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2022 ACF | create and Minnesota Music Creator Awards Announced

American Composers Forum (ACF) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s ACF | create and Minnesota Music Creator Awards, made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation. The awardees of ACF | create are Jillian Blythe, Sarina Partridge, Megumi Saruhashi, Sound Sovereign/Brown, and Chris Williams. The Minnesota Music Creator Award recipients are Cariah Brinaé, Alana Horton, AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa, and The Muatas (Ayanna and Cam Muata).

ACF | create is an evolution of the Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund), which started in 1979. The program supports early career artists in the creation, presentation, and subsequent life of a new work. Five awards of $11,000 each include $8,000 toward the commission and $3,000 for production and promotion support. Through this program, ACF has helped support hundreds of new works, including recent collaborations with Anaïs Maviel and The Rhythm Method, PaviElle French and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Felipe Nieto and Quinteto Latino, and Walken Schweigert and Philadelphia Community Farm.

The Minnesota Music Creator Awards (MMCA) — formerly Minnesota Emerging Composer Awards (MECA) — offer $3,000 and support to Minnesota-based makers of original music who would benefit from the acknowledgement and visibility. Past recipients have leveraged this award to create new works, support live performance, record their music, and design new instruments.

“ACF is proud to support this year’s awardees with funding, resources, connections, and visibility,” said Vanessa Rose, ACF Executive Director. “The range of musical approaches and uniqueness of each artist’s ideas demonstrate the vitality of music being created today. This year’s awardees reflect our commitment to equity and the ongoing changes we are making to ensure historically excluded artists feel they belong here. We are grateful for the Jerome Foundation’s longtime partnership and shared value in this level of support.”

The panel of curators who selected this year’s awardees included Byron Au Yong (Palm Springs, CA), Joseph Jones (Bonita Springs, FL), Stefon BIONIK Taylor (Minneapolis, MN), and Leaha Maria Villarreal (Los Angeles, CA).

About the ACF | create Awardees

Jillian Blythe

Jillian Blythe--Photo by Whitney George

Jillian Blythe–Photo by Whitney George

Jillian Annie Blythe is an American multi-genre cellist, composer, and ceramic artist working at the intersection of classical, contemporary, and electronic performance. She is currently a cellist for Lincoln Center Stage, a substitute with The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and is a highly sought after freelance artist. She regularly appears live and on recordings with popular musical artists such as Ricky Martin, Streetlight Manifesto, H.E.R, and John Legend, just to name a few, and in 2019 recorded ‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa for Steinway & Sons’ Music & Vision series. She has held recent positions with The Phoenix Symphony, The Nouveau Classical Project, and has performed and recorded selectively with Metamorphosis Orchestra, Mimesis Ensemble, Rhymes With Opera, Invisible Anatomy, Opera Hispanica, and Metro Chamber Orchestra.

Blythe has performed extensively as a solo, orchestral, and chamber musician across four continents, performing classical, contemporary, electronic, and multi-genre works in concert spaces ranging from the Crypt at Greenwood Cemetery to National Sawdust, The Kennedy Center, and David Geffen Hall. She holds a BM in Cello Performance and a MM in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Blythe has music released on Supertrain Records and proudly performs on a modern instrument crafted in Florence, Italy by John Terry in 2000.

Sarina Partridge

Sarina Patridge--Photo by Ted Hall

Sarina Patridge–Photo by Ted Hall

Sarina Partridge is a musician, song-leader and educator in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She feels most alive when learning, creating and sharing songs — especially songs that grow out of time spent in wild places. Sarina sings with a wide variety of music projects: community song-leading; harmony-rich original music with folk trio Heartwood; and performing and teaching of Eastern European and Yiddish song with her duo, Nanilo.  Sarina has a passion for connecting people with their own creativity and with community, and uses singing as a modality to help folks develop a sense of wonder and belonging in this wild world around us.

Megumi Saruhashi

Megumi Saruhashi--Photo by SnapKyoto

Megumi Saruhashi–Photo by SnapKyoto

Megumi Saruhashi is a Japanese violinist and composer. Having performed around the globe from Carnegie Hall to refugee camps in the Middle East, Megumi knows no boundary when it comes to performing music.

Megumi has embraced her credo “The earth is my home, the sky is my blanket. Wherever I go, I am home.” Through living in Japan, New York, and Egypt, she found her voice in musical compositions that express her admiration for these distinctively unique cultures, and discovered the magic and healing in uncovering the unity that hides in diversity. Her compositions reconcile differences across the cultural psyches, and enrich each one through the gifts of the other.

Years in New York City have gifted her a wide range of musical influences: free jazz, contemporary Gospel, Argentinian tango, Western classical, Japanese folk, and most importantly, Arabic music from the Golden Age. She has received extensive training with the masters in the Middle East, especially from a living legend, violinist and composer, Abdo Daghar in Cairo, who taught her the importance of innocent play. Megumi continually crosses borders — literally and musically — in her dedication to finding a unifying healing force through embracing diversity.

Sound Sovereign/Brown

Sound Sovereign/Brown – Photo courtesy of Joe's Pub

Sound Sovereign/Brown– Photo courtesy of Joe’s Pub

Sound Sovereign/Brown is a composer, vocalist, and healing practitioner, whose works encompass chant-based chamber pieces, orchestrated song landscapes, and trio-based adagios rooted in groove, spaciousness, and pulse.

Sound engages ther work as sacred refuge and restorative liberatory practice. Sound leans into ritual, embodied listening, that which the’s termed “harmonic intimacy,” evolving repetition, and open syncopation; with vocal components ranging from pre-verbal/ speechless callings to lyrical language, mantra, and prayer. For Sound, this provides a pathway for accessing our lost medicines, our ancestral/collective memory, and remembering our inherent, Indigenous, decolonial knowing. More personally, as someone with trauma related conditions, Sound’s compositional process has been viscerally steeped in discovering that which facilitates the release of physiologically manifested trauma states, especially as related to breath and heartbeat.

Sound is a member of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, the Resistance Revival Chorus, the Bobby McFerrin CircleSongs community, and is the vocal director for Treya Lam. In 2023, with the support of the ACF Create grant, as well as the NYFA NYC Women’s Fund Grant, Sound will have ther first album release and premiere of a body of work, entitled: Data and the Disciple vol. 1.

* For this bio, Sound has used the pronouns: the/thim/ther(s)

Chris Williams

Chris Williams--Photo by Katherine Pekala

Chris Williams–Photo by Katherine Pekala

Chris Williams is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Brooklyn, NY and is most at home collaborating with contemporary improvisers and experimentalists. He has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. His work explores the dyad of ancestral trauma and power existing in all Black Americans. Williams has been commissioned by WasteLAnd and International Contemporary Ensemble and has been in residence or with BANFF Centre for the Arts, Foundation of Contemporary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Musik Installationen Nürnberg and others. He has collaborated with creators including Eyvind Kang, Joanna Mattrey, Miriam Parker, Patrick Shiroishi, Bennie Maupin, Nicole Mitchell, Fay Victor, Wendy Eisenberg, Luke Stewart, Pink Siifu, and Marjani Forte-Saunders.


About the MMCA Awardees

Cariah Brinaé

Cariah Brinaé--Photo by Emilie Zibble

Cariah Brinaé–Photo by Emilie Zibble

Contemporary R&B singer/songwriter Cariah Brinaé started singing at the age of 6. Since 2010 she has shared her gift with the world through posting song covers online and performing live onstage at open mics and shows in the Minneapolis area. Now a solidified recording artist, she continues to connect to listeners and take them on a passionate journey through her musical love tales and stories.

Alana Horton

Alana Horton--Photo by Peter Morrow

Alana Horton–Photo by Peter Morrow

Alana Horton is a Minneapolis-based sound and performance maker interested in liveness, deep listening, and creative technologies. In her solo project, alone-a, she explores the limits of memory and moment through vast tapestries of voice, digital delays, and densely rich signal processing. Every audible sound that is generated comes only from her voice, transformed through an ever-evolving Max/MSP instrument to surprising, chaotic, and ecstatic ends. No two performances can ever be the same. Every environmental factor from the size, shape, and dimensions of the space, the sounds, bodies, and presence of the audience, and the peculiarities of the involved circuitry influence the emergent output of sound, centering the community of listeners at the core of the practice.

Alana’s multi-media performance work has been shown at venues including Red Eye Theater, Bryant Lake Bowl, Bedlam Theater, and LALA FESTIVAL. As a drummer, she has performed with Twin Cities bands The Controversial New ‘Skinny Pill,’ Bella Yaga, Tony Peachka, and Egg Girl Girl. 

AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa

AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa--Photo by Peter Jamus

AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa–Photo by Peter Jamus

AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa is a violist, violinist, amateur-musicologist, and composer. In the course of her career, AJ has partnered with musicians of Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and other well respected Twin Cities musicians. Her recent commissions include “Angels Sang to Me,” a 32-minute song cycle for soprano and string quartet exploring her journey with mental illness, commissioned by the Cedar Cultural Center; “Buried Alive” for SA or TB choir, optional bass guitar, and piano, commissioned by the Voices of Hope prison choirs; “The Sun Will Rise” for vibraphone and string quartet commissioned by the Artaria String Quartet; “Songs of Enchantment” for voice, viola and piano, commissioned by soprano Maria Jette; and a piece commissioned by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.

AJ’s primary composition teachers include Randall Davidson and Linda Tutas Haugen. Isaacson-Zvidzwa holds a Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance from Augsburg University. She has published articles in the Journal of the American Viola Society (JAVS) and American String Teacher Journal (ASTA), and was a presenter at the 44th International Viola Congress. When she’s not researching, composing, or practicing, AJ enjoys traveling, hiking and kayaking with her husband.

The Muatas (Ayanna and Cam Muata)

The Muatas (Ayanna and Cam Muata)--Photo by Bob Alberti

The Muatas (Ayanna and Cam Muata)–Photo by Bob Alberti

Ayanna and Cam Muata started out well over three decades ago as a part of a Minneapolis-based electronic dance music band along with two other band members. They released an album on vinyl in 1990 under the name “Cold Front,” but disbanded shortly afterwards in order to finish school and move into the workforce.

Now, after an extended pause, Ayanna and Cam have come together musically again under a different name with a new vision, new energy, and new purpose! The new band (The Muatas) is a duo that writes, produces, and performs their own music. Their style is a mix of post-punk, trip hop, dark wave, shoegaze, and electronic. The Muatas have released three albums since 2020, with their third album (Battle Weary) released in the spring of 2022. Their strongest desire is to share a bit of their story through their music, and to connect with others through that experience, reaching out especially to listeners who appreciate and enjoy all kinds of music coming from all kinds of people, including Black artists.


ABOUT THE JEROME FOUNDATION

The Jerome Foundation, founded in 1964 by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill (1905-1972), honors his legacy through multi-year grants to support the creation, development, and presentation of new works by early career artists.

The Foundation makes grants to vocational early career artists, and those nonprofit arts organizations that serve them, in all disciplines in the state of Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City. For further information, visit https://www.jeromefdn.org/

ABOUT AMERICAN COMPOSERS FORUM

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 www.composersforum.org for more information.

 

I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF.

A gift to ACF helps support the work of ICIYL. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or composersforum.org