American Composers Forum
The American Composers Forum is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the promotion and assistance of American composers and their music. It was founded in 1973 as the Minnesota Composers Forum and is based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States. Its mission is "to connect composers with communities and to encourage the making, playing, and enjoyment of new music."
The Forum was founded as the Minnesota Composers Forum in 1973 by a group of University of Minnesota graduate students — including Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus — with a $400 grant from the University’s Student Club Activities Fund. In 1996, the organization changed it name to the American Composers Forum, and established chapters in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Today, the Forum acts as the umbrella national organization for locally funded chapters in Minnesota (based in Saint Paul), Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to volunteer-led chapters in New York City and Los Angeles. In 2007, the organization partnered with the American Music Center in extending membership to current composition students attending six affiliated academic institutions: Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, the New England Conservatory, the San Francisco Conservatory, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Yale University. The Forum's current annual budget for fiscal year 2008 is $1.8 million. It currently has over 1700 active members in all 50 states, Canada, and several other countries.
Forum members pay annual dues that are used to fund networking and informational services, such as the Forum's website and bimonthly newsletter, Sounding Board. The Forum also funds national and local commissioning projects, as well as offers programs for individual composers and performers of new music. These projects and programs are funded by grants from government agencies, corporate and private foundations, and individual contributions.
Current Forum programs include Continental Harmony, a national, community-based commissioning program; Faith Partners, a residency program that pairs multiple communities of faith with a composer of their choice; BandQuest, a program that supports the creation of new work for middle-level concert bands by contemporary composers such as Michael Colgrass, Michael Daugherty, Jennifer Higdon, Tania Léon, and Gunther Schuller; Composers Datebook, a daily two-minute radio feature integrating contemporary composers into the continuum of classical music history; and Innova Recordings, a compact disc label that issues more than two dozen releases of new music each year. In co-operation with the American Music Center and the Minnesota Orchestra, the Forum also offers an annual Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, an intensive, week-long series of professional workshops and career seminars for emerging composers, culminating in a public concert of their works performed by the Minnesota Orchestra and its music director, Osmo Vänskä, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
In 2006 the Forum launched its First Nations Composer Initiative, developed in partnership with the Ford Foundation. This program aims to establish a national infrastructure for American Indian composers and performers, increase the visibility of these artists in both Native and non-Native communities, and create new opportunities for their work.