National Sawdust Doubles Down On Core Traits In 2019 Season

By: Jan. 14, 2019

National Sawdust continues its fourth season, HEAR IT NEW!, this spring. The organization expands its commitment to the local and national arts scenes through presentations by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, and expands its mission beyond its physical walls through a new series.

Spring highlights include violinist-singer Petra Haden performing the music of John Zorn, a Grammy-nominated collaboration between Mexican jazz vocalist Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider, a new cabaret series with Bistro Award winner Jean Brassard featuring Tony nominee Karen Akers and other Broadway stars, events curated by the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) featuring Davóne Tines and music by Matthew Aucoin, and a vocal performance by MacArthur Fellow Dawn Upshaw and her Bard College protégées. Demonstrating its deep commitment to local and emerging artists, National Sawdust also showcases National Sawdust Artists-in-Residence Innov Gnawa, L'Rain, and J Hoard, while also expanding its reach with a new WNET television series featuring pianist Simone Dinnerstein (presented by Patrick Zimmerli) and with the Chris Grymes Open G Series, which pairs podcast episodes with live performances. In their longstanding pattern of commitment to equity in the arts, National Sawdust Projects presents cellist Amanda Gookin's Forward Music Project 2.0, which features new commissions from six composers that highlight issues surrounding gender, and a concert celebrating the release of composer Gemma Peacocke's latest album, Waves & Lines.

"This Spring sees National Sawdust connecting with partners around the globe, with WNET bringing in-house productions to larger audiences and National Sawdust Projects touring to locations from Rotterdam to Los Angeles, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Washington, DC, at the Kennedy Center," says Paola Prestini, composer and Co-Founder and Artistic Director of National Sawdust. "It's been a dream for National Sawdust, since its inception, to serve as a bridge not only between emerging and professional life but also between styles and cultures. Having the opportunity to share our music and ideology with the community at large paves the path for us to become a true home for an international musical community, cementing our hope to be an (inter) National Sawdust hub."


New Zealand-born composer and co-founder of the composer collective Kinds of Kings Gemma Peacocke celebrates the release of Waves & Lines on New Amsterdam Records at National Sawdust on International Women's Day. Peacocke adapted Waves & Lines from Eliza Griswold's acclaimed collection of landays - female Afghan folk poems passed down in secret as a sung oral tradition - translated into English, I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from contemporary Afghanistan. The poems are single rhyming couplets that range in topics from love and sex to war and grief, and they often have a sting in the ending. As a fifty-minute multimedia song cycle for soprano, electronics, and chamber ensemble, Waves & Lines explores the distance, anonymity, and strange intimacy of phone calls, text messages, and radio broadcasts in which the poems are shared. The concert includes singer Eliza Bagg and projections by Anchuli Felicia King (March 8).

Songs for Petra combines music by iconoclastic composer John Zorn with lyrics by Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris, performed by some of the most recognized exponents of contemporary jazz: Petra Haden on vocals and violin, Julian Lage on guitar, Jorge Roeder on upright bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums, and Harris himself on guitar and vocals. A former member of the alt-rock quartet That Dog, Haden has collaborated with artists ranging from Bill Frisell to the Foo Fighters, the Decemberists, and Susannah Hoffs (March 9).

Mexican jazz vocalist and former National Sawdust curator Magos Herrera shares the stage with game-changing string quartet Brooklyn Rider. As on their recent Grammy-nominated collaborative album Dreamers, the program explores the suffering inflicted by brutal state violence through songs from the Ibero-American songbook and works by Octavio Paz, Rubén Darío, Federico García Lorca, and others. Like Dreamers, the concert serves as a reminder that even terrible situations can inspire great beauty (March 14).

Actor and singer-songwriter Jean Brassard inaugurates a new theatrical cabaret series with an homage to Paris, the birthplace of cabaret. He will be joined by Broadway and cabaret stars Karen Akers, Steve Ross, and Kathleen Landis for an evening of francophile music (March 24).

Cellist Amanda Gookin's Forward Music Project 2.0: in this skin is a 2018-19 National Sawdust Project-in-Residence. This new series of commissions for cello solo focuses on the first-person perspectives of women, highlighting issues of sex positivity, trans rights, pleasure and pain, gender nonconformity, fashion and dignity, hysteria, BDSM, and more. Several of these pieces will push the boundaries of traditional cello writing, incorporating toys, staging effects, and even Gookin's voice (March 20).

The American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) curates two thought-provoking events. First, scholar Lucy Caplan partners with AMOC to lead Listening to Tom-Tom, a discussion of the 1932 opera by African American composer, writer, musicologist, and activist Shirley Graham Du Bois. Bass-baritone Davóne Tines will offer an introduction of excerpts from Tom-Tom, and Caplan and her fellow panelists will discuss the opera's complex representations of race, gender, and history, subsequently considering the challenges presented when mounting Tom-Tom today (April 4). AMOC also presents a program of chamber music by Eric Wubbels, Celeste Oram, and AMOC co-founder and co-artistic director Matthew Aucoin, the recent recipient of a 2018 MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship (April 10).

Dawn Upshaw, Grammy Award-winning soprano and the artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard Conservatory, joins forces with singers from the program, along with its associate director, pianist Kayo Iwama. In two concerts featuring new and recently composed works for voice and instruments, all New York City premiers, they highlight the dynamically creative relationship between performer and composer (April 14).


As well as bringing the world to Brooklyn, National Sawdust provides a stage for local artists to develop their voices, tell their stories, and find new audiences.

National Sawdust Artists-in-Residence Innov Gnawa perform a lila, a sacred musical ceremony from Morocco. Marking the first time the Grammy-nominated Brooklyn group will have offered this immersive cultural experience in a state-of-the-art music venue, the performance will give a rare glimpse into a rich and ancient musical tradition (March 2).

National Sawdust gives its Artists-in-Residence an opportunity to incubate new work. Acclaimed composer and multi-instrumentalist L'Rain presents one such concert, in which she presents a performance work featuring new music and collaborations (April 5).

National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence J Hoard, a Brooklyn-based songwriter who has collaborated with artists ranging from Meshell Ndegeocello to Chance The Rapper, performs three concerts, each celebrating the release of a new EP and including the ever-evolving Make America Great Again segment, in which he highlights oppressed groups in present-day America (Jan 18; April 12; July 19).

The Revolution, curated by Katie Jones, celebrates its third anniversary. The series showcases three emerging acts from Harlem and Brooklyn each month. This special celebratory edition will bring back five of the most beloved acts from the past two years to perform in an extended showcase (March 30).


Embracing both innovative and established technology to expand its reach, National Sawdust helps artists connect with audiences on a national and international level.

In partnership with New York-based PBS affiliate station WNET, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and record producer Patrick Zimmerli launches Now and Then, A New Television series that juxtaposes music of our time with the groundbreaking works from previous eras that inspired it. The series will air as a new WNET original series and stream on the WNET website after the performance. The first show will feature pianist Simone Dinnerstein (Feb 24) and will frame how Franz Schubert influenced Philip Glass through comparisons of piano etudes from both composers. Zimmerli and Dinnerstein will also discuss the similarities and differences as part of the performance.

Composer and new-music authority Chris Grymes brings the Chris Grymes Open G Series, his podcast and performance series, to National Sawdust. For the series's first live event, he presents Spanish composer Jesús González (March 3). The accompanying podcast episode will feature an interview with González interspersed with excerpts from the performance. Grymes also presents New York newcomer Jeremy Gill's recent music for voices and instruments, drawing inspiration from music from the 15th century through modern film (April 7).

This spring, National Sawdust Projects will tour works to the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for the DIRECT CURRENT festival. The touring productions include: Forward Music Project by cellist Amanda Gookin, Yuka C Honda's Revert to Sea, screenings of Murat Eyuboglu's film The Colorado, and Miyamoto is Black Enough featuring Andy Akiho (steel pan, compositions), Roger Bonair-Agard (spoken word, text), Sean Dixon (drums), and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello).

For the most up-to-date event listings and times, please visit


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