Press Room

While Working on Host of High-Profile Commissions, Visionary Composer and Impresario Paola Prestini Leads National Sawdust’s New BluePrint Fellowship Program in Collaboration with Juilliard

Paola Prestini is the visionary Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Brooklyn’s National Sawdust and one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (Washington Post). Both roles come into play this month, with the launch of the BluePrint Fellowship Program. A new initiative to support student composers, this dual-track career and project mentoring course is designed to leverage the extensive project development and presenting experience of the National Sawdust team. For the program’s inaugural season, National Sawdust is collaborating with New York’s Juilliard School, where Prestini is an alumna. Selected Juilliard composition students will receive hands-on, real-world experience at National Sawdust, where, through personalized mentorship from Prestini and other leading female composers, each student will gain the chance to create the “blueprint” for a dream project and see that project through to fruition.

The students will participate in workshops and mentoring sessions at Juilliard and National Sawdust, starting this spring. The collaboration culminates in a performance at National Sawdust in fall 2019.

Damian Woetzel, president of The Juilliard School, said:

“We are so pleased to work with Paola and National Sawdust on this exciting project, which highlights Juilliard’s emphasis on collaborative and creative work, and brings to our students the mentorship of some of today’s most innovative composers and artists, including Claire Chase, Reena Esmail, Nathalie Joachim, Laura Kaminsky, and Alex Temple.”

The BluePrint Fellowship collaboration between National Sawdust and Juilliard is generously supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

The BluePrint Fellowship Program is the most recent of Prestini’s initiatives to support composers and other musicians at every stage of their careers. Under her leadership, National Sawdust offers artistic residencies, financial aid, and programming assistance to help composers develop and disseminate new work in Brooklyn and beyond, reaching the wider world by means of the organization’s in-house label, National Sawdust Tracks, and touring arm, National Sawdust Projects. In addition, the renowned nonprofit performance space and incubator fosters open dialogue between music enthusiasts at its online Log Journal.

Prestini’s deep-seated commitment to composers, and her percipient understanding of their needs, derive from her own experiences in the field. As her compositional career expands, she is devoting more time to mentorship and her own music, while continuing to provide strategic vision and curation at National Sawdust.

Courtenay Casey, Executive Director of National Sawdust, explains:

“By helping emergent composers and giving them meaningful real-world experience, the BluePrint Fellowship Program is very much in keeping with our mission at National Sawdust. With Paola’s guidance, we have always been dedicated to supporting the creation and development of new work. Now, as Paola turns her focus to mentoring and her own composing projects, we are excited about continuing to realize her vision.”

Prestini’s compositional career is currently flourishing. She has been commissioned by Minnesota Opera to write Edward Tulane, an opera set to a libretto adapted by Mark Campbell from Kate DiCamillo’s novel The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. This will premiere in Minneapolis in March 2020, in a production by Academy Award-winning director Eric Simonson. Atlanta Opera has likewise commissioned Prestini to compose Sensorium Ex, with a libretto by American poet Brenda Shaughnessy, winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, under the direction of Tomer Zvulun. Exploring artificial intelligence and disability, this new chamber opera will receive its world premiere at the Atlanta Opera in 2021 after being workshopped at Arizona State University’s Herberger School of Music and the Lyric Theatre @ University of Illinois/Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, as well as with scientists at Georgia Tech and Enact Lab in Copenhagen. As a co-commission and co-production of Beth Morrison Projects, Sensorium Ex will then come to New York’s Prototype Festival in 2022. Prestini is also completing a New York Philharmonic commission for “Project 19,” the orchestra’s multi-season centennial celebration of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Her new work is scheduled to premiere in February 2020 as part of the Philharmonic’s GRoW @ Annenberg Sound ON series, which presents Philharmonic musicians in contemporary chamber repertoire at the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, in evening concerts hosted and curated by the orchestra’s Marie-Josée Kravis Creative Partner, Nadia Sirota.

Prestini has two further operatic projects in development. She is collaborating with librettist Royce Vavrek on Silent Light, a new chamber opera based on Carlos Reygadas’s Cannes Jury Prize-winning film of that name. Incorporating foley art by Sxip Shirey to tell a story about Mexico’s Mennonite communities and reflect on the concept of otherness, Silent Light will premiere at Banff Opera, where Prestini looks forward to joining the faculty next summer, in a production by European Opera Prize-winning director Thaddeus Strassberger (June 10–July 5). Her final upcoming operatic project is for Through You, a series of monodramas starring opera singer Eve Gigliotti that was inspired by photographer Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills. Also featuring original music by Missy Mazzoli, Ellen Reid, and Nico Muhly, again with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, this is being developed by National Sawdust Projects and commissioned by Kennedy Center. It is scheduled to premiere in 2021 in a production by R.B. Schlather.

Beyond the operatic realm, Prestini is no less engaged this spring. Her new composition for solo cello premiered in Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 2.0 at National Sawdust in March, and earlier this month she undertook a five-day residency highlighted by multiple chamber premieres at The Stone in New York, where she first launched her curating career. Next, at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Juilliard Historical Performance premiered It is Finished, a work she wrote in response to a Haydn sonata, alongside related commissions from Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Colin Jacobsen, Reena Esmail, Tania León, and Jessica Meyer. Prestini’s composition From Bones to Fossils, written in collaboration with climatologist Andrew Kruczkiewicz for Jeffrey Zeigler’s “The Sound of Science” project, toured to Austin’s Fusebox Festival, after being released on record by National Sawdust Tracks last fall. To round out the season, her choral work Sisters, again set to text by Brenda Shaughnessy, will tour to New York’s New Victory Theater as part of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s “Silent Voices: LOVESTATE” project (May 2).

Looking ahead, Prestini is working on Hindsight, a new work for piano and orchestra, for premiere next season by pianist Lara Downes. Commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival and Louisville Orchestra, this celebrates the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment. For the 2020-21 season, Prestini is also at work on a string quartet, commissioned by Caramoor, and a piano concerto inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, for premiere by pianist Awadagin Pratt, eclectic vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry.

At National Sawdust, Prestini continues to focus on strategic vision and curation. To establish the organization’s international presence, she looks forward to leading the National Sawdust showcase at Rotterdam’s Classical:NEXT conference in May. She is also collaborating with the Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation’s I-DEA project to explore the city archives of Matera, Italy, this year’s European Capital of Culture.

About National Sawdust

National Sawdust believes in the power of diverse music discovery and artistic expression to entertain, guide, and inspire us to become a more equitable world. With discovery as its core, National Sawdust’s programming introduces audiences to new artists and styles, while also introducing artists to new audiences. True to the vision of Co-Founder and Artistic Director Paola Prestini, National Sawdust gives artists the space, time, and resources they need to create new work, as well as offering music criticism, recording opportunities, and touring opportunities to enhance it. By placing especial focus on those voices most underrepresented at mainstream venues, National Sawdust’s curated programming is predominantly multicultural, cross-genre, and equitable. This reflects Prestini’s conviction that “the role of an artist in the 21st century should be that of creator, and to different degrees, that of educator, activist, and entrepreneur.” The National Sawdust audio experience was designed by Arup Acoustics, and its architectural designer is Bureau V.

Paola Prestini: upcoming projects

May 2
New York, NY
New Victory Theater
Brooklyn Youth Chorus: “Silent Voices: Lovestate”
Prestini: Sisters (text by Brenda Shaughnessy)

May 15
Rotterdam, Netherlands
National Sawdust at Classical:NEXT

May 31
Beverly Hills, CA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 2.0
Prestini: To Tell A Story

June 10–July 5
Banff, Alberta
Banff Centre’s Opera in the 21st Century
Workshop and performances of Silent Light, chamber opera developed with Royce Vavrek, librettist, and Thaddeus Strassberger, director

#          #          #

© 21C Media Group, April 2019

Return to Press Room