October 2, 2017

National Sawdust, the renowned music incubator and non-profit, announced today the first annual Hildegard Competition for emerging women composers. Composers of winning works will each receive a $7,000 cash prize, a performance and recording by the Refugee Orchestra at National Sawdust, and coaching and mentorship by two critically acclaimed composers: NS Artistic Director Paola Prestini and NS Curator Angélica Negrón. The competition is targeted exclusively to self-identifying female composers in the early stages of their careers, providing them with financial resources, a public performance, and mentorship from some of the most talented composers working today. The announcement of the Hildegard Competition follows the launch of the venue’s third season, which features 15 female composers and artists as curators, Artists in Residence, and commissioned creators. This focus on women further cements National Sawdust’s reputation as an institution that “links the music to broader social issues” (Time Out New York). As the New Yorker put it: “Artistically, National Sawdust’s young and novel presence on the New York scene has been a smashing success.” For submissions and further information, click here.

Named for the seminal medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen, the Hildegard Competition will be judged by three women at the forefront of music composition: Prestini, Negrón, and NS Curator and Pulitzer Prize-winner Du Yun. The Refugee Orchestra, conducted by its founder, Lidiya Yankovskaya, will perform the winning works in summer 2018. Applicants from all over the world are encouraged to apply, knowing that the focus will be only on the quality of the work: no letter of recommendation or résumé is required, only a signed declaration that the applicant’s professional experience does not exceed the competition criteria for “emerging artist.”

Composer Paola Prestini, the Artistic Director of National Sawdust, commented:

“I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Hildegard Competition. Social equality does not happen naturally – it must be forged. For the music field to create the most vibrant and relevant new work, today’s institutions must elevate women – and other underrepresented voices – to positions of prominence, and provide platforms for their work to be experienced. I believe this initiative will have positive ripple effects within the artistic community for many years to come. I’m very grateful for the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for providing the resources necessary to make the Hildegard Competition possible.”

Funding for all National Sawdust’s endeavors to support women composers this season is thanks in part to a generous grant by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

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About Angélica Negrón

Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music), while the New York Times notes her “capacity to surprise” and “quirky approach to scoring.” Her works have been performed at the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Ecstatic Music Festival, and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial, and she has collaborated with artists like Sō Percussion, loadbang, American Composers Orchestra, and Face the Music, among others. Negrón is currently a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center (CUNY), where she studies composition with Tania León. As a teaching artist for the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Program and Lincoln Center Education, she works with learners of all ages on creative composition projects. Negrón was the 2014–15 Van Lier Fellow at American Composers Orchestra and was recently selected as one of the recipients for NYFA’s 2016 Artists’ Fellowship Program.

About Du Yun

Du Yun – born and raised in Shanghai, China, and now based in New York – is the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a composer, performer, performance artist, curator, and activist working at the intersection of orchestral, opera, chamber music, theatre, cabaret, pop music, oral tradition, visual arts, electronics, and noise. A truly international artist with a protean artistic output, she is one of the most exciting and groundbreaking thinkers working today. Her music is championed by some of today’s finest performing artists, ensembles, orchestras, and organizations around the world.

About Paola Prestini

Music by composer Paola Prestini – named one of Musical America’s “Top 30 Musical Innovators 2016″ and one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (Washington Post) – has been commissioned by and performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, BAM, and London’s Barbican Centre, by groups including Brooklyn Rider, Attacca Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street. She is the founding CEO and Artistic Director of National Sawdust (NS), a nonprofit Brooklyn-based space for arts incubation and performance, and the “visionary-in-chief” (Time Out New York) of VisionIntoArt, the multimedia production company she co-founded in 1999, now merged with National Sawdust.

About Lidiya Yankovskaya

Russian-born symphonic and opera conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya’s recent work has been hailed as “superb,” “expert,” and “coax[ing] every possible expressive note from the instrumentalists” (Theatre Reviews Limited). Recently named Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, this season she also completes her tenure as Artistic Director of Juventas New Music Ensemble, and is a resident artist at National Sawdust with the Refugee Orchestra Project. Guest conducting engagements include Wolftrap Opera, Flagstaff Symphony, Beth Morrison Projects, American Lyric Theater, Opera Saratoga, Brookline Symphony, and Stamford Symphony. Other recent positions include serving as Music Director with Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Music Director with Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, as a chorus master for numerous programs with Boston Symphony Orchestra/Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and as a conductor with Boston Youth Symphony. Yankovskaya is also part of Dallas Opera’s inaugural Institute for Women Conductors and the Taki Concordia Fellowship program. She has been a conducting fellow at the Cabrillo Festival and, under Lorin Maazel, at the Castleton Festival, where she assisted Maazel and regularly filled in for him in rehearsal and performance.

About the Refugee Orchestra Project

The Refugee Orchestra Project brings together instrumentalists and singers whose friends and families have fled to the U.S. to escape violence and persecution, in performances that highlight these individuals’ importance to our cultural wealth. The project was conceived by conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, who realized as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis that even many of her own closest colleagues and friends were not aware that she and many others like her had come to the U.S. as refugees to seek asylum from violence and persecution abroad.

About National Sawdust

National Sawdust’s mission is to build new audiences for classical and new music by providing outstanding resources and programming support to both emerging and established artists and composers. National Sawdust’s programming is centered on discovery within music, introducing audiences to new artists and styles, and introducing artists to new audiences. National Sawdust also provides artists with the space, time, and resources they need to create new work. With adjoining restaurant Rider, from James Beard award-winning chef Patrick Connolly, National Sawdust embraces the blending of cultural and culinary experience. The National Sawdust audio experience was designed by Arup Acoustics, and its architectural designer is Bureau V.

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© 21C Media Group, September 2017