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Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Milica Paranosic

December 6, 2022 | By Emery Kerkes

Founder and President
Paracademia Center

When composer, performance artist, and educator Milica Paranosic founded Paracademia, the New York-based arts mentorship organization she’s run since 2013, she had two primary goals. First, she wanted to help immigrant women artists break down the barriers that she faced as a newcomer to New York’s daunting new music scene. Paranosic immigrated from Serbia in 1994 to pursue a master’s degree in composition at Juilliard. “The biggest mistake I made when moving to the States was trying to ‘correct’ who I was and forget my cultural heritage,” she says. “It kept me from growing. Now I teach: ‘Be you, even if you’re different.’”

Her second mission: encouraging people to recapture the child within. Paranosic says she discovered her penchant for interdisciplinary performance as a child in Belgrade, but she didn’t have a chance to explore it until she had been in New York for nearly two decades. “As children, we all create art,” she writes in Paracademia’s mission statement. “Then somehow, life teaches us to become ‘serious,' get a ‘real’ profession, and stop ‘playing around;' in other words, to break the links to our inner artists.”

Paracademia strives to reawaken and nourish those links, emanating from Paranosic’s own hunger for innovation: “I put intuitive, fluid, inventive, creative, courageous nature above all other principles in my creations.” Of Paracademia’s myriad cross-genre projects, Paranosic is most proud of Give to Grow, which raised funds to purchase computers and other electronic-sound media for use at a primary school in the small Ghanian village of Kopeyia. Closer to home, she’s overseen several summers of Make Music Harlem, a free block party where children share the stage with professional musicians. She’s also furnished several installations of Secret City, a fantastical mini society of dynamic physical and sound art made entirely of upcycled waste and used electronics.

In their newest projects, Paranosic and Paracademia explore societal implications of past stories. Paracademia is incubating Paranosic’s new feminist telling of Homer’s Odyssey, an operatic “manifesto” (in her words) entitled Penelope and the Geese, which recontextualizes the epic through the lens of Penelope; the piece was a 2020 Discovery Grant recipient from Opera America’s Grants for Female Composers and received its first staging workshop in 2022. Paranosic is also writing a work that examines how female undergarments have shaped modern fashion, sociology, and feminism. And, of course, she continues to provide invaluable mentorship through Paracademia; according to her students, her positive, nurturing energy enables anyone to thrive.

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