know there’s so much more to do and we’re now focusing on how repertoire created by living composers—and particularly composers of color—could feature more regularly at the heart of main stage concert programs.
One of the ways we’re approaching this is through the Amplifying Voices program we launched in January with support from Sphinx organization’s Venture Fund. This is supporting and connecting six consortia of orchestras who are committed to co-commissioning Black and Latinx composers and working with these composers to program repertoire that has previously been omitted from major concert programs.
This is just one small step we’ve been taking in our commitment towards an equitable ecosystem for new music. Our goal is to start transforming the canon of new orchestral music for future generations.
The orchestras taking part in Amplifying Voices are still in the process of forming their consortia so for any orchestra representatives who are watching this conference session, I urge you to join in. This is one concrete way to be part of an exciting commissioning process whilst taking part in collective action towards a more open and inclusive future for orchestral music. A change that I hope all orchestras will want to be part of.
Please get in touch if you have any ideas, suggestions, provocations, or questions. Thanks again to the League for this distinguished award and thanks most importantly to my current team and board for working with me on the next chapters of New Music USA’s story. I really appreciate your support and collaboration.