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Empower the Voices: a repertory guide: Programming


Two articles on programming: first, an interview with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja on her "Bye, Bye Beethoven" project and programmatic ideas to promote and perform music beyond the canon, and second, a overview of canonical issues in the concert hall and how the arguments for continuing current programming practices break down under examination from Dave Molik for NewMusicBox.

Music of Now

How can you connect audience members with the music of today? 

Here are two articles, one from New York Times and the other from Washington Post that are all about engaging the public with new composers and new music. The Times artlcle uses a clever format - asking well-known artists to talk about new works and composers that excite them. Instead of getting a rather dry summary of the music or premise of the work, the reader gets an enthusiastic and personal endorsement from a valued source. 

I don't like atonal music

When programming music, it's easiest to select works that we enjoy hearing or playing, or those that match our aesthetic taste and experience. I hear a lot of students (and faculty!) talk about how they're not fans of music that requires extended techniques or that lacks a discernable melody because it's just not what they enjoy. AND THAT IS OK. But here are a few things about aesthetics and where they can both help and hinder our experience of the world. 

First, this is a great video introduction to different concepts of aesthetic appreciation. While not focused on music, it's easy to apply the concepts to compositions, performances, recordings, and other musical objects and experiences.


Say No to Tokenizing

Artists are always on the lookout for new techniques or sources of inspiration, but there can be a fine line between borrowing and tokenizing the music or art of others. Here are two articles about instances of tokenization or appropriation. They may not have all the answers, but they'll definitely get you thinking about how you use music from outside of your own traditions.

Working with a Composer

Performer/Composer Collaboration

Here's a great checklist of factors to plan for/consider when collaborating with a composer as a performer...or vice versa.


  • When is the new work going to be performed?
  • How far in advance does the performer need the work?

Artistic Vision for the Work

  • What is the instrumentation for the work?
  • What are the capabilities and limitations of the instrument? It is advisable to work closely with the performer, especially when it comes to extended techniques. Check-in as you work to make sure the performer is agreeable to what you’re writing.


  • How does the composer want to be compensated for the work? (Money, recording session?)
  • Discussion of any royalties that might result from recorded performances?


  • Exclusivity: If for some reason the intended performance does not happen, will someone else be allowed to perform the work? Does the performer commissioning the work want to be able to play it a certain number of times before someone else is allowed to?
  • Should there be a dedication placed in the score?

Finding Performers

Encountering Bias

It's probable that if you shake up the repertory you perform, someone - an audience member, a colleague, an instructor, you mom - might ask, "Why are you playing music by someone who is [race, color, religion or creed, national origin or ancestry, sex (including gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity, age (old OR young)?" What do you say in response? Before you plunge into an answer, take some time to explore what it means to be an ally or how to confront bias effectively.

Anti-Racist Resource Guide from Victoria Alexander
Ten Things All "Allies" Need to Know from Everyday Feminism

Land Acknowledgement

The Native American Council's website contains not only a Sovereignty Statement for Iowa City but information on what is a statement, what is land sovereignty, tribal treaties in the state, and more.