NEA-CMA Collaborate on Special Award


Margaret M. Lioi
Margaret Lioi
photo by Melissa Richard

The National Endowment for the Arts and Chamber Music America have entered into a four-year program wherein the NEA will make additional funds available to one of CMA’s five annual commissioning-grant recipients, specifically for performance costs.

“We have a commissioning program that requires the work be performed three times,” explains Margaret M. Lioi, CMA’s chief executive officer. “But we do not fund the performances.” Instead, CMA makes its award to the ensemble, presenter, or festival that applies, which in turn pays the composer his or her commissioning fee.

”It’s very difficult to get presenters to make the commitment to perform new work, because it’s risky,” Lioi elaborated. “This provides fee support for the group, making it a wonderful incentive to get the [commissioned] pieces performed. That is the point of the program.”

The amount of the NEA funds will differ from year to year. For the fiscal year beginning July 2001, it is $47,500. That will augment the $7,500 commission fee, $1,000 copying costs, and up to $3,000 ensemble honorarium that comprise each of the CMA commissioning program grants. The intent-to-apply deadline for the current round of commissioning grants is Wednesday, January 31. The final application is due April 15.

Applications are reviewed by a peer panel and judged on the quality of ensemble (through “blind” tape), the composer specified for the commission, and such routine criteria as outreach and internal housekeeping. The CMA panel will determine which of the grant recipients will get the NEA monies. “We will have to come up with special criteria for that,” says Lioi. The NEA funds will be given to CMA for distribution.

The idea for the program, which apparently took some board members by surprise when it was announced at the CMA conference on January 14, came out of discussions between Wayne Brown, who heads up the opera and music programs at the National Endowment for the Arts, and Viki Roth, senior program director for CMA. Its full title is the Chamber Music America-National Endowment for the Arts Special Commissioning Award.