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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

American Composers Orchestra Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Alliances & Advocacy, Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Symphony Orchestras

Mission: Performance, presentation, commissioning, recording and dissemination of american music for symphony orchestra;professional development for american composers; educational activities about american music for students and the general public.

Programs: Presented 3 concerts of music by american composers at carnegie hall. Commissioned and gave world premiere performances of 4 new works by american composers as well as additional regional premiers and performances of seldom-heard early 20th century works. Held new music readings to provide professional development and public exposure for 24 emerging composers. Provided in-school and after-school music education lessons and workshops with 5 partner schools around new york city, reaching 2,000 students. Released two albums of world premiere recordings of music by contemporary american composers, making these available online free-of-charge to the public. Maintained archive of rare recordings of american music performed by the orchestra. Maintained website and produced electronic media and publications (videos, audio excerpts, newsletters) to educate the public and disseminate information about american orchestral music.

Community Stories

19 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

ACO a unique and wonderful contributor to American arts. The future of music relies on small groups such as ACO that have the talents, passion, and discernment to promote new American artists. The programming and performances are exceptional. The usual ratings for a charitable organization simply do not apply. For everone who believes that music matters, ACO is an organization to love.

Review from CharityNavigator

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This orchestra is keeping inovative music alive and capturing new audiences. It respects long traditions and creates new ones maximizing the use of new tecnologies for communication and disemination of the best from young composers. It is truly a gem.

Board Member

Rating: 4

The American Composers Orchestra was conceived to increase the world's knowledge of American orchestral music, primarily but not exclusively classical or concert music, through performance, advocacy, education, commissions and any other means. It has worked effectively for over 30 years in this effort. The ACO gives regular public performances and festival in New York City (at Carnegie Hall and many other venues) and from time to elsewhere. It increases its reach through broadcasts of many of its programs on radio, recordings and educational activities. It has a distingushed record of commissions to composers both young and unknown as well as prominent ones and has achieved great success with various educational projects and collaborations with other institutions including orchestras, conservatories and schools and service organizations such as the League of American Orchestras and the American Music Center. Its performance and training work is of the highest quality and universally regarded as such. No organization does more for the entire world of American composers and their music - of all genres. Please see its site, http://www.americancomposers.org/history.html.

As a professional in the orchestra world for some fifty years I know of no other institution that does as much, as effectively, to support the American Composer. I have seen the value of its work first hand for decades first hand.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

as a fan of music, and a piano player of modest skills, have sought to explore the full range of music, but spent most of my time listening to traditonal clasical music and opera. found the american composers orchestra through both a friend and when we came to learn that george manahan became its conductor, who we admired with his work at city opera.
the concerts of the aco over the past few years have been uniformly extraordinary, providing young and emerging contemporary american composers with a platform for the performance of their works in a major concert hall setting by an extremely talented orchestra. if music is to surive and thrive, it is organizations like aco that perform "new" music, and introduce modern music to the listening public.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've been a fan of the American Composers Orchestra since I lived in NY back in the mid '70's. Even after leaving the city, I would travel back to hear concerts. More recently I had the opportunity to compose a piece for the orchestra and participate in its premiere at Carnegie's Zankel Hall. The experience for me personally was very rewarding, but I also continue to admire ACO's commitment and determination to foster the creation of new music representing a wide variety of styles and to deliver it at a high level of artistic excellence. The encouragement of young composers is absolutely critical, for without it, our culture is deprived of the core energy that drives our art forward.

Roger Z.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a young composer who was selected to be commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, and they provided me and many other young composers with an invaluable experience through the Underwood New Music Readings. In one program, they provide emerging composers with a rare educational and career-oriented opportunity at the same time that the ACO is bringing new, otherwise unheard music to everyone. No other orchestra can match the ACO's dedication to new American music.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As an avid fan of most genres of music, and having a degree in music composition, the invitation to become involved with the board of the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) was one that had to be accepted. The importance of having a competitive platform for emerging composers to be visible and artistically recognized is crucial for the growth of American music. Drawing from a range of brilliant, young composers to those well-established, ACO has been able to champion this talent pool to promote a diversity of musical approaches and new ideas that have influenced the art form and orchestras. Since its founding in the mid-1970s, the ACO has been widely recognized by numerous arts and cultural organizations for its programming, recordings library and contribution to American music. For a composer to work with world-caliber orchestral musicians and a music director of the stature of George Manahan (probably best known as the music director of the New York City Opera), is a significant opportunity. To have this available, and to have it offered in a productive and encouraging environment for a budding composer is a priceless gift. The ACO works hard to continually keep this art form in front of the public.

Donor

Rating: 5

Where else can I go to hear contemporary compositions performed in a real concert hall with a conductor of George Manahan's skill with an orchestra who are there because they love contemporary music? The concerts are varied and very entertaining.

Nicole M.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was first introduced to American Composers Orchestra (ACO) as a captivated listener; ACO is one of few orchestras that focuses on providing provocative concerts that feature new American orchestral works. When ACO teamed up with Columbia University to offer the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI), that was the perfect opportunity for me to transition my own work as an improvising composer into making works for orchestra. With JCOI, I personally gained the skills and confidence to expand my pallet. Now in the second stage of the process, I have been given the once in a lifetime chance to write for ACO and work with a composer/mentor on the work. It's a dream come true! This type of offering is a rarity.

Christopher S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a struggling composer, and the American Composers Orchestra presented me with a life changing opportunity. They have given me incredible insight into the world of orchestral music, and all at no cost to me. They are an incredibly well run and inspiring organization. I know so many people who have benefited from their Underwood New Music Readings. Their generosity, professionalism and outreach is second to none in the field. In all honesty, I would not change a single thing about what they do.

Annette M.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Bach's seminal affect on music was only possible with support from those who supported his vision. That's what we do for composers who have a vision for American music today. As Co-Chair of the Board and past Board member, we find the most innovative contemporary composers through a rigorous reading, jury selection, commissioning program all leading to hearing their music performed for the FIRST time in Carnegie Hall. All concerts have the composer on stage. We are talent scouts, patrons, orchestra operators, music lovers all in one.

Donor

Rating: 5

American Composers Orchestra is a unique organization, which provides unprecedented opportunities for emerging artists to try something new and expose their talent to the music world and broader public. Through its ability to identify talent and give them a plateform, ACO makes a unique contribution to the music community. It is one of the very few organization that finds talent and place them on the map. It is innovative, adventurous and risky but it is how we find the next generation of great American composers.

Donor

Rating: 5

new "classical" music reflect the most intelligent integration of the musics (NOT A TYPO) of the past with the riythms and sounds we hear today, like taxi cabs, muzac, endless loops and elevator music. There were different sounds and expectation for Mozart and others. American Composers Orchestra seeks out the sounds AND EXPECTATIONS OF TODAY AND PRESENTs AND COMMISSIONS WORKS THAT ARE PROFOUNDLY connected to the musical traditions of the past and the thinking and musical intuitiion of today. This is what the "classical" music busines and audience needs to preserve its most beatitful integrity - the carrying on of the looking back and the looking forward of the intelligence and most moving sounds so many of us respond to.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ACO creates opportunities for artists to reach people in an environment where new music is not championed. ACO values living artists and continually creates new opportunities for composers to explore their voice in a professional orchestra setting - this is a rarity and ACOs tireless efforts should be handsomely rewarded!

Board Member

Rating: 4

The extraordinary American Composers Orchestra was first created over thirty years ago. Its primary purpose has always been to commission and perform the works of young American composers as well as occasionally programming established artists. George Manahan, music director of the New York City Opera is also Music Director of the ACO. As a board member I have found that the most important part of ACO’s existence is the continuing effort by all participants to keep the momentum and original purpose ongoing well into the future.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a Board Member. past Board Chair and current Board Co-Chair, I am passionate about ACO's mission of commissioning, performing and promoting the works of emerging American composers. ACO has always been ahead of the curve and I find it exciting to be part of an organization that puts on a premium on creative thinking. I also find the ACO's mission to be highly relevant in today's changing world. It is important to keep music moving forward and ACO is the only orchestra dedicated to doing just that.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

If there was an orchestra any place in the world that played exclusively the work of living composers, it would already be of unique importance. The fact that the American Composers Orchestra does this and with extraordinary performance standards at Carnegie Hall in New York City, makes it one of the very most important new music performance organizations in the world. The orchestra has a long and impressive history of performances and premieres of new works, and yet this has not stopped it from retooling when changes in the artistic environment change around them. The fact that they have moved from a more traditional orchestra to a smaller ensemble which incorporates other media and electronics, as well as non-traditional configurations of the orchestra itself, shows that they are not only excellent but adaptable. I would say that they are not important but essential for composers in America today.

Client Served

Rating: 5

More than any other orchestra in the country, the American Composers Orchestra is responsible for fostering the creation of new orchestral music, and giving tremendous opportunities to the newest generation of American composers. Between their reading sessions and commissioning opportunities, I've been fortunate to work with them twice (in 2009 with the ACO/Penn Presents New Music Reading Session, and in 2010-2011 with their Playing it UNsafe program).

Both were extraordinary learning experiences for me. They were wonderful opportunities to present my music to new audiences at prestigious venues, but more importantly, they gave me a great deal of access to high-caliber orchestra which helped me learn to write for it in a way I would have never otherwise been able to.

The program through which they commissioned me this season, Playing it UNsafe, is a perfect example of how they occupy a unique position in American music. The program involves commissioning composers to write pieces that tug at the seams of traditional orchestral music, and that try risky ideas that composers would never be able to try under the pressures of writing for a normal orchestra. They give us an unheard-of amount of time to work with the orchestra, and extra support and encouragement to help us realize our ideas. I can absolutely not see how I would have been able to effectively realize my piece -- a percussion ensemble concerto for junk car parts and orchestra -- had I not been given the extra access to the orchestra that I can only imagine ACO giving me.

ACO's existence is a blessing to both composers and anyone interested in the future of orchestral music. Many of the pieces that they take risks in commissioning (risks that other orchestras would likely not take) go on to be performed by many other orchestras.

Client Served

Rating: 5

In 2004 I participated in the American Composers Orchestra's (ACO) Underwood New Music Readings session. Each year, emerging Composers across the US are invited to submit orchestral pieces to be read by the ACO in this program. There are very few opportunities for young composers to have orchestral pieces performed, and the ACO's Underwood Reading Sessions are an invaluable resource for the advancement of new music from emerging composers. Over the course of two days, young composers are able work with the ACO musicians, guest conductors, artistic directors, and established mentor composers in a workshop of their pieces. In this enriching, vibrant, supportive environment, young composers learn a tremendous amount about writing for the orchestra. This program is the best of its kind in the US. Following the Readings Sessions each year, ACO grants a commission to one of the participating emerging composers for a new piece for the following season--a fantastic opportunity for a young composer to write for a top-notch orchestra. ACO's Underwood Readings Sessions are a gift to the new-music community, and the organization's support of emerging composers is not only stellar in it's inception and execution; it is necessary for the perpetuation of living musical art in this country.