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CYSO Announces Composer-in-Residence Program

Listen the the Future Composer-in-Residence Program logo

CYSO is thrilled to announce the launch of our Listen to the Future Composer-In-Residence Program. This six-year initiative will foster the creation and performance of new works to be performed by each of CYSO’s ensembles, and eventually available for performance by youth and professional orchestras worldwide.

It is widely known that works by women and composers of color are performed far less than those by white, male composers. According to the Institute for Composer Diversity, the concert programming of 120 professional orchestras in the United States in 2019- 2020 featured just 8% of works by women composers and 6% by composers from underrepresented racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. New commissions and works by living composers are also rarely performed—New Music USA recently shared that only “16% of music programmed by orchestras was by a living composer”.

As part of CYSO’s commitment to performing works by underrepresented and living composers, we’ve discovered that there is even less composer diversity in works for beginning full orchestra and young string orchestra groups. To promote diversity in the orchestral canon, composers selected for this new program represent a wide range of ages, gender and racial identities, and musical styles.

Headshots of composers Jennifer Higdon, Derrick Gardner, Laura Brackney, Fjola Evans, Eric Malmquist, and Aaron Gage

A few of the composers currently confirmed for the Composer-in-Residence Program, including Jennifer Higdon, Derrick Gardner, Laura Brackney, Fjola Evans, Eric Malmquist, and Aaron Gage

Pieces created as part of the Composers-in-Residence program will be written between 2022-2027 and during that time, every CYSO ensemble will premiere the piece written especially for them. The program will culminate with the release of an album of all commissioned works to be released in 2027. And in addition to performing the newly com- missioned works, CYSO ensembles will have the opportunity to learn more about each of the Composers-in-Residence and perform additional pieces they’ve written.

In addition to addressing the issue of composer diversity overall, this program will also enhance CYSO’s curriculum by teaching students that great art comes from people of all backgrounds and encouraging them to get to know living composers and new music from diverse perspectives. And, by commissioning new works for all levels of ensembles, it will make a significant contribution to the repertoire available to both youth and professional orchestras, diversifying programming from the classroom and the concert hall.

Pieces premiering this spring that were commissioned by CYSO as part of the Composer-In-Residence Program are:

  • Derrick Gardner’s Chi-Town Suite, performed by the Jazz Orchestra
  • Bernard Rands’ AURA, performed by the Symphony Orchestra
  • Aaron Gage’s We Sailed to Other Worlds, performed by the Kaiso Steel Orchestra and Accelerando Strings

Keep an eye out for information about more commissions and world premieres over the coming years!


CYSO is grateful for support from the Sargent Family Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation for this initiative.

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