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San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco Symphony Announce The Emerging Black Composers Project

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The Emerging Black Composers Project will commission ten new works over the next ten years.

San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco Symphony Announce The Emerging Black Composers Project

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco Symphony are partnering for a major new initiative, The Emerging Black Composers Project, which will commission ten new works over the next ten years. Developed in partnership with the SFCM President's Advisory Council on Equity and Inclusion, the project will spotlight new music from early-career Black American composers.

A call for applications opens today and runs through December 31, 2020, with the world premiere of the first commission planned for the 2021-22 season. All applications will go through an anonymous review process, emulating blind auditions, so that gender, age, and other identifying data are concealed to eliminate unintentional bias.

Industry leaders Anthony Davis, Carmen Bradford, Joseph Young, Germaine Franco, Elinor Armer, and John Adams join Michael Morgan, Edwin Outwater, and Esa-Pekka Salonen on the review panel, which will announce the first commission in spring 2021.

"San Francisco Conservatory of Music is embarking on a series of ambitious projects designed to elevate Black voices and expand the American canon," said Conservatory President David H. Stull. "When Black talent is nurtured, we strengthen our culture of excellence, and we look forward to deepening the impact of The Emerging Black Composers Project through this partnership with San Francisco Symphony."

"The San Francisco Symphony is pleased to partner with our colleagues at the San Francisco Conservatory to maximize the value these commissions will bring to early-career Black American composers," said San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson. "The SF Symphony acknowledges that our industry has a long history of excluding Black artists due to systemic racism, and that the work of Black composers often does not receive the exposure or prominence it deserves. We believe that The Emerging Black Composers Project is a small step towards reducing some of the barriers these talented artists unjustly face in our field, and we look forward to performing and promoting these new works in future SF Symphony seasons."

Each winning composer will receive a commissioning fee of $15,000 and artistic mentorship from Oakland Symphony Music Director and SFCM faculty member Michael Morgan, SFCM Music Director Edwin Outwater, and San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is also a leading composer. Commissioned composers will have the rare opportunity to hear and retool the piece as it is being developed, through workshops at the Conservatory, which is able to accommodate a diverse range of instrumentation and genres. These workshops will be recorded as a study tool for the composers, who will then have months to revise the work before it receives its world premiere with one of the participating ensembles. In addition to the commissioning fee, all associated recording fees, copyist fees, and travel expenses will be covered by the Conservatory.

The initiative is part of a larger action plan at SFCM, which includes specific and funded commitments to create a truly equitable space for Black talent and leadership. Beginning in the fall term, the Conservatory will program works by Black composers in all ensemble programs and host Black artists-in-residence for masterclasses and lessons each year. In addition, major curriculum updates to required coursework will foreground Black contributions to American music. The Emerging Black Composers Project is made possible by a generous gift from Laurence and Michèle Corash, who pledged $250,000 to support this initiative.

How to apply All Black American composers (U.S. citizens or permanent residents) who have completed a degree program in composition or music performance, or have equivalent experience, are encouraged to apply. Applicants must submit a resume along with three scores and recordings of past or current compositions reflective of their work. The deadline for applications is December 31, 2020. For further information or to apply, click here or visit

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