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Special Reports

MA 30 Profiles in Courage: Susan Feder

December 2, 2014 | By Joshua Simka

Program Officer Arts and Cultural Heritage
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

When she joined The Andrew Mellon Foundation in January of 2007, Susan Feder said in an interview “It is difficult to imagine another position that would have tempted me away from the stimulation of working with the composers at Schirmer.” She was referring to G. Schirmer Inc., where, as vice president, she had spent the prior two decades nurturing the careers of many prominent Soviet, European, and American composers. In her new position as program officer for performing arts at Mellon, Feder would continue to support up-and-coming American composers, but also orchestras, dance companies, opera and theater companies, college and university presenters, and performing arts series.

Since her arrival at the Foundation, Feder’s recommendations—based on her extensive research, long experience in the field, and sound judgment—have yielded  almost $300 million in grant money. Among projects to have taken shape on her watch are a $490,000 grant to support the development and production of new American operas at Fort Worth Opera, $1.73 million for the establishment of a composer-in-residence program at Opera Philadelphia, and $1.75 million to Opera America to promote the creation and production of new American operas.

Among the largest grants were $5 million each in December of 2007 to support opera and music-theater programming at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (including a 2012 production of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach) and to support an endowment for new commissions and collaborations at Lincoln Center (Toshio Hosokawa’s Matsukaze in 2013 and John Adams’s oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary in 2012–13).

Though it is the trustees of the Foundation who have the final say in grants awarded, the creativity and scope of the projects emanate from within her jurisdiction.

Feder, who graduated from Princeton University and completed her graduate studies in music at the University of California, Berkeley, has written extensively on music. The onetime editorial coordinator of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music and program editor for the San Francisco Symphony, she serves as vice president of the Amphion Foundation, which backs American composers, and is on the boards of the Kurt Weill Foundation and Charles Ives Society. She is the dedicatee of John Corigliano’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Symphony No. 2, Augusta Read Thomas’s Helios Choros, and Joan Tower’s Dumbarton Oaks Quintet.

Anthony Fogg


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