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December 4, 2021

Expanding Our Commitment to Diverse New Repertoire for Youth Ensembles 

Local composer Adrian B. Sims is one of four composers who were commissioned to write new works for young student ensembles through the K-12 New Music Project.

When you think of world premieres of musical works, you probably don’t think about them taking place in our school music classrooms or at youth orchestra concerts. But DCYOP and the K-12 New Music Project is working to change that. Later this year our students will play two new works by living composers of color, part of our commitment to making sure that each of our students can see themselves represented in the music they play. 

“We have an obligation to our students and community and as leaders in the youth orchestra world to find and amplify these voices,” says Evan Solomon, DCYOP’s artistic director. “It isn’t enough to say ‘sorry, there just aren’t Black or Brown works in the musical canon for the students to play.” 

Thanks to a grant from the League of American Orchestras to the University of Maryland’s National Orchestra Institute + Festival, led by DCYOP’s Maestro Richard Scerbo, the K-12 New Music Project is working in partnership with DCYOP, Prince George’s County Schools, and the Hawaii Youth Symphony to commission more works by BIPOC composers for student ensembles.

This year, the selection committee chose works by four outstanding composers representing a wide range of backgrounds and musical styles: Brazilian Grammy-nominated composer and performer Clarice Assad; Dr. Michael-Thomas Foumai, a symphonic composer whose works reflect the history, people, and cultures of Hawai’i; Adrian B. Sims, who is currently pursuing a dual degree in Music Education and Composition at the University of Maryland; and Derrick Skye, a Los Angeles composer and musician known for incorporating diverse cultural traditions into his work.  

DCYOP’s own Maestro Kenneth Whitley was part of the selection committee:

“I am honored to a part of the K-12 New Music Project. The selection committee has listened to music from a broad spectrum of composers, and it is exciting to know that this music is for young musicians. The composers whose works we heard – and continue to hear – span the range of expression and technique. While the project commissions new works from BIPOC composers, their work will influence future generations of musicians and audiences. Some students who hear the music from these new voices will see their own curiosity about composition grow. They in turn may add to the musical canon. As we learn about the music from this group of composers and come to know their stories, we will see that they enrich and amplify the legacy that is our musical heritage.” 

DCYOP is committed to our responsibility to model inclusion, equity, and diversity for the youth orchestra field, and is excited to premiere two of these new works over the course of the 2021-2022 season!