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Washington Performing Arts & Kennedy Center Present Adams' SILA At The REACH


The “choose-your-own-adventure” work, co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts, premiered locally in 2015.

Washington Performing Arts & Kennedy Center Present Adams' SILA At The REACH

Washington Performing Arts and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced today a co-presentation of American composer John Luther Adams's Sila: The Breath of the World, in cooperation with The United States Air Force Band.

The "choose-your-own-adventure" work-co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts and premiered locally in 2015-is being offered as a free outdoor performance on Sunday, September 26 on the Kennedy Center's REACH campus, starting at 5pm. Details at

"Sila is an extraordinary work to experience," stated Jenny Bilfield, Washington Performing Arts President and CEO. "We are thrilled to reprise our collaboration with The United States Air Force Band and to bring it to the Kennedy Center in its 50th anniversary season. As visitors walk among the musicians, they'll feel and hear Adams's music from so many vantage points. He has created such a poetic and timely reflection upon the power of nature, and upon our awareness of the world and our place within it. Its beauty and meaning resonate all the more strongly today."

Adams created Sila to be heard outdoors, where musicians and listeners alike may move about the performance space freely. During the interactive experience, musicians from The United States Air Force Band will disperse throughout the REACH campus, allowing listeners to explore the work from multiple perspectives. Attendees will wander among them and discover how the atmospheric piece can create connections through music, nature, and the world around us. As Adams himself has said, "If we can imagine a culture and a society in which we each feel more deeply responsible for our own place in the world, then we just may be able to bring that culture and that society into being."

The United States Air Force Band, led by Col. Don Schofield, partnered with Washington Performing Arts since the inception of the project. Commenting on its development, Col. Schofield noted, "We are excited to collaborate with Washington Performing Arts once again, this time in conjunction with the Kennedy Center, to perform John Luther Adams's composition, Sila. Partnerships are more important than ever, and this piece beautifully represents the constantly shifting, yet vital part individuals play in creating the whole that makes up our community." Their collaboration extends to The United States Air Force Band's Honorary Commanders program, into which both Ms. Bilfield and Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter were inducted in 2016 and 2021 respectively.

In the Inuit tradition (indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland), Sila is the spirit that animates all the forces of nature. Both literally and symbolically, Sila emanates from the Earth and rises to the sky. Inspired by this, Adams's piece-scored for five different ensembles of woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, and voices-traverses 16 harmonic "clouds," grounded on the first 16 harmonics of a low B-flat. All the other tones in the music fall "between the cracks" of the piano keyboard-off the grid of 12-tone equal temperament. Sila lasts approximately 70 minutes, without a clearly demarcated ending. The music gradually dissolves into the larger sonic landscape and the musicians join in listening to the continuing music of the place.

For John Luther Adams, music is a lifelong search for home-an invitation to slow down, pay attention, and remember our place within the larger community of life on Earth. Living for almost 40 years in northern Alaska, Adams discovered a unique musical world grounded in space, stillness, and elemental forces. In the 1970s and into the '80s, he worked full time as an environmental activist. But the time came when he felt compelled to dedicate himself entirely to music. He made this choice with the belief that, ultimately, music can do more than politics to change the world. Since that time, he has become one of the most widely admired composers in the world, receiving the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy Award, and many other honors.

In works such as Become Ocean, In the White Silence, and Canticles of the Holy Wind, Adams brings the sense of wonder that we feel outdoors into the concert hall. And in outdoor works such as Inuksuit and Sila: The Breath of the World, he employs music as a way to reclaim our connections with place, wherever we may be. A deep concern for the state of the earth and the future of humanity drives Adams to continue composing.

Since leaving Alaska, Adams and his wife Cynthia have made their home in the deserts of Mexico, Chile, and the southwestern United States.

One of the most established and honored performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts has engaged for more than half a century with artists, audiences, students, and civic life. The city is truly our stage: for decades, in venues ranging from concert halls and clubs to public parks, we have presented a tremendous range of artists and art forms, from the most distinguished symphony orchestras to both renowned and emerging artists in classical music, jazz, international genres, and more. We also have an ever-expanding artistic and educational presence on the internet, envisioning ongoing opportunities for online connection and community.

Washington Performing Arts deeply values its partnerships with local organizations and other arts institutions. Through events online and in myriad performance venues and neighborhoods, we engage international visiting artists in community programs and introduce local artists to wider audiences. We place a premium on establishing artists as a continuing presence in the lives of both young people and adults through residencies and education programs.

Our achievements have been recognized with a National Medal of Arts and with three Mayor's Arts Awards from the DC Government. We have now embarked upon our second half-century, ever inspired by the motto of our founder, Patrick Hayes: "Everybody in, nobody out."

To learn more about the Kennedy Center, please visit

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