A.J. McCaffrey has been named the winner of the American Composers Orchestra’s 2013 Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 commission to compose a work that will be premiered by ACO during the 2014-2015 season. McCaffrey was chosen from six finalist composers whose pieces were read by the orchestra during its 22nd Underwood New Music Readings on April 8 and 9, 2013 which included McCaffrey’s piece Thank You for Waiting. (You can hear the ACO reading of Thank You for Waiting on their website.)
A.J. McCaffrey (b. 1973) is a songwriter and a composer of instrumental, vocal, and electronic music. With a background and interest in theater, fine arts, and literature, and an upbringing that fostered a love for a wide variety of musical styles, he writes music that strives to tell a story. McCaffrey’s music has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. His works have been performed by the New Fromm Players, Radius Ensemble, Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, and members of the Chiara Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. A fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival and School, he has been a featured composer on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s The Next Next series, Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music, and the New Gallery Concert Series. McCaffrey holds degrees in music composition from Rice University, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the University of Southern California, and has studied with Richard Lavenda, James MacMillan, Donald Crockett, and Stephen Hartke. A passionate educator, he is an instructor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program and the Longy School of Music at Bard College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Music.
“A.J.’s orchestral writing impresses at every level—the clarity of his sonic concept, the deft handling of often viscerally dense counterpoint, and above all, the energy that he gets from the ensemble through his orchestrational approach,” said Underwood New Music Readings mentor composer Christopher Theofanidis. Joan Tower, also a mentor composer this year, added, “A.J. McCaffrey is a composer with extraordinary chops. I am hoping his newly commissioned work will push the envelope further by taking musical risks that could create a formidable piece for orchestra.” Mentor composer and ACO Artistic Advisor Laureate Robert Beaser praised A.J. as well, saying, “A.J. is a composer who combines prodigious craft with a quirky sensibility. He produces works in a variety of styles—always surprising and arresting.”
Upon winning the Underwood commission, A.J. McCaffrey said, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with ACO. I witnessed first-hand how well they tackle new music during the Readings this past spring, and I cannot wait to begin composing for them. It is overwhelming to be chosen—ACO had a fabulous group of pieces and composers to choose from and I am humbled to have been selected.”
In addition, for the fourth year, audience members at the Underwood New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. The winner this year was composer Nina Young (b. 1984), for her piece Remnants. As the winner, Nina was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which is available to everyone who voted, free of charge.
The 22nd Underwood New Music Readings were held under the direction of ACO’s Artistic Director, composer Robert Beaser, and were led by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with mentor composers Christopher Theofanidis and Joan Tower. The conductor, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO provided critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the sessions. In addition to the readings, the composer participants took part in workshops and one-on-one sessions with industry professionals. This year’s readings attracted over 130 submissions from emerging composers around the country. In addition to McCaffrey and Young, the selected participants were Jonathan Blumhofer (b. 1979), Louis Chiappetta (b.1989), Joshua Groffman (b. 1984), and Saad N. Haddad (b. 1992).
(—from the press release)