Innova Recordings Announces Bay Area Pilot Projects

American Composers Forum (ACF) and Innova Recordings are pleased to announce the selected artists and their projects for our Bay Area Pilot program. As ACF strives to be a “go-to” space for artists while centering equity, this new program pilots a different model for the label, making it more inclusive and accessible to artists. Applicants were invited to submit projects representing a variety of musical approaches and at different stages in their recording plans. All applicants were invited to seek recording advice and referrals from innova staff.

The eight projects selected for this pilot program were chosen by a diverse group of curators from a pool of 35 Bay Area based applicants. The curators who selected the final projects were Sahba Aminikia, Vân-Ánh Vo, Alejandro T. Acierto, Marshall Trammell, and Sarah Cahill.

Selected artists will receive support from innova for both the production and promotion of their music at no cost. In addition, artists maintain ownership of their work and receive 100% of sales profits. We are excited to work in partnership with these artists to bring their projects to fruition.

We invite all artists seeking advice or guidance on their own recording projects to contact us via the ACF Help Desk.

Read more about the selected artists and their projects

Eki'Shola Abrams--Photo by Andy Strong

Eki’Shola Abrams–Photo by Andy Strong

Eki’Shola Abrams

Featured on PBS, NPR Tiny Desk Contest, KQED and most recently selected Best of the Bay 2020 Editors’ Pick, Eki’Shola’s music transcends genre, as she seamlessly draws from jazz, classical, electronica, and soul music to create a sonic landscape all her own. A musician and physician, Eki’Shola uses her music (“half-time electronic soul for the mind” – Resident Advisor) as a conduit for healing. Completing her virtual tour in 2021 for her fourth solo album, Essential, and inspired by observing the need for amplifying the voices of underrepresented creatives, Eki’Shola was moved to create and launch Unmute Magazine, a digital publication by and mainly for BIPOC artists.

About the project: “My proposed recording project is to work with a live drummer/percussionist, and if feasible, a trumpeter, and record an EP consisting mainly of first-takes. I want to explore the interplay between electronic and acoustic instruments and to create a dialogue between them. It’s a musical experiment of working with change and acceptance of the present moment – and what delight it may (or may not) bring.”

Anne Hege--Photo by The Downtown Dinner

Anne Hege–Photo by The Downtown Dinner

Anne Hege

Anne Hege creates musical worlds that invite an awareness of and attention to the body and our present moment. In her work as a composer, vocalist, and instrument builder, she explores the roots of musicality in the intersection of ensemble interaction, technology, embodiment, and expression. Her latest projects have included the creation of an opera for laptop orchestra, The Furies, and works for her analog live-looping instrument The Tape Machine.

About the project: The Tape Machine (2009-2021) presents pieces created over the past twelve years for this unique, hand-built instrument. First constructed in 2009, The Tape Machine is a portable instrument created with three hacked cassette players–one recording tape head and two playback points. In simple terms, it is an analog, live-looping machine where the listener, by sound alone, can identify the process and the technology. One can easily hear what is the original sound and what is a loop, with its degraded sound quality and shifting tuning. Each song is built through a layering of sounds, which are manipulated through an array of techniques including pulling the tape, slowing the playback, live mixing of volume levels so that a sonic world, speaks for itself through the machine.”

Julie Herndon--Photo courtesy of the artist

Julie Herndon–Photo courtesy of the artist

Julie Herndon

Julie Herndon (Oakland, CA), Marcel Zaes (Providence, RI), Manuel Pessôa de Lima (Berlin, GER), Seán Ó Dálaigh (Kerry, Ireland and Palo Alto, CA), Clara Allison (Lebanon, NH and Palo Alto, CA), and Hassan Estakhrian (Berkeley, CA) are composers with diverse aesthetic approaches. The Kukuruz Quartet is made up of four pianists, Simone Keller, Philip Bartels, Duri Collenberg, and Lukas Rickli, committed to challenging the conventions of concert music using the extremely rare formation of the piano quartet.

About the project: Breathing – Remembering – Dissolving is a collaborative record bringing together composers from around the world to create new works with the Kukuruz piano quartet while they are in residence in the Bay Area next year. Each featured composer brings a unique response to themes we typically associate with being human, the body, and the larger aspects of sociality in/with/around humans. For the Kukuruz quartet, this album would follow their 2018 release, Julius Eastman – Piano Interpretations, which recorded the totality of Eastman’s piano quartets. This new record would remain committed to promoting and performing work by composers from diverse backgrounds, while developing new repertoire for the instrumentation. Featured composers include: Clara Allison, Seán Ó Dálaigh, Hassan Estakhrian, Julie Herndon, Manuel Pessôa de Lima, and Marcel Zaes.”

Lewis Jordan--Photo courtesy of the artist

Lewis Jordan–Photo courtesy of the artist

Lewis Jordan

Lewis Jordan is a saxophonist and poet who has performed and recorded internationally. His commitment is to bring people together by bridging arbitrary distinctions that have only served to divide us from ourselves, as well as serving to divide us from others. He works with artists from a range of disciplines, striving for modes of expression that honor our traditions while speaking to the urgency of the present media channels.

About the project: Critical Mass is the title for the recording project. That represents people coming together in celebration, a sense of victory, and achievement arising from realizing that there is strength in numbers. This is grounded in our being attentive to and attuned to what makes us whole: the rights we claim for ourselves and the rituals by which we resonate with our deepest beliefs. The project will include myself on saxophones (alto, baritone and poetry), Sandi Poindexter (violin), Ollen Erich Hunt (bass), and Jimmy Biala (drums/percussion).”

Melinda Martinez Becker (Photo by Kersh Branz) and Nicolas Lell Benavides (Photo by Karli Cadel)

Melinda Martinez Becker (Photo by Kersh Branz) and Nicolas Lell Benavides (Photo by Karli Cadel)

Melinda Martinez Becker and Nicolas Lell Benavides

Melinda Martinez Becker’s New Mexican and Jewish heritage has shaped her career as a performer of art song in a variety of languages including Spanish, Ladino, and Yiddish. She is recognized for her expressive interpretations of diverse repertoire, including baroque, new, and experimental music. Melinda’s collaborations with emerging new music composers and ensembles include projects with Friction Quartet, Brian Baumbusch and the Lightbulb Ensemble, George Hurd, Emily Koh and Helia Music Collective, the Musical Art Quintet, and as a soloist with the Classical Revolution Orchestra and the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra. Melinda is on faculty at Dominican University of California.

Nicolas Lell Benavides aspires to be a storyteller through music, frequently drawing on his Nuevomejicano roots and culture. His operas in particular focus on Southwestern Latin American experiences. He has worked with groups such as the Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Music of Remembrance, West Edge Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and Friction Quartet. He was a fellow at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. Nick was the first ever Young Artist Composer in Residence at The Glimmerglass Festival.

About the project: Canto Caló is a song cycle by composer Nicolas Lell Benavides that takes inspiration from the New Mexican heritage shared by mezzo soprano Melinda Martinez Becker and Benavides through the lens of their grandparents’ life experiences. Canto Caló celebrates the distinctively American dialect that was popular among Southwestern and Californian individuals that were part of the Pachuco movement. Caló is a Spanglish-style slang based on a specifically New Mexican dialect of Spanish, English, and indigenous languages that formed the basis of identity for an entire generation of Hispanic and Latino youth in the mid-20th century. Through the creation of Canto Caló, and the telling of stories about what life was like in that time, we will be able to transport audiences to a popular, yet not mainstream, culture that still pulses through the American West today where its influence is very present.”

Lisa Mezzacappa--Photo by Tim Rowe

Lisa Mezzacappa–Photo by Tim Rowe

Lisa Mezzacappa

Berkeley, CA-based composer, bassist, and producer Lisa Mezzacappa has been an active part of California’s vibrant music community for nearly 20 years. Her activities as a composer and ensemble leader include ethereal chamber music, electro-acoustic works, avant-garde jazz, non-traditional opera, music for groups from duo to large ensemble, and collaborations with film, dance, and visual art.

About the project: In partnership with Innova, Mezzacappa will release a box set of her 9-episode serial audio opera, The Electronic Lover, in summer 2022. The opera, which is set in women-only chatrooms at the dawn of the Internet, has a libretto by Beth Lisick, and is being released as a series of free podcast episodes throughout 2020 and 2021. The complete work will be available on Innova as a limited-edition, high fidelity digital and physical release, with printed libretto, interviews, and original artwork. For more info visit

Beth Schenck--Photo by Dyanne Cano Photography

Beth Schenck–Photo by Dyanne Cano Photography

Beth Schenck

Beth Schenck is a saxophonist, composer and educator based in San Francisco. She feels most at home with music that blurs the line between composition and improvisation. Beth’s music has been described by critics as “frank and beautiful” (Greg Burk), “reliably enthralling” and “transporting” (Andrew Gilbert).

About the project: “This album was conceived and recorded in my home during the winter months of 2020. I think of every piece as a small poem or memory; something you can keep safe in your pocket and hold onto. The entire album is played on alto saxophone; on some pieces there are up to eight alto voices that provide the rhythm, harmony, melodies and solos. It is a solo record, but sounds like a chamber ensemble, created by a singular voice.”

SHENSduo--Photo courtesy of the artists

SHENSduo–Photo courtesy of the artists


SHENSduo is a newly minted Northern California ensemble consisting of two award-winning Pipa performers/composers, Shenshen Zhang and Sophia Shen, dedicated to explore new sounds and undiscovered boundaries on this classic Chinese instrument uninhibited by prescribed traditions. We seek to combine authenticity and originality by creating genre-blending compositions, explore live performances in collaboration with other musicians, and share our unique musical vision with the global community.

About the project: “Our debut EP will consist of three original compositions featuring pipa duo as one integral voice, both complementary and delicately interwoven. The compositions are three elegant moments musically capturing poetry-inspired dialogues between two instruments, both deeply rooted in preserving classical traditions while continuing to seek creative freedom in the intercultural contemporary music world. Our projected release date is September 2022.”

Made possible through funds from ACF’s former Bay Area chapter, this pilot program was open to Bay Area artists based in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma counties.


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