2022 McKnight Composer Fellows and McKnight Visiting Composers Announced

American Composers Forum (ACF) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s McKnight Composer Fellowships and McKnight Visiting Composer Residencies. Both programs are funded by the McKnight Foundation and provide meaningful support to artists to create music through an engagement with Minnesota communities. The awardees of the McKnight Composer Fellowships are Mitchell Bercier, Mary Ellen Childs, Queen Drea, and Reinaldo Moya. The awardees of the McKnight Visiting Composer Residency are Byron Au Yong and Victor Márquez-Barrios. More information on the artists and their work is below.

The four McKnight Composer Fellows were selected from a pool of 65 applicants from around the state. The fellowships are part of the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program, created to increase the exploratory opportunity, economic stability, and productive capacity of artists by providing $25,000 in unrestricted support for mid-career artists living in Minnesota.

Music creators living in other parts of the U.S. were invited to propose a residency project that responds to or reflects the unique qualities of people and communities in Minnesota. Each McKnight Visiting Composer receives $10,000 to spend time in Minnesota pursuing a self-designed residency project.

“ACF is proud to join the McKnight Foundation as an Artist Fellowships Partner once again. We value the opportunity to invest in both artists who make their home where we were founded and those who seek to know our communities better,” said ACF Executive Director, Vanessa Rose. “This program exemplifies our mission to amplify the relevance and vitality of individuals creating music today.”

The curators who selected this year’s awardees were Danny Clay (San Francisco, CA), Ritika Ganguly (Saint Paul, MN), Forbes Graham (Boston, MA), Sarah M. Greer (Minneapolis, MN), and Jannina Norpoth (Brooklyn, NY).


Mitchell Bercier – Carlton, MN

Mitchell Bercier--Photo by Elbow Juice

Mitchell Bercier–Photo by Elbow Juice

Mitchell Bercier, M. Mus., is a composer, illustrator and producer. He studied design and art history at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he was awarded a B.F.A. in graphic design (2013). He studied music at the University of Aberdeen under the supervision of Professor Paul Mealor, where he was awarded a Master’s in Music (2018). His work has been supported by the MN State Arts Board (2012) and The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (2014, 2021). He has presented his research in music and sonic arts at international conferences including the 6th International Conference on New Music Concepts (Treviso, Italy) and Convergence 2019 (De Montfort University, Leicester). He produces electronic and algorithmic dance music under the artist name Ghostchamb3r.

Mary Ellen Childs – Minneapolis, MN

Mary Ellen Childs--Photo by Laura Bianchi

Mary Ellen Childs–Photo by Laura Bianchi

Mary Ellen Childs is a composer interested in all the senses: she is known for works that speak not only to the ears, but to the eyes, and even the nose. She creates distinctive sound worlds and often writes for specific architecture or environments; Stone Steel Wood Glass Light, commissioned for the Chicago Architectural Biennial, drew inspiration from the Farnsworth House, a glass house designed by Mies van der Rohe. Her Aromusica installation with sound and scent recently opened at Proyecto ‘ace in Buenos Aires, and she is currently at work on two other installations. DrumRoll will be exhibited at the University Gallery in Kirksville, MO in Fall 2022, and NORTH for Zeitgeist based on her residency aboard a Tall Ship in the Arctic, will premiere at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN in 2023.

Childs has held artist residencies at the Bellagio Center (Italy), Bogliasco Foundation (Italy), Yaddo, Djerassi, Millay Colony, and Emily Harvey Foundation (Venice, Italy). She has received grants and commissions from Opera America, Kronos Quartet, The Kitchen, Walker Art Center, Other Minds, MAP Fund, and Creative Capital, and she has been named a United States Artist Fellow.

Queen Drea – Saint Paul, MN

Queen Drea--Photo by David Lee Glasgow

Queen Drea–Photo by David Lee Glasgow

A sound alchemist mixing up potions laced with looped natural and affected vocals, jagged rhythms, and found sounds, Queen Drea’s compositions are often conceived under the auspices of improvisational settings, which is where she thrives most. Drea has been commissioned to compose soundscapes for dance companies Ananya Dance Theatre, Black Label Movement, and Brother(h)ood Dance, and composed and designed sound for Penumbra Theatre’s production of “For Colored Girls.” Drea was a Pillsbury House Theater 2020 Naked Stages Fellow and has become a staple at the venue, which she calls her artistic home, designing sound and composing original music for “The Great Divide: She Persists,” “The Great Divide: Flip the Script,” and “What to Send Up, When it Goes Down” by Aleshea Harris.

I make worlds with my compositions. Glitchy vocals, guttural cries, scratchy sounds, ear-piercing ground loops, and off-kilter rhythms are what I do. Everything is intentional, yet improvisational in nature. I do not seek to create smooth surfaces. If my compositions invoke visceral responses in the listener, then I’ve done my job.

Reinaldo Moya – Northfield, MN

Reinaldo Moya--Photo by Arthur Moeller

Reinaldo Moya–Photo by Arthur Moeller

Reinaldo Moya is a graduate of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education system. He is the recipient of the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the McKnight Composer Fellowship, the Van Lier Fellowship, and the Aaron Copland Award. He was the winner of the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Composer Award, leading to the commissioning of his Piano Concerto for Joyce Yang and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Moya’s works have been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera, the San Diego Symphony, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, and the New Jersey Symphony. Other performers include the Jasper and Attacca String Quartets, the Oberlin Conservatory Orchestra, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and the Lysander Piano Trio, among others. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School with Masters and Doctoral degrees, studying with Samuel Adler and Robert Beaser. Mr. Moya has taught at St. Olaf College, the Interlochen Arts Camp, and is currently Associate Professor of Composition at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.


Byron Au Yong – Palm Springs, CA

Byron Au Young--Photo by Gaku Shiroma

Byron Au Young–Photo by Gaku Shiroma

Byron Au Yong (歐陽良仁) actualizes new approaches in classical music. Born to Chinese immigrants in Pittsburgh and raised in the Pacific Northwest, his upbringing informs an attention to the ways people gather to listen and connect with the places they call home. His music is informed by acoustic ecology and sustainable practices, alongside Asian aesthetics and avant-garde techniques. Examples include Occupy Orchestra 無量園 Infinity Garden, a symphonic work influenced by Chinese gardens, John Cage, and Occupy Wall Street (Chicago Composers Orchestra) and Mo Sheng 墨声 Ink Sound, an installation string quartet (Frye Art Museum). Moreover, Au Yong searches for ways to challenge conventional narratives and end violence, as in the projects Activist Songbook, to counteract hate and energize movements (Asian Arts Initiative, International Festival of Arts & Ideas) and Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas, for hiking singers and percussionists (Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts, Jack Straw New Media Gallery). Dedicated to education as an anchor for imagination and knowledge, Au Yong is an associate professor in performing arts and social justice at the University of San Francisco.

Victor Márquez-Barrios – Kirksville, MO

Victor Márquez-Barrios--Photo by Tim Barcus

Victor Márquez-Barrios–Photo by Tim Barcus

Venezuelan composer and guitarist Victor E. Márquez-Barrios holds an extended catalog of works that includes compositions for a variety of solo instruments, numerous chamber ensembles, mixed choir, electronics, symphonic band, and symphony orchestra. His music has been performed, published, and recorded by important soloists and ensembles from Latin America, the U.S., and Europe. Works by Márquez-Barrios have received performances at numerous international music festivals such as the Latin American Music Festival (Caracas, Venezuela), XVII Festival of Contemporary Music of Havana (Cuba), 20eme Festival Internacional de la Clarinette (Martinique), Hollywood Fringe Festival (Los Angeles), the World Saxophone Congress (2012 and 2015 editions), and ClarinetFest 2018 (Ostend, Belgium), among others.

Today, in parallel to his active career as a composer and guest lecturer, Victor Márquez-Barrios teaches music theory and composition as part of the faculty at Truman State University, where he is also the founding director of Uncommon Practice, the University’s contemporary-music ensemble.


Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 14 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $2.8 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit


The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Established in 1953, the McKnight Foundation is deeply committed to advancing climate solutions in the Midwest; building an equitable and inclusive Minnesota; and supporting the arts in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research.


ACF supports and advocates for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art. We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources. Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists. We provide direct funding and mentorship to a broad and diverse field of music creators, highlighting those who have been historically excluded from participation.

Founded in 1973 by composers Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus as the Minnesota Composers Forum, the organization continues to invest in its Minnesota home while connecting artists and advocates across the United States, its territories, and beyond. ACF frames our work with a focus on racial equity and includes within that scope, but does not limit it to: diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, religions, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of being “American.” Visit for more information.


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