Emerging Black Composers Project meant to find next great Black American classical composers

The Emerging Black Composers Project, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Oakland Symphony

The Emerging Black Composers Project, Courtesy: SF Symphony.

The San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music have launched a new grant-based project that will award $15,000 each to Black composers, as well as workshops, performances and mentorship from Bay Area music directors Michael Morgan, Edwin Outwater and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Emerging Black Composers Project is a new initiative to commission 10 new works over the next 10 years, and was developed alongside the conservatory’s President’s Advisory Council on Equity and Inclusion, with artistic guidance from Oakland Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan, conservatory Music Director Edwin Outwater and SF Symphony’s new Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Black Composers Project is intended to foster the creation, workshop and performance of new music from early-career Black American composers.



The first call for applications is now open and runs through Dec. 31, with the world premiere performance of the first commission planned for the 2021–22 season. All applications will go through an anonymous review process, emulating blind auditions so that gender, age and other identifying data are concealed to eliminate unintentional bias.

“San Francisco Conservatory of Music is embarking on a series of ambitious projects designed to elevate Black voices and expand the American canon,” SFCM President David H. Stull said in a news release. “When Black talent is nurtured, we strengthen our culture of excellence.”

San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson acknowledged that the classical music industry has long excluded Black artists due to systemic racism, and added that the project is an attempt to reduce some of the barriers these face.

“We look forward to performing and promoting these new works in future SF Symphony seasons,” he said.

Each of the grant winners will hear, record and revise their work over the course of several months before it receives its world premiere by either the San Francisco Symphony or the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In addition to the commissioning fee, all associated recording fees, copyist fees and travel expenses will be covered by the conservatory.

All Black American composers (U.S. citizens or permanent residents) who have completed a degree program in composition or music performance, or have equivalent experience, may apply at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s website. Applicants must submit a resume along with three scores and recordings of past or current compositions reflective of their work.

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