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Special Reports

MA 30 The Innovators: Ed Harsh

December 6, 2016 | By Bruce Hodges

President and CEO, New Music USA

Merging two long-standing organizations devoted to new music and its proponents is not for the faint of heart, but that is exactly what Ed Harsh has managed to accomplish. Starting at Meet the Composer (founded 1974) as VP in 2005 and working his way up to president by 2011, he noted MTC’s similarity in mission and mindset with the American Music Center (founded 1939). His vision to combine them finally came to fruition in 2011, with the announcement of a new organization, New Music USA.

The hybrid preserves and expands upon the best qualities of its progenitors, while striking out in bold new directions. An enormous and diverse catalog of new music is available around the clock on the organization’s website, via Counterstream Radio, and the New Music USA Online Library, which contains over 57,000 works by over 6,000 composers. NewMusicBox, the organization’s online publication, features articles by a wide range of people on subjects relevant to today’s composers, performers, and listeners.

In addition, New Music USA advances the cause of new music with its granting programs, which to date have distributed over $1.8 million to some 300 individuals and organizations. Grantees’ progress is documented online, providing an overview of creative happenings around the country. A recent sample reflects the programs’ diversity and imagination: Thingamajigs, for ten commissions of ten composers, part of a year-long festival honoring composer Lou Harrison’s centennial; the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, for the Dot Air Experimental Music Festival, “growing out of the psychographic remains of the American Industrial Revolution”; and Alejandro Rutty, for a song cycle based on audio interviews with Latina immigrants, performed by the Lorena Guillén Tango Ensemble.

Most recently, Harsh and his staff implemented the New York City New Music Impact Fund, which distributes general operating and residency grants to smaller ensembles, venues, and presenters (many of which are artist-led), with the goal of creating a home base, marketing their work creatively, and helping locate rehearsal and performance space.

A born collaborator, Harsh is typically modest about being cited for his accomplishments, preferring to credit “my awesome New Music USA colleagues.”


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