MTNA is dedicated to encouraging the creation of new works by American composers and annually assists its affiliated state associations in the generation and performance of new music through the national composers commissioning program. A newly commissioned composition receives its premiere performance at the conference of the state MTA that commissions the work.
To further promote and recognize outstanding contributions to American music, MTNA annually has its state affiliates submit commissioned compositions to a panel of recognized composers for selection of the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year. The new work of the selected composer is presented in a performance at the MTNA national conference, and the composer is proclaimed the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year. The selected composer receives a $5,000 award.
Tsuga (Hemlock), 2018 Iowa Commissioned Composer, Dr. Charles Nichols Performed by Dr. Richard Steinbach at the 2018 IMTA Conference in Iowa City, Iowa.
The works of Michael Gilbertson have been described as “elegant” and “particularly beautiful” by The New York Times, “vivid, tightly woven” and “delectably subtle” by the Baltimore Sun, “genuinely moving” by the Washington Post, and “a compelling fusion of new and ancient” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gilbertson is the BMI Composer in Residence with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and is a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his “Quartet.
Gilbertson holds degrees from The Juilliard School, where he studied composition with Samuel Adler, John Corigliano, and Christopher Rouse, and from Yale where he studied with Aaron Jay Kernis, Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Ezra Laderman, Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, and Jeanine Tesori. His work has earned a Copland House Residency Award, five Morton Gould Awards from ASCAP, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a BMI Student Composer Award. Gilbertson’s music can be heard in the 2006 documentary Rehearsing a Dream, which was nominated for an Academy Award. His published music includes choral works with Boosey & Hawkes and G. Schirmer, and orchestral works with Theodore Presser. In March, 2016, he was Musical America Magazine’s featured Artist of the Month.
Gilbertson’s opera Breaking, a collaboration with playwright Caroline McGraw, was commissioned by the Washington National Opera and premiered at The Kennedy Center in November, 2013. He has twice composed and conducted ballets for the New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute. His fifth ballet, a collaboration with choreographer Norbert De La Cruz, was premiered by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in July, 2013. He served as Red Cedar Chamber Music’s Composer-in-Residence from 2011 to 2014, and has enjoyed an ongoing relationship with his hometown orchestra, the Dubuque Symphony, which has performed 8 of his works since 2003.
In 2009, Michael founded an annual music festival, Chamber Fest Dubuque, which brings young classical artists to his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa for concerts and educational outreach. The festival is a fundraiser for the Northeast Iowa School of Music, where Michael taught composition and music history during their summer session from 2008 to 2012. He has also taught at The Walden School, The Educational Center for the Arts, and as an instructor and lecturer at Yale. He serves on the board of directors for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.
Praised by The New York Times as “vivid and dramatic,” the music of Carl Schimmel is dense with literary and musical references, often humorous, and combines intensity of expression with a structural rigor which is influenced in part by his mathematics background. Winner of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fromm Foundation Commission, Columbia University’s Joseph Bearns Prize, the Lee Ettelson Award, and the 2017 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Schimmel has received honors and awards from many organizations, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, New Music USA, and ASCAP. His works have been performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, Severance Hall in Cleveland, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, and at other venues throughout the world. He has received performances and commissions from the American Composers Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, California EAR Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, and many others. A graduate of Duke University (Ph.D.), the Yale School of Music (M.M.), and Case Western Reserve University (B.A. Mathematics and Music), he is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Illinois State University. He resides in Grinnell, IA, with his wife Mariko and their children Otto and Thora.
Few artists enjoy such high praise for both of their disciplines as composer/violinist Philip Wharton. Of his playing, The New York Times proclaimed, “a rousing performance!” and The Waterloo Courier wrote, “a golden tone with breathtaking execution.” His compositions, heralded from coast to coast, are described by the New York Concert Review as, “…decidedly contemporary…both engaging and accessible.” Writing from symphony to song, past seasons saw the Santa Fe Opera’s remounting of Two Saintes Caught in the Same Act as part of their apprentice scenes program, the Grammy-nominated Borealis Wind Quintet perform his Quintet on their concert tours, his chamber symphony, Passing Season performed by regional orchestras, premiere of his Symphony, his tribute to Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, a song cycle entitled Fools, and concerts with Grammy-nominated soprano, Caroline Worra. Other projects include collaborations with author Janet Burroway and illustrator John Vernon Lord to create musical settings of their books for children: The Giant Jam Sandwich, The Truck on the Track, and a vocal-monodrama, The Perfect Pig. Recent recordings include Albany Records’ release of his Flute Sonata—performed by flutist, Katherine Fink, and pianist Rose Grace, Crescent Phase Records’ release of his Woodwind Quintet—performed by the Madera Woodwind Quintet, and Kenneth Thompkins’ (principal Detroit Symphony Orchestra) recording of his Alto-Trombone Sonata. Expect to see the release of a CD by Elizabeth Sombart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the coming year.
Composer and computer music researcher Charles Nichols is an Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Technology at the School of Performing Arts and a Faculty Affiliate of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, at Virginia Tech University. A native of Iowa, Dr. Nichols has earned degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Yale University, and Stanford University. At Yale, he worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Studies in Music Technology (CSMT) and as a Research Assistant at Haskins Laboratories. At Stanford, he served as the Interim and Associate Technical Director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).
His compositions, including acoustic and electroacoustic music, for large and chamber ensembles, and fixed media, accompanying dance and animation, have been presented at conferences and festivals around the world. He has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts and National Science Foundation, and commissions from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, the Myrna Loy Center for the Performing and Media Arts, Drake University, University of Oregon, Temple University, and the Montana State Music Teachers Association. His recent premieres include Il Prete Rosso, for amplified violin, motion sensor, and computer, that controls audio effects with a wireless motion sensor on the bow hand of the violinist, and Nicolo, Jimi, and John, a three movement concerto, for amplified viola, orchestra, and computer, inspired by the virtuosity of Paganini, Hendrix, and Coltrane.
Brooke Joyce’s music has been described as “vividly pictorial” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “exceptionally gripping” (Los AngelesTimes) and has been performed by soloists and ensembles around the world, including the Indianapolis Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, the Brentano Quartet, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Nash Ensemble, and James Gilchrist. In addition to his concert music, Brooke collaborated on several musical theater works with playwright Frederick Gaines, including Unbekannt, a musical based on the life of the famous Anastasia pretender Anna Anderson, and An Imaginary Line, based on the book Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer. A CD of his chamber music, Waves of Stone, was released on the Innova label in 2009, and according to MusicWeb International, features “dramatic pieces which are rhythmically energetic, with ... a sense of underlying strength of will.”
Brooke is the recipient of the Joseph Bearns Prize, the Wayne Peterson Prize, the Darius Milhaud Award, and many citations from the National Federation of Music Clubs and ASCAP. He earned degrees in composition from Princeton University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Lawrence University, and attended summer courses with Joan Tower, Magnus Lindberg, and Alun Hoddinott. Brooke is the Composer-in-Residence at Luther College and a faculty member at the International Music Festival of the Adriatic. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and sons Keegan and Kyle, in a quiet neighborhood in Decorah, a small town in northeast Iowa.