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Minnesota Orchestra Program Helps Educate Young Composers

Posted in News on June 25, 2006
The internationally acclaimed Minnesota Orchestra is widely known for its artistic excellence, but it's the orchestra's unique program devoted to young composers that has garnered attention recently. Most notably, the program, led by BMI Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, was featured as a radio documentary on Minnesota Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

Apparently the only program of its kind offered in the United States, the Minnesota Composer's Institute provides a weeklong, intensive immersion into the world of a major American orchestra. Around eight promising composers from across the nation participate twice a year and get a chance to hear their original orchestral works through three carefully prepared read-through sessions. It also gives the participants a chance to take part in numerous workshops, with guest industry professionals from New York as well as the Twin Cities.

"The readings are the core of the program," says Beth Cowart, Artistic Planning Associate for the orchestra, "but we've also added seminars and workshops, some about licensing and copywriting with James Kendrick, a leading music and entertainment attorney who has been described as a 'national treasure' by those in his field."

Several of the workshops include participation by orchestra musicians, who help advance the composers' understanding of different instruments and offer feedback from a professional perspective. "It makes sense for the musicians to help with this program," notes Cowart. "The composer's work is at the center of what these musicians do."

The program has also given the composers the opportunity to work closely with Kernis, Chair of the Institute and the Minnesota Orchestra's new Music Advisor, as well as Music Director Osmo Vänskä. "I've had participants come up to me at the end and say they learned more in seven days than they learned in their entire school education," says Kernis. "The program is set up to give these very talented composers a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time."