National Sawdust

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
National Sawdust
TypeNonprofit music producer and venue
Purpose"To provide composers and musicians across genres a home in which they can flourish, a setting where they are given unprecedented support and critical resources essential to create and share their work."[1]
Coordinates40°43′8.0472″N 73°57′40.824″W / 40.718902000°N 73.96134000°W / 40.718902000; -73.96134000Coordinates: 40°43′8.0472″N 73°57′40.824″W / 40.718902000°N 73.96134000°W / 40.718902000; -73.96134000
Co-founder and Artistic Director
Paola Prestini

National Sawdust is a nonprofit music producer and venue in Brooklyn, New York with the goal of providing "composers and musicians across genres... a setting where they are given unprecedented support and critical resources essential to create and share their work."[1] The organization is named after its building's original tenant, an early 20th century sawdust factory by the same name.[2] It was founded in 2015 by composer Paola Prestini and attorney Kevin Dolan. Since then, National Sawdust has featured artists and ensembles including Philip Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, Nico Muhly, Yo La Tengo, Chris Thile, Pussy Riot, Caroline Polachek, Tanya Tagaq, Agnes Obel, Joan Tower, John Corigliano, the International Contemporary Ensemble, yMusic, Missy Mazzoli, Royce Vavrek, Du Yun, Karole Armitage, and Anthony Roth Costanzo.[2][3][4][5][6]


The National Sawdust Company was a sawdust factory in operation in industrial Williamsburg, Brooklyn during the 1930s. It closed in the late 20th century, leaving the space empty. After a zoning change in Williamsburg in the early 2000s, many historic industrial buildings in the area were demolished to make room for residential construction. By 2015, the National Sawdust Company building was one of few original structures remaining in Williamsburg, and it was surrounded by new developments.[2]

Kevin Dolan, an attorney, organist, and philanthropist based in New York City with a passion for contemporary music, began planning to create a new concert hall in 2008. He asked composer Paola Prestini to join him as the Co-founder and Artistic Director of the organization.[6]

The exterior of the National Sawdust building, featuring a mural by artist Assume Vivid Astro Focus.

Beginning in 2008, Bureau V Architecture worked alongside SLAB Architecture and acoustic design consultant Arup New York to remodel the interior of the space. The concert hall was designed based on computer modeling and acoustic tests.[2] For example, to protect the space from outside noise and vibration, it was constructed as a concrete room suspended by a chassis of springs within the original building.[7] Other than the addition of a mural by artist Eli Sudbrack, the exterior of the building was left unchanged; the words "National Sawdust Co.," dating back to the building's original tenant, are still visible from the outside.[2]

In its inaugural performance on October 1, 2015, National Sawdust featured Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Chris Thile, Glenn Kotche, and Eve Gigliotti. In 2016 alone, the organization hosted over 500 performances.[7]


National Sawdust has the goal of providing "composers and musicians across genres... a setting where they are given unprecedented support and critical resources essential to create and share their work."[1]

Every season, National Sawdust selects several curators to fill its calendar with a wide array of musical performances. These performances feature both up-and-coming and established artists from around the world, performing classical, experimental, electronic, rock and roll, folk, and other genres of music. In addition to providing a performance space for these musicians, the organization gives young artists the professional assistance necessary to grow their careers, including workshops, marketing assistance, and an artist in residency program. The Artists in residency program, introduced in the fifth season, includes commissions up to $15,000 and access to the organization's performance space, the ability to curate concerts, and the opportunity to record their music.[4] National Sawdust partners with Juilliard to debut the BluePrint Fellowship Program.[8] In 2020, National Sawdust announced a New Works Commissions series, including award-winning composers whose work would be performed by the JACK Quartet and National Sawdust Ensemble.[9]

Associated artists[edit]

The interior of the National Sawdust performance venue.


  1. ^ a b c "Programming – National Sawdust". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "A Second Act for a Former Factory at Williamsburg's National Sawdust | National Trust for Historic Preservation". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Stremple, Paul (July 31, 2018). "National Sawdust Announces New Season Line-Up – BKLYNER". BKLYNER. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Inside Williamsburg's Ambitious New-Music Venue, National Sawdust". Bedford + Bowery. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "The Birth of National Sawdust". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "National Sawdust, a Music Space Years in the Making, Opens in Brooklyn". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Fixsen, Anna (December 1, 2015). "National Sawdust". Architectural Record. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  8. ^ "MusicalAmerica - National Sawdust Announces 5th Anniversary Season, 'Take Root'". Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  9. ^ "National Sawdust to Showcase Winners of New Works Commissions". Opera Wire. September 17, 2020. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  10. ^ "FERUS Festival: Sarah Hennies & Mara Baldwin "Come 'Round Right"". National Sawdust. Retrieved December 20, 2019.