Cheswatyr Commissions

Cheswatyr Commissions was created and produced by Composers Now with underwriting from the Cheswatyr Foundation. The award commemorates Cece Wasserman and foregrounds her legacy of empowering living composers in substantive ways. Cece was a passionate arts philanthropist and an untiring advocate for the composers of our time. Under her leadership, the Foundation commissioned works from a stellar list of composers including Missy Mazzoli, Arlene Sierra, and Julia Wolfe.

Cece Wasserman

Announcing the 2023 Cheswatyr Commission!

Monday, October 2, 2023 - 6 pm @ The Forum at Columbia University
605 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
hosted by Tania León
- Free Event -

RSVP is encouraged

Availability at the door may be limited and on a first come first serve basis.
View the full Concert Program

In year two of Cheswatyr Commissions, Composers Now will present the world premiere of Alyssa Regent's "The Island Before Open Waters" (2023), which will be performed by the Harlem Chamber Players.

Bora Yoon served as the composer mentor for Ms. Regent and will perform her own music and a piece by Meredith Monk. Complementing these works will be chamber music by Missy Mazzoli and Julia Wolfe, also performed by the Harlem Chamber Players.

Alyssa Regent (b. 1995)  is a New York based composer originally from the islands of Guadeloupe. She studied composition with Suzanne Farrin, David Fulmer, Marcos Balter and George Lewis and is currently pursuing a DMA at Columbia University. She is inspired by what she calls "the unseen", seeking to evoke passions and sensations that are deeply rooted in introspection. She harvests from the ethereal, the enigmatic intersections between music and spirituality. She loves to think about music as an exploration of the spiritual and emotional dimensions of the human experience. Her compositions urge listeners to reflect on their own spirituality, embrace their emotions, and connect with each other during a shared listening experience. Her goal is to weave together these themes and create musical tapestries that stir the depths of the soul. Alyssa's music has been performed by several New York based ensembles and soloists including Talea Ensemble, Connor Hanick, Emi Fergusson and NMK Ensemble.

Korean-American composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Bora Yoon is an interdisciplinary artist who conjures audiovisual soundscapes using digital devices, voice and found objects and instruments from a variety of cultures and historical centuries –  to formulate an audiovisual storytelling through music, movement and sound. Featured on the front-page of the Wall Street Journal and in the National Endowment for the Arts podcast for her musical innovations, Yoon's music has been presented at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Singapore Arts Festival, the Nam Jun Paik Art Center (South Korea), the TED stage, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Banff Centre for Art and Creativity, MADE Festival (Sweden), Festival of World Cultures (Poland), Walker Art Center, Broad Museum (LA), Park Avenue Armory, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and universities worldwide. Upcoming projects include a new evening-length work for the high-density wavefield synthesis and kinetic performance featuring custom instrument design by Joshue Ott [superDraw] at EMPAC - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (premiering March 2023); new works for percussionists Steve Schick, and Ji Hye Jung; and a new developing Asian opera '아가씨' Handmaiden, featuring libretto by poet E.J. Koh [Pachinko, Magical Language of Others] supported by OPERA AMERICA, which was workshopped in Fall 2022 at Princeton University. Bora Yoon recently joined the faculty at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

The Harlem Chamber Players is an ethnically diverse collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing high caliber, affordable, accessible live music to people in the Harlem community and beyond. Founded in 2008, The Harlem Chamber Players annually presents a rich season of formal live concerts, indoors, outdoors, and online. The ensemble also promotes arts inclusion and equal access to the arts, bringing live music to underserved communities and promoting shared community arts and cultural engagement. The group was first inspired by the late Janet Wolfe, a long-time patron of minority musicians and founder of the NYC Housing Symphony Orchestra. The Harlem Chamber Players has presented culturally relevant programs at numerous venues throughout the city and collaborated with many other arts organizations. The Harlem Chamber Players is in-residence at the Harlem School of the Arts and received coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Musical America, and on NPR, NBC, Here and Now on ABC was awarded the 2022 Sam Miller Award for the Performing Arts.

Announcing the 2022 Cheswatyr Commission!

Niloufar Nourbakhsh is the inaugural composer to receive a Cheswatyr Commission, and  International Contemporary Ensemble offers the world premiere of C Ce See on Saturday, October 15, 2022, 7:30 pm at NYU Skirball. Not only does the award come with a commissioning fee and world premiere, but Nourbakhsh also received mentoring from composer Suzanne Farrin during the composition process and a high-quality recording for her use going forward.

The new piece is part of a full evening of works chosen jointly by ICE and the Iranian Female Composers Association (IFCA), centered on the theme of Peyvand (پیوند), the Persian word for Connectivity. Nourbakhsh's  C Ce See expresses the importance of social and artistic connectivity by way of a custom kinetic sculpture, designed by Roxanne Nesbitt, which brings the tones and colors of violins, violas, and cellos into a united sound by a single perpetually moving strand of bow hair. The program also features works by Golfam Khayam, Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, Nasim Khorassani, Nina Barzegar, Anahita Abbasi, Bahar Royaee, and Aida Shirazi. Steven Shick joins as conductor.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh continues to achieve distinction as a composer, the most recent of which are as winner of the 2022 Beth Morrison Projects Next Generation Competition and recipient of the inaugural Cheswatyr Commission and 2019 Female Discovery Grant from Opera America. An Iranian-American composer, Niloufar Nourbakhsh's music has been commissioned and performed by Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Library of Congress, I-Park Foundation, National Sawdust Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, Camerata Pacifica, Shriver Hall Series, Center for Contemporary Opera, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, PUBLIQuartet, Forward Music Project, Calidore String Quartet, Cassatt String Quartet, Akropolis Reed Quintet, and Ensemble Connect at numerous festivals and venues including Carnegie Hall, Washington Kennedy Center, Mostly Mozart Festival, Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music, and many more. A founding member and co-director of the Iranian Female Composers Association, Nilou is a strong advocate of music education. In 2014, she worked as the site coordinator of Brooklyn Middle School Jazz Academy sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. She is currently an adjunct faculty at Peabody Conservatory as co-artistic director of Peabody Laptop Orchestra, and she regularly performs with her ensemble, Decipher. Nilou is a music graduate and a Global Citizen Scholarship recipient of Goucher College as well as a Mahoney and Caplan Scholar from University of Oxford. Among her teachers are Lisa Weiss, Laura Kaminsky, Daniel Weymouth, Matthew Barnson, Margaret Schedel and Daria Semegen. She received a Ph.D. in music composition from Stony Brook University under the supervision of Sheila Silver.

Suzanne Farrin, winner of the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellow, explores the interior worlds of instruments and the visceral potentialities of sound in her music. Opportunities to hear her music this season include a Composer Portrait in February 2023 at Miller Theatre which will feature International Contemporary Ensemble's world premiere performance of Farrin's Their Hearts are Columns and selections from dolce la morte, an opera based on the love poems of Michelangelo, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Suzanne is currently Professor and Chair of Music at Hunter College after 10 years leading the Composition Department at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, S.U.N.Y. She holds a doctorate in composition from Yale University. Corpo di Terra (New Focus Recordings) is devoted entirely to her music, which may also be heard on the VAI, Signum Classics, Tundra and Albany Records labels. In addition to composing, Suzanne is a performer of the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument created by the engineer Maurice Martenot in France in the 1920s as a response to the simultaneous destruction and technological advances of WWI. Her life as an interpreter on the instrument has taken her to venues such as The Kitchen for the premiere of The Stimulus of Loss (commissioned by Claire Chase for Density 2036) and the Abrons Arts Center in NYC, the Centro de Artes in Buenos Aires and television, where she was featured in an episode directed by Roman Coppola on the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. She is featured as a performer in Chicuarotes, directed by Gael García Bernal, which ran in theaters throughout Mexico and was premiered at Cannes, as well as the Iranian film Sade Ma'bar (Blockage) directed by Mohsen Gharaie, which won best film in the New Currents section of the Busan International Film Festival.

International Contemporary Ensemble strives to cultivate a mosaic musical ecosystem that honors the diversity of human experience and expression by commissioning, developing, and performing the works of living artists. The Ensemble is a collective of musicians, digital media artists, producers, and educators who are committed to creating collaborations built on equity, belonging, and cultural responsiveness. Now in its third decade, the Ensemble continues to build new digital and live collaborative environments that strengthen artist agency and musical connections around the world.

Iranian Female Composers Alliance (IFCA), co-founded by Anahita Abbasi, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and Aida Shirazi, is a group of artists who have combined their experiences and creativity to create a platform for otherwise-unheard musical voices from the Iranian diaspora and build and support a growing community of female and non-binary composers.

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