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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Composer Institute: History

The Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute is an outgrowth of the Orchestra’s Perfect Pitch program, an annual series of new music reading sessions for emerging composers launched during the 1995-96 season in collaboration with the American Composers Forum. These sessions, initially for Minnesota composers only, were later opened to composers from surrounding states. By 2001 the reading sessions developed into a much more extensive program, now called the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute and open to talented emerging composers throughout the country. New Music USA—previously the American Music Center—joined as a program partner to offer participants its invaluable legal and business seminars for composers. Composer Aaron Jay Kernis directed the Institute for its first 11 seasons.

In December 2006 the Orchestra added a public concert of the composers' new works, titled Future Classics and conducted for six seasons by Music Director Osmo Vänskä. Besides preparing for the concert, participating composers attend a week of intensive professional development workshops with orchestral administrators and other national experts in the field, along with advanced musical seminars with the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians, music director and Composer Institute director—all intended to advance the careers and musical experience of those attending.

Information on past Composer Institutes, including links to biographies, program notes, composer websites, blog postings and Minnesota Public Radio features, is provided below. Click here to view a complete list (PDF) of Composer Institute and Perfect Pitch participants since the program’s inception.

2017 Composer Institute Participants

Katherine Balch writes music that explores drama and lyricism through textural soundscapes. Her work has been commissioned and performed in the United States and abroad by ensembles including the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble, FLUX quartet, the New York Virtusoso Singers, AleaIII, and wildUp in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Weiner Konzerthaus, and Disney Hall. She has received fellowships from Aspen, Norfolk, and Fontainebleau music festivals, IRCAM’s Manifeste and the LA Phil’s National Composer’s Intensive. Recent recognitions include grand prize in the International Society of Bassists composition competition, two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, Fontainebleau’s Prix du Composition, Yale’s Alumni Associate Prize and the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize. Upcoming projects include new works for the Tokyo Symphony and the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and a residency and new work for the MANCA Festival in Nice, France. She is an alumna of the Tufts University/ New England Conservatory double degree program, where she studied history and political science at Tufts and music composition at NEC. She recently completed her master’s degree at Yale School of Music, where her teachers were David Lang, Aaron Kernis, and Chris Theofanidis, and began her doctoral degree at Columbia University, studying with Georg Haas. She is a faculty member of the Walden School in Dublin, NH. More:

Judy Bozone enjoys writing for large ensembles and is currently composing a new orchestra piece for the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra to be premiered in March 2017. She looks forward to future wind ensemble versions of her orchestral works. A native to Texas, she completed her degrees in music composition at Baylor University (2005) and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance (2008, 2011). She has been a fellow at the Bang on A Can, Aspen Music Festival and Thailand International Composition Festival and has enjoyed many opportunities working alongside today’s multi-faceted generation of performers and composers in the United States, Thailand, China, Italy, Cambodia and Korea. Her music actively explores texture, tonality and space while maintaining a strong sonic perspective. She is currently chair of the composition and theory department at Mahidol University College of Music and enjoys following her love of music while reaching out for new experiences. More:

Composer and violist Michael Boyman is always searching for the perfect balance of form and expression. His music often tells a story, whether from literature, visual art or personal experience, and he aims to present that story in the most vivid and emotionally intense way. He is the recipient of the BMI William Schuman Award and the Brian M. Israel Award. Upcoming projects include a Viola Concerto for the Chelsea Symphony and a Sonata for two pianos to be premiered at NYU. An alumnus of the New York Youth Symphony, he served as principal violist of the orchestra and was a member of Making Score, the organization's composition program. Michael is a graduate of New York University, where he studied political science and music composition, studying privately with Justin Dello Joio. He received a master's degree in composition from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied privately with Richard Danielpour. He is currently the Operations Coordinator at Carnegie Hall. More:

Michael-Thomas Foumai's music  is inspired by story and focuses on creating cinematic musical narratives. His works draw inspiration from film, literature and his native Hawaii, among others. He has been the recipient of a Fromm Foundation Commission, 2012 Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, three BMI composer awards and was named 2013-14 Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Composer of the Year. His works for orchestra have been performed by the orchestras of Albany, Aspen, Buffalo, Cabrillo, Castleton, Milwaukee, New England, Portland, Sioux City, the American Composers Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. Michael holds degrees in composition from the Universities of Hawaii and Michigan. His primary teachers have been Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, Syd Hodkinson, Paul Schoenfeld, Erik Santos, Peter Askim, Byron K. Yasui, Donald Reid Womack, Takeo Kudo, Thomas Osborne,  and he has worked closely with Derek Bermel. He currently serves on the faculty of the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he teaches composition and theory. More:

Tonia Ko's music strives to capture the poetics behind small details in everyday life. For the 2016-17 season, she is a guest composer at Clarion Concerts in Columbia County and The Process Series at UNC Chapel Hill. In addition to several new commissions, her music has been performed across the United States as well as in Asia and Europe, by ensembles such as New York Youth Symphony, Volti, Flux Quartet, orkest de ereprijs, Eastman Wind Ensemble, and New Morse Code. Festivals that have featured her music include nief-norf, Aspen, Tanglewood, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. She has received awards and recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Copland House, BMI, Composers Now, and International Alliance for Women in Music. Tonia is currently represented by Young Concert Artists, Inc., as a 2015-2017 Composer-in-Residence. Tonia is currently a doctoral candidate at Cornell University where she studied with Steven Stucky and Kevin Ernste. She has also received degrees from Indiana University and the Eastman School of Music. More:

Phil Taylor writes music that explores ideas about gesture, transformation and dialogue. His works are often inspired by phenomena in linguistics, literature, visual art, and nature. Upcoming projects include collaborations with Ensemble Échappé, Ensemble Dal Niente, Alia Musica Pittsburgh, Latitude 49, the Flux Quartet at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and a multimedia project with violinist and visual artist Michiko Theurer. He has earned three BMI Student Composer Awards, including the William Schuman prize for best score, as well as fellowships at the Aspen Music Festival and Wellesley Composers Conference. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Chicago, where his teachers included Augusta Read Thomas and Shulamit Ran. More:

Conrad Winslow’s buoyant, hard-edged, and deeply architectural music, “remains tautly controlled and coherent, but bursts with variety both harmonic and gestural” (Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia…). Raised in Homer, Alaska, Conrad began making things from scratch by watching his parents chop down trees and build a log cabin home in the woods. Childhood road-trips across the United States & Canada and a residential stint in Hawai’i have taught him to look wide. The result has been called “compelling” (New York Times) and described as a “scenic, boisterous and bumpy ride” (Albany Times Union). His instrumental music has been commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, the Juilliard Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Gaudete Brass Quintet, and Bala Brass, among many others. Awards and support have come from ASCAP, The Jerome Fund, New York Youth Symphony, Yale Glee Club, The Juilliard School and New Music USA. Gaudete Brass quintet recorded his Record of a Lost Tribe for the Cedille record label, to be released in winter 2017. Current projects releasing a debut album of chamber music with Cadillac Moon Ensemble and producer/guitarist Aaron Roche, and directing Wild Shore New Music in Southcentral Alaska. More:

2015-16 Composer Institute: January 25 to 30, 2016

KIRSTEN BROBERG Celestial Dawning
MATTHEW BROWNE Barnstorming Season
EMILY COOLEY Scroll of the Air
Sinfonia After Vivaldi
ANTHONY VINE Transmission

Composer biographies and program notes

Composer Institute participant Emily Cooley's blog
Read composer Emily Cooley's daily blog reports from the 2015-16 Composer Institute.
Post 1| Post 2 | Post 3

2014-15 Composer Institute: January 12 to 16, 2015

2011-12 Composer Institute: January 2 to 7, 2012

BRIAN CIACH Collective Uncommon, Seven Orchestral Studies on Medical Oddities
MICHAEL R. HOLLOWAY Rhythm: Theta Beta Theta
HANNAH LASH  God Music Bug Music
SHEN YIWEN  First Orchestral Essay

Composer biographies and program notes

Composer Institute participant Hannah Lash's blog
Read composer Hannah Lash's daily blog reports from the 2011-12 Composer Institute, posted on
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

2010-11 Composer Institute: October 24 to 30, 2010

TAYLOR BRIZENDINE Mandragora Officinarum
WANG JIE Symphony No. 1
CLINT NEEDHAM The Body Electric
BEN PHELPS Overture Maximus
DAVID WEAVER Mutatis Mutandis

Composer biographies and program notes

Composer Institute participant Taylor Brizendine's blog
Read composer Taylor Brizendine's daily blog reports from the 2010-11 Composer Institute, posted on
Introduction | Days 1 & 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Days 5 & 6

2009-10 Composer Institute: November 17 to 22, 2009

ANGEL LAM In Search of Seasons
ROGER ZARE Aerodynamics
CARL SCHIMMEL Woolgatherer’s Chapbook
GEOFF KNORR Shadows of the Infinite

Composer biographies and program notes

Composer Institute participant Spencer Topel's blog
Read composer Spencer Topel's daily blog reports from the 2009-10 Composer Institute, posted on
Introduction Part 1 & Part 2 | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

2008-09 Composer Institute: November 1 to 8, 2008

ANTONIO CARLOS DeFEO Four Portraits: por los ojos de los niños
WANG LU  Wailing
JUSTIN MERRITT  River of Blood

Composer biographies and program notes

Composer Institute participant Ted Hearne's blog
Read composer Ted Hearne's daily blog reports from the 2008-09 Composer Institute, posted on
Introduction | Post 1 | Post 2 | Post 3

Composer Institute participant Justin Merritt's blog
Read composer Justin Merritt's daily blog reports from the 2008-09 Composer Institute, posted on
Introduction | Post 1 | Post 2 | Post 3 | Post 4

2007-08 Composer Institute: October 20 to 27, 2007

ELLIOTT MILES McKINLEY Four Moments for Grand Orchestra: A "Pocket" Symphony
XI WANG Above Light—a conversation with Toru Takemitsu

Composer biographies and program notes

Minnesota Public Radio feature
Click here for Melissa Ousley’s Composer Institute coverage throughout the week. See four audio links on the right side for features with hosts Steve Staruch and John Birge.

Composer Institute participant Jacob Cooper's blog
Read composer Jacob Cooper's daily blog reports from the 2007-08 Composer Institute, posted on
Days 1 & 2 | Day 3 | Days 4 & 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

2006-07 Composer Institute: November 26 to December 2, 2006

These Worlds in Us
...At the end of the tunnel
La tristesse durera
Toccata for Orchestra
Tango Loops 2B
Black Bend

Composer biographies

Minnesota Public Radio feature
Click here to listen to Tom Crann's interview of Nov-Dec 2006 Composer Institute participant Ashley Nail, featured on All Things Considered.

Composer Institute participant Missy Mazzoli's blog
Read composer Missy Mazzoli's daily blog reports from the 2006-07 Composer Institute, posted on
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Days 4 & 5 | Final Posting

2005-06 Composer Institute: May 6-11, 2006

Liquid Song
Hubble Space Telescope Views
Surreal Abundance
surface tension
Cold Horizon
The Palace of Nine Perfections

Composer Institute participant Sean Shepherd's blog
Read composer Sean Shepherd's daily blog reports from the 2005-06 Composer Institute, posted on
Introduction | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Final Posting

2004-05 Composer Institute: October 27-30, 2004

Mood Swing
Sacred Geometry
Classical Walpurgis Night
Subtle Electric Fire

Minnesota Public Radio feature
Click here to listen to Minnesota Public Radio's 2004 radio documentary about the Composer Institute by Chris Roberts, featured on All Things Considered and State of the Arts.

2003-04 Composer Institute: May 1-4, 2004

Electric Traction
Electric Lines
Symphony No. 1
Das Juengste Kind
Elements 4
Voyage to the Sun

2002-03 Composer Institute: October 25-31, 2002

Canti Arioso
Sound, Asleep
Rhapsody No. 1, Dance of the Dragon
Love Unlimited
Subtleties Lost, Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra

2001-02 Composer Institute: March 9-14, 2002

Symphony No. 1
Serendipitous Scenes
The Whispering Wind
Garden Varieties, Four Dance Vignettes
Canter into Black

Click here to view a complete list (PDF) of Composer Institute and Perfect Pitch participants since the program's inception.