Meet The Composer has awarded three-year New Residencies grants to five American composers, the latest round in a national program that integrates the composers and their music into urban and rural communities nationwide.
When announcing the residencies, Meet The Composer President Heather Hitchens commented: “Through New Residencies, music of lasting value has emerged to help replenish the repertoire. Composers are afforded the opportunity to create work in a new and exciting context, and communities are exposed to and participate in the creative process. All of this has led to a greater understanding and enthusiasm for the work of a living composer.”
The five composers began working within each of their respective communities in March.
Mary Ellen Childs
Photo by Warwick Green courtesy of Meet the Composer
Mary Ellen Childs has focused her residency in the Minneapolis area, partnering with St. Olaf College, the Southern Theater, and Eden Prairie High School. She will include her performance company CRASH into her residency activities and has planned a number of public space performances to reach those who might not attend a formal performance. (Read more.)
Photo by David Belove courtesy of Meet the Composer
Rebeca Mauleón will work to bring together the ethnically diverse population living in the San Francisco-area by partnering with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, and the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation. (Read more.)
Photo by Carlo Carnevali courtesy of Meet the Composer
In Providence, Rhode Island, Barbara Kolb will score a new ballet for the Festival Ballet of Rhode Island and compose new works for the Rhode Island Philharmonic. In addition, she will teach and create programming for the Capital City Community Centers and write new music for WaterFire, a multi-media outdoor installation.
Photo by Michael Mushalla Double M Arts & Events courtesy of Meet the Composer
Mikel Rouse returns to the rural south to work with the North Central Louisiana Arts Council, Louisiana Tech University School of the Performing Arts and the Lincoln Parish School District. His residency plans include involving the community in the creation of multi-media works and the large-scale collaborative projects for which he is known.
Photo by Scott Chernis courtesy of Meet the Composer
And building on an already established history of collaboration, Marcus Shelby continues his work in the Mission District of San Francisco. He has partnered with local organizations such as Intersection for the Arts, Youth Speaks, Campo Santo, and the Savage Jazz Dance Company in order to address critical issues in the neighborhood through programming that emphasizes the context of culture and the positive artistic value of social conscience.
Each composer receives $100,000 over the three-year residency period and an additional $20,000 from a partnership of sponsoring residency organizations in the final year. Each residency partnership also receives $40,000 for production and partnership expenses.
“It’s a great source of income for a composer, but its not designed so that its simply money for the composer to write for three years,” explains Meet The Composer Business Manager Sharon Levy. Instead, the support allows the composer to delve into the community, sharing the art form with those who live there. But residency experiences often serve as a pool of inspiration for the composers as they pull the community toward them, hear their stories, and learn about their lives.
“Oftentimes perceptions and realities are not the same,” Levy says. “These three -year residencies particularly give everybody an opportunity to have those myths debunked. And it also makes us realize that music and the arts are happening in place and in ways that people don’t normally know about. There’s incredible stuff going on in all kinds of pockets in various communities. If the composer does a really good job getting inside [the community], we’ve found that some phenomenal work goes on.”
Levy admits that it often takes the first year of the residency to build trust with the community, but many of this year’s composers already have a connection to their area and the others were selected in part for their perceived ability to forge this connection quickly. How the composer fits into the community can then varies greatly depending the location. In a small town, Levy says, “everybody in town knows the composer, and events make front page news.” On the other hand, composers generally make a more subtle impact in urban environments, penetrating a particular area or sub-community.
In all instances, the composers use music to connect and learn more about their audiences while bringing audiences closer to the experience through collaborations and educational programs. When a New Residencies composer comes into the area, Levy notes, it can also be “a tremendous boost for any other composers at work in the area. They feel supported. Residencies composers try and find them and include them in whatever way makes sense.”
Since it was initiated in 1993, the New Residencies program has supported 40 three-year partnerships in communities across the country, linking composers both to professional arts institutions such as orchestras, museums, and opera, dance and theater companies, as well as to community-based groups such as schools, park authorities, and social service agencies.