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International Contemporary Ensemble Announces Commissions in “Call for ____” Program

June 22, 2021 | By Katy Salomon
Account Director, Morahan Arts and Media


PR Contact: 
Katy Salomon | Morahan Arts and Media | 863.660.2214

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces
Commissions in “Call for ____” Program 

New York, NY (June 22, 2021) — After a two-month review process, the International Contemporary Ensemble has selected eight artists for their Call for ____ Commission Program from a pool of over 400 submissions. Lesley Mok, Kevin Ramsay, Mazz Swift, and Chris Ryan Williams will work with the Ensemble in the 2021-2023 seasons. Sandra Kluge, Bonita Oliver, Cleo Reed, and Sylvain Souklaye will work with the Ensemble in the 2022-2024 seasons. Each artist will receive the support of Ensemble musicians, rehearsal time, video and audio documentation, marketing support, and a paid commission all alongside performances of their pieces created with the Ensemble. 

The International Contemporary Ensemble has had a long history of collaboration with artists as well as calls for proposals and scores. Throughout this past year, the Ensemble sought out new ways to make the process more inviting to welcome as many applicants as possible. After holding an open forum in October 2020 which was focused on how to make calls for works more inclusive and to reimagine the open call process, there was an overwhelming desire to humanize the process and hone in on collaborating with artists. The Ensemble took feedback from this forum to build a new submission form. 

"Our annual call for works became a broader invitation to collaborate with the Ensemble, open to creators from any discipline,” says Artistic Director Ross Karre. “We are thrilled to work with these eight artists over the next few years. Their work will help to expand the boundaries of our collective artistic practice. Their selection by the panel is a welcome byproduct of moving away from restricting identifiers such as composer, improviser, sound artist, performer, etc, understanding that many creative artists work across and in-between these markers. We focused more on asking about artists’ goals, their practice, and how they can expand their work with our organization.” 

"There were so many extraordinary submissions to the program this year,” says Executive Director Jennifer Kessler. “We hope to get to know more about all of the applicants. All of us at the International Contemporary Ensemble are excited to work with these eight incredible artists over the next two seasons.” 

Review panelists included Alice Teyssier, Nuiko Wadden, David Byrd-Marrow, and Darius Jones. Read more about the winners below. Two artists from each cohort are supported through a generous partnership with the Jerome Foundation.

2021-2023 Season Commissions

Lesley Mok – Drummer, Composer, and Improviser (she/her/hers)
Lesley Mok 
is a drummer, composer, and improviser based in Brooklyn, NY. Interested in the ways social conditions shape our beings, Lesley’s work focuses on transposing, augmenting, and overacting humanness to explore ideas about normalcy, alienness, and privilege. She explores this by writing in a way that subverts traditional instrumental roles, often utilizing extreme ranges and unconventional timbres, while creating a context that allows for simultaneously different musical perspectives. By maintaining an agile and improvisatory approach, Lesley creates fantastical and evocative sound worlds through the use of dissonance.

Collaborating with artists such as Jen Shyu, Cory Smythe, and Tomeka Reid, Lesley has honed a unique voice as a drummer and percussionist by employing a dynamic range of timbres and orchestrations. She is deeply inspired by the Cuban rumba tradition, often playing in sparse counterpoint to others in an ensemble and choosing to highlight choice moments in the music. Her ongoing explorations with composition and improvisation are most notably documented in her nine-piece improvising chamber ensemble, The Living Collection. 

Lesley's work has been recognized by many performing ensembles and organizations. She is the winner of the 2021 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Composer Award, the 2021 Van Lier Fellowship at the Asian American Arts Alliance, and a participant in JACK Studio 2021. 

Lesley values the opportunity to develop intimate musical connections with her peers both in the U.S. and abroad. As a member of the inaugural cohort of Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (M3) and an alumnus of the Banff Program for Jazz & Creative Music and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, she recognizes artists’ international codependency for a thriving creative environment and hopes to build understanding through mutual support. 

Lesley holds a B.A. and M.A. in Contemporary Performance from Berklee College of Music. Learn more at

Kevin Ramsay – Sound Engineer, Composer, Creator (he/him/his)
Kevin Ramsay 
is a composer, producer, recording/mixing/mastering/sound engineer, and musician on several critically acclaimed international albums. Brooklyn-born and based, Ramsay’s work focuses primarily on theoretical, practical aspects of sound recording/reproduction with unpredictable pairings of acoustic and electronic instruments. Kevin’s current works explore new ways to capture, mix, and process immersive audio for playback, on multichannel sound systems. In addition to serving as the Lead Sound Engineer at Harvestworks Digital Media Center, he continues to collaborate with a variety of international artists committed to using sound as their main creative medium. Kevin has worked with notable artist such as Michael Byron, Henry Threadgil, Art Jones, Joan Jonas, Pauline Kim-Harris and Conrad Harris (String Noise), Anne Tardos, Danilio Correale, Maria Grand, Prince Harvey, Emilio Vavarella, Malik Ameer Crumpler, Daniel Belquer, Jon-Carlos Evans, and many others. Learn more at

Mazz Swift – Violin, Vox, Freestyle Composition Artist (she/they)
Mazz Swift 
engages audiences worldwide with their signature weaving of improvisation and composition. They are a violinist, composer, conductor, and educator whose works include commissions by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the University of Delaware, the Canales Project, and the Blaffer Foundation. Mazz is a 2019 Jerome Hill Fellow and 2021 United States Artist Fellow, working on several projects, all of which are centered around protest songs, spirituals and the Ghanaian concept of ‘Sankofa’: looking back to learn how to move forward. Learn more at 

Chris Ryan Williams – Interdisciplinary Artist, Composer/Performer (he/him/his)
Chris Ryan Williams
 is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based between NYC and LA, often found collaborating with contemporary improvisers and experimentalists. His work explores the dyad of ancestral trauma and power existing in all Black Americans. These investigations have led to the creation of the modular piece I Ain’t Got No Spare (2019), which interweaves performance, homemade electronics, sound, and projection and was shown at Clockshop and Shatto Gallery through CultureHub’s Refest 2019. Highlights of other recent projects include mehahn (2018), a theatrical meditation on grief and hereditary dissonance created alongside director Natalia Lassalle-Morillo; Sans Soleil, a duo with Patrick Shiroishi on Astral Spirits (2021); On The Platform (2020), a collaboration with percussionist Booker Stardrum and animator Miranda Javid which premiered in the Netherlands at West Den Haag; and Of Yours (2021), a modular collage piece recontextualizing Black voices. Williams has received grants and/or been in residence with BANFF Centre for the Arts, Foundation of Contemporary Arts, CultureHub, Atlantic Center for the Arts, WasteLAnd, and others. Learn more at

2022-2024 Season Commissions

Sandra Kluge – Tap Percussionist, Improviser, Human Being (she/her/hers)
Sandra Kluge
 is a tap percussionist born in Germany, based in Brooklyn, and performing and teaching internationally. Her performance highlights include Thomas Marek's show NOLA, the Tap Dance Days festival, Swiss Tap Days, Düsseldorf Photo Weekend, Symphony Space, LaGuardia PAC, Judson Church, The Duke on 42nd St, Basilica Hudson, and many more. Sandra has been invited to teach at renowned facilities such as tanzhaus nrw, tap club, and Soundspace Philadelphia, and to be a teaching artist in residence at Thomas Marek's Studio Footprints. She is an alumna of the Art Omi Music Fellowship Program. Sandra was first introduced to tap at the age of 10 by her mother. In the following years, she studied with renowned teachers such as Barbara Duffy, Sebastian Weber, Pia Neises, Derick Grant, Heather Cornell, and many more. She graduated magna cum laude from Daniel Luka's tap apprenticeship S.O.N.T.I. Learn more at

Bonita Oliver – Multidisciplinary Artist, Improvisor (she/her/hers)
Bonita Oliver 
utilizes multiple mediums as a performance artist and improviser. Her work is about transitions – the process of moving through. Bonita creates deeply emotional, body-in-space, concept art through voice, music, environmental soundscapes, and movement with a motivation to heal personal and ancestral trauma and make way for discovery and connection. Her mission is to engage the community through ritual, co-creation, education, and activism. Bonita’s process is in the moment and responds to stimuli – be it internal or external – through embodiment and interaction. Her live works exhibit this process in real time. Bonita (who also performs under the name French Leave) is originally from Springfield, Massachusetts. She is an actress, playwright, multi award winning filmmaker, member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG/AFTRA), New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), Women of Color Unite (WOCU), and a 2021 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council/Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation (LMCC/UMEZ) grants recipient for Seeking Truth - a virtual interactive experience examining the real and imagined voices of Sojourner Truth. Learn more at 

Cleo Reed – Music Producer, Interdisciplinary Artist (she/they)
Born and raised in NYC and Uptown DC, Cleo Reed is a student of black underground sound and intention. Cleo reaches deeply into their own lineage and uses it as a reference for their work in both music and multimedia art. They produce and design soundscapes, compositional and popular music works, in addition to mixing, mastering, and editing their own music and visuals. Recently, Cleo sharpened their electrical engineering skills by building their own 10-inch studio monitors and programming a video art plug-in. To cradle these crafts, they look at their histories, completing courses and personal research studies centered around DSP, Electroacoustics, and guitar pedal design. At 19, they named themselves after Cleophus, their great-great grandmother and a fellow Aquarius. They possess a deep commitment to women and non-binary people within the communities they inhabit. Whether underground or academic, experimental or popular, they express musicianship guided by my radiance, femininity and cyclical traumas. As a result, they have attracted and had the privilege of leaning on a myriad of talented women who possess niche instruments and fields of creativity.  — Ella Moore or “Cleo” for Short. Learn more at

Sylvain Souklaye – Multimodal Artist (he/him/his)
Sylvain Souklaye 
is a New York based multi-modal French artist obsessed with sampling intimacies about people who don't belong to a determinate identity, gender, class, color, or nationality. Self-taught, he began performing with vandalism in Lyon, and then with intimate happenings, radio experimentation and action poetry. He later developed digital art installations using field recording techniques as a narrative layer while pursuing his writer’s path. Among his best known pieces are la blackline, a 5-year durational radio performance about socio-economic survival and urban absurdity; le déserteur, a digital art installation dwelling on the notion of abandonment; TME, a docudrama performance exploring self-inflicted amnesia and resilience; and MIGRANT MARKET, a remake of the slave market updated for the uber economy. Sylvain Souklaye’s methods characteristically involve intense physical acts as well as the use of unsettling intimacy. Learn more at 

About the International Contemporary Ensemble
The International Contemporary Ensemble is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. The Ensemble’s 36 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored the Ensemble’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the International Contemporary Ensemble was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The International Contemporary Ensemble was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, offers free concerts and interactive, educational programming wherever the Ensemble performs. The International Contemporary Ensemble advances music technology and digital communications as an empowering tool for artists from all backgrounds. Curricular activities include a residency and coursework at the New School College of Performing Arts, along with a summer intensive program, called Ensemble Evolution, where topics of equity, diversity, and inclusion build new bridges and pathways for the future of creative sound practices. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for the Ensemble. Read more at and watch over 350 videos of live performances and documentaries at  

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*Photo Credits (Top L-R): Lesley Mok by Gaya Feldheim Schorr, Kevin Ramsay by Asukaya Bailey, Mazz Swift by nisha sondhe photography, and Chris Ryan Williams by Katherine Pekala. (Bottom L-R): Sandra Kluge by Alexey Konkov, Bonita Oliver by Anya Roz, Cleo Reed by Cressida Fletcher, and Sylvain Souklaye by Marcin Sz.



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