By Susan Jackson
The Preparatory Division’s Commissioning Initiative is well underway. This new program includes more than a year’s worth of concerts, which began began in October. The goal of the initiative is to make the repertoire studied and performed by young musicians more expansive and inclusive. That’s being accomplished by commissioning 31 works by composers from a range of genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and generations. The works—all solos and etudes—will support the musical development of students ages 8-18. Upcoming performances of the commissions include a Pre-College Faculty Recital (November 12), Pre-College Winter Songbook (December 3), Pre-College Percussion Ensemble (December 10), and Pre-College Viola Studio (April 22) concerts. A final concert will take place next fall.
“New original compositions are essential for guaranteeing an engaging and prosperous future for concert classical music,” says faculty member Manuel Sosa (BM ’91, MM ’94, DMA ’02, composition). “We will find both the musicians and the audiences of the future not only through the works themselves but also through the young performers preparing these works.” Sosa’s piece Stillarum was premiered by Matthew Lewis (MM ’90, DMA ’95, organ) in November.
Each new work was developed in consultation with Preparatory Division faculty members to create either a new performance piece or set of etudes that are exciting to play and appropriately challenging for students of intermediate to advanced levels of musical development. In all, there will be 19 instrumental or vocal solo works of approximately 6-8 minutes in length for each Pre-College department and 12 books of 8-12 instrumental etudes for each department in the Music Advancement Program (MAP).
“Increasing the diversity of etudes and solo works introduced to young musicians is central to the creation of a more inclusive future, and we are grateful to this talented group of composers for partnering with us to forward that mission,” said Weston Sprott, dean and director of the Preparatory Division, which includes Pre-College and MAP. “These commissions continue the broader effort across Juilliard to meaningfully elevate the diversity and talent of creators from every walk of life.”
“Growing up, I didn’t know of any composers that looked like me,” said Nina Shekhar, a composer for the project who’s working on her PhD in music at Princeton University. “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to write pieces for young people—for them to see themselves represented in the music that they’re performing and to be able to learn pieces that were written especially for them.” Shekhar’s Hush for harp was premiered by June Han (DMA ’04, harp) in November.
The initiative is “incredibly exciting not only for its celebration of diverse and living artists but also for its role in introducing inclusive contemporary music to our students,” said faculty member Francesca dePasquale (MM ’14, violin), whose work for the project will premiere next fall.
Other alumni whose works are being created as part of the initiative are first-year master’s student Horacio Fernández Vázquez (BM ’22, composition), Jessica Meyer (BM ’96, MM ’98, viola), Huang Ruo (MM ’02, DMA ’08, composition), Joshua Pantoja (BM ’04, horn), Wayne J. du Maine (BM ’89, MM ’91, trumpet), and Ehren Valmé (BM ’21, trombone).