American Composers Orchestra Names Derek Bermel Artistic Director
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announced last night at its Spring Benefit at Tribeca Rooftop that composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel will be the orchestra's new Artistic Director, commencing with the 2013-14 season. Bermel has been ACO's Creative Advisor since 2009, and succeeds composer Robert Beaser who has been ACO's Artistic Director since 2000 and was ACO's Artistic Advisor from 1993. Bermel joins Music Director George Manahan, who has just renewed his contract with ACO for an unprecedented five years, in leading the ensemble in its mission to be a catalyst for the creation of new orchestral music.
ACO Board Co-Chair Astrid Baumgardner said of Bermel's appointment, "Multi-talented composer, clarinetist, and artistic leader Derek Bermel is one of the beacons of today's music scene. With his creativity, intelligence and charm, the orchestra is poised to scale new heights and make an important contribution to the contemporary music scene." Board Co-ChairAnnette McEvoy added, "Derek has the talent, know-how, and creativity to present compelling contemporary music for our dynamic audience, and I am thrilled that he will be leading us into the future."
Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. In addition to his new appointment with ACO, he will continue to serve as Director of Copland House's Cultivate! Program for emerging composers. Bermel, an "eclectic with wide open ears" (Toronto Star), is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer. Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.
Bermel first came to ACO's attention in 1994 as a participant in the Whitaker Emerging Composers Readings (now the Underwood New Music Readings) with his piece Dust Dances. ACO has since commissioned and premiered Bermel's work on numerous occasions, including his first professional orchestral commission and Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with Voices, a clarinet concerto. ACO also commissioned and premiered A Shout, A Whisper, and a Trace (2009); Elixir (2006); and The Migration Series with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which premiered to sold-out audiences in 2006. Bermel was ACO's Music Alive Composer-in-Residence from 2006-2009, joining ACO's board and becoming the orchestra's Creative Advisor in 2009. In his role as Creative Advisor, Bermel excelled at programming ACO's Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall and ACO's citywide new music festival SONiC, Sounds of a New Century, in 2011, which featured 21st century music by 120 emerging composers. Bermel has also been active in several of ACO's composer development initiatives including serving as a mentor for the Underwood New Music Readings and EarShot programs, and serving as an artist-faculty member for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute.
Music Director George Manahan, who joined ACO in 2010, said of his five-year renewal with the orchestra, "Nothing could make me happier than to be continuing as Music Director of ACO. For me the work is filled with constant discovery and enjoyment. In no other conducting job do I get to explore so much new work. It certainly keeps me on my toes! And the ACO musicians are phenomenal. Nowhere else have I experienced the level of collaboration, commitment and experience that our players bring to new music. I can't wait to see what surprises next season brings."
Departing Artistic Director Robert Beaser has dedicated over 20 years to the orchestra, and will continue as ACO's Artistic Advisor Laureate. Executive Director Michael Geller said, "ACO and the entire community of composers owe a great debt to Bob. He has been a key member of ACO's artistic team for over 20 years, and helped shape programs during the tenures of three ACO principal conductors. His work in launching and guiding our New Music Readings for 22 years has provided mentorship and career-building experience to over 100 young composers. I am thrilled that Bob will continue to play an integral role on ACO's board, as artistic advisor laureate."
During the 2013-14 season, ACO celebrates the 10th anniversary season of Orchestra Underground, its exploration of the orchestra as an elastic ensemble that can respond to composers' unhindered creativity. For a decade, Orchestra Underground has challenged notions about what an orchestra is, embracing new technology, eclectic instruments and influences, altered spatial orientation, new experiments in concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations. Since the opening of Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall's subterranean state-of-the-art auditorium, Orchestra Underground has played to sold-out audiences, bringing to life nearly 100 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
This season's Orchestra Underground concerts include five world premieres and four New York premieres by emerging and established composers including Marcos Balter, Derek Bermel, Lisa Coons, Peter Fahey, Gabriela Lena Frank, Ted Hearne,Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, and Ian Williams. ACO will also showcase Julia Wolfe's Fuel with film by Bill Morrison,Christopher Theofanidis' Bassoon Concerto with master bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann, Steve Reich's landmark work Eight Lines, Gunther Schuller's jazz-classical fusion Contours, and rarely heard Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas' Alcancias.
In addition, ACO's 23rd annual Underwood New Music Readings, one of the country's most sought-after programs for emerging composers, will take place on June 6 and 7, 2014 at the DiMenna Center, and will this year be part of the first NY PHIL BIENNIAL. ACO's New Music Readings will feature works by up to eight young composers, one of whom will receive a $15,000 commission to write a piece that will be performed by ACO in a future season. ACO's nationwide expansion of its Readings program throughEarShot, a national orchestra composition network, will also continue during the 2013-14 season with EarShot Readings taking place in partnership with the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus in September 2013, and in 2014 with the Berkeley Symphony in February and May, the Detroit Symphony in March, and the New York Philharmonic in June, also as part of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL.
Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra remains the only orchestra in the world dedicated exclusively to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. To date, ACO has performed music by more than 600 American composers, including more than 200 world premieres and newly commissioned works.