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Press Releases

National Sawdust Doubles Down on Core Traits in Light Of L Train Movements: Small, Flexible, Vibrant, and Moving Forward

January 16, 2019 | By David Clarke
Publicity Manager, National Sawdust

The spring 2019 season keeps nexus between Brooklyn and the world vibrant in and outside of the venue walls during L Train construction

BROOKLYN, NY (January 14, 2019) National Sawdust, the music incubator and venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, continues its fourth season, HEAR IT NEW!, this spring. The organization expands its commitment to the local and national arts scenes through presentations by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, and expands its mission beyond its physical walls through a new series.

Spring highlights include violinist-singer Petra Haden performing the music of John Zorn, a Grammy-nominated collaboration between Mexican jazz vocalist Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider, a new cabaret series with Bistro Award winner Jean Brassard featuring Tony nominee Karen Akers and other Broadway stars, events curated by the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) featuring Davóne Tines and music by Matthew Aucoin, and a vocal performance by MacArthur Fellow Dawn Upshaw and her Bard College protégées. Demonstrating its deep commitment to local and emerging artists, National Sawdust also showcases National Sawdust Artists-in-Residence Innov Gnawa, L’Rain, and J Hoard, while also expanding its reach with a new WNET television series featuring pianist Simone Dinnerstein (presented by Patrick Zimmerli) and with the Chris Grymes Open G Series, which pairs podcast episodes with live performances. In their longstanding pattern of commitment to equity in the arts, National Sawdust Projects presents cellist Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 2.0, which features new commissions from six composers that highlight issues surrounding gender, and a concert celebrating the release of composer Gemma Peacocke’s latest album, Waves & Lines.

“This Spring sees National Sawdust connecting with partners around the globe, with WNET bringing in-house productions to larger audiences and National Sawdust Projects touring to locations from Rotterdam to Los Angeles, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Washington, DC, at the Kennedy Center,” says Paola Prestini, composer and Co-Founder and Artistic Director of National Sawdust. “It's been a dream for National Sawdust, since its inception, to serve as a bridge not only between emerging and professional life but also between styles and cultures. Having the opportunity to share our music and ideology with the community at large paves the path for us to become a true home for an international musical community, cementing our hope to be an (inter) National Sawdust hub.”



“An invaluable part of the New York music scene” (New York Times), National Sawdust brings world-class artists from across the musical spectrum to Brooklyn this spring.

New Zealand–born composer and co-founder of the composer collective Kinds of Kings Gemma Peacocke celebrates the release of Waves & Lines on New Amsterdam Records at National Sawdust on International Women's Day. Peacocke adapted Waves & Lines from Eliza Griswold’s acclaimed collection of landays — female Afghan folk poems passed down in secret as a sung oral tradition — translated into English, I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from contemporary Afghanistan. The poems are single rhyming couplets that range in topics from love and sex to war and grief, and they often have a sting in the ending. As a fifty-minute multimedia song cycle for soprano, electronics, and chamber ensemble, Waves & Lines explores the distance, anonymity, and strange intimacy of phone calls, text messages, and radio broadcasts in which the poems are shared. The concert includes singer Eliza Bagg and projections by Anchuli Felicia King (March 8).

Songs for Petra combines music by iconoclastic composer John Zorn with lyrics by Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris, performed by some of the most recognized exponents of contemporary jazz: Petra Haden on vocals and violin, Julian Lage on guitar, Jorge Roeder on upright bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums, and Harris himself on guitar and vocals. A former member of the alt-rock quartet That Dog, Haden has collaborated with artists ranging from Bill Frisell to the Foo Fighters, the Decemberists, and Susannah Hoffs (March 9).

Mexican jazz vocalist and former National Sawdust curator Magos Herrera shares the stage with game-changing string quartet Brooklyn Rider. As on their recent Grammy-nominated collaborative album Dreamers, the program explores the suffering inflicted by brutal state violence through songs from the Ibero-American songbook and works by Octavio Paz, Rubén Darío, Federico García Lorca, and others. Like Dreamers, the concert serves as a reminder that even terrible situations can inspire great beauty (March 14).

Actor and singer-songwriter Jean Brassard inaugurates a new theatrical cabaret series with an homage to Paris, the birthplace of cabaret. He will be joined by Broadway and cabaret stars Karen Akers, Steve Ross, and Kathleen Landis for an evening of francophile music (March 24).

Cellist Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 2.0: in this skin is a 2018–19 National Sawdust Project-in-Residence. This new series of commissions for cello solo focuses on the first-person perspectives of women, highlighting issues of sex positivity, trans rights, pleasure and pain, gender nonconformity, fashion and dignity, hysteria, BDSM, and more. Several of these pieces will push the boundaries of traditional cello writing, incorporating toys, staging effects, and even Gookin’s voice (March 20).

The American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) curates two thought-provoking events. First, scholar Lucy Caplan partners with AMOC to lead Listening to Tom-Tom, a discussion of the 1932 opera by African American composer, writer, musicologist, and activist Shirley Graham Du Bois. Bass-baritone Davóne Tines will offer an introduction of excerpts from Tom-Tom, and Caplan and her fellow panelists will discuss the opera’s complex representations of race, gender, and history, subsequently considering the challenges presented when mounting Tom-Tom today (April 4). AMOC also presents a program of chamber music by Eric Wubbels, Celeste Oram, and AMOC co-founder and co-artistic director Matthew Aucoin, the recent recipient of a 2018 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship (April 10).

Dawn Upshaw, Grammy Award–winning soprano and the artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard Conservatory, joins forces with singers from the program, along with its associate director, pianist Kayo Iwama. In two concerts featuring new and recently composed works for voice and instruments, all New York City premiers, they highlight the dynamically creative relationship between performer and composer (April 14).



As well as bringing the world to Brooklyn, National Sawdust provides a stage for local artists to develop their voices, tell their stories, and find new audiences.

National Sawdust Artists-in-Residence Innov Gnawa perform a lila, a sacred musical ceremony from Morocco. Marking the first time the Grammy-nominated Brooklyn group will have offered this immersive cultural experience in a state-of-the-art music venue, the performance will give a rare glimpse into a rich and ancient musical tradition (March 2).

National Sawdust gives its Artists-in-Residence an opportunity to incubate new work. Acclaimed composer and multi-instrumentalist L’Rain presents one such concert, in which she presents a performance work featuring new  music and collaborations (April 5).

National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence J Hoard, a Brooklyn-based songwriter who has collaborated with artists ranging from Meshell Ndegeocello to Chance The Rapper, performs three concerts, each celebrating the release of a new EP and including the ever-evolving Make America Great Again segment, in which he highlights oppressed groups in present-day America (Jan 18; April 12; July 19).

The Revolution, curated by Katie Jones, celebrates its third anniversary. The series showcases three emerging acts from Harlem and Brooklyn each month. This special celebratory edition will bring back five of the most beloved acts from the past two years to perform in an extended showcase (March 30).



Embracing both innovative and established technology to expand its reach, National Sawdust helps artists connect with audiences on a national and international level.

In partnership with New York–based PBS affiliate station WNET, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and record producer Patrick Zimmerli launches Now and Then, a new television series that juxtaposes music of our time with the groundbreaking works from previous eras that inspired it. The series will air as a new WNET original series and stream on the WNET website after the performance. The first show will feature pianist Simone Dinnerstein (Feb 24) and will frame how Franz Schubert influenced Philip Glass through comparisons of piano etudes from both composers. Zimmerli and Dinnerstein will also discuss the similarities and differences as part of the performance.

Composer and new-music authority Chris Grymes brings the Chris Grymes Open G Series, his podcast and performance series, to National Sawdust. For the series’s first live event, he presents Spanish composer Jesús González (March 3). The accompanying podcast episode will feature an interview with González interspersed with excerpts from the performance. Grymes also presents New York newcomer Jeremy Gill's recent music for voices and instruments, drawing inspiration from music from the 15th century through modern film (April 7).

This spring, National Sawdust Projects will tour works to the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for the DIRECT CURRENT festival. The touring productions include: Forward Music Project by cellist Amanda Gookin, Yuka C Honda's Revert to Sea, screenings of Murat Eyuboglu’s film The Colorado, and Miyamoto is Black Enough featuring Andy Akiho (steel pan, compositions), Roger Bonair-Agard (spoken word, text), Sean Dixon (drums), and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello).



The following is a list of highlight events for the season. For the most up-to-date event listings and times, please visit


Jan 18 at 8pm

J Hoard
J Hoard shares the stage with Dan Berg and a full band of acoustic instruments, spinning out R&B and acoustic soul over foot-tapping bossa rhythms. Opening set by Aya Jack.

Jan 24 at 7:30pm
NationalSawdust presents Paul Muldoon’s Against the Grain | Jorie Graham, Colm Toibin, and Laurie Anderson
Paul Muldoon’s new literary-music series continues with appearances by award-winning writers Jorie Graham and Colm Toibin and a performance by Laurie Anderson. Presented in association with the London Review of Books, Against the Grain is dedicated to making art that reflects the contradictions and complexity of our time. (The series continues on May 23.)


Feb 10 at 4pm
Freedom and Faith | PUBLIQuartet
Dedicated to commissioning and presenting works by composers outside the standard classical canon, PUBLIQuartet uses this program to celebrate the music of extraordinary women.

Feb 24 at 7pm
Now and Then | Patrick Zimmerli with Simone Dinnerstein
Acclaimed saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli juxtaposes music of our time with the groundbreaking works from previous eras that inspired it, illuminating the common ground between past and present and showcasing the ways in which the music of today has its roots in a rich and ongoing tradition. The first concert in this series features chart-topping pianist Simone Dinnerstein playing works by Franz Schubert and Philip Glass.


March 2 at 7:30pm
Innov Gnawa
Grammy-nominated ensemble Innov Gnawa brings traditional Moroccan gnawa music to the heart of New York City with a raw, hypnotic journey led by established gnawa master Hassan Ben Jaafer. Immerse yourself in this unique sound, played on instruments found nowhere else on Earth.

March 3 at 7pm
Chris Grymes Open G Series | Jesús González
Adventurous clarinettist and new music aficionado Chris Grymes brings his podcast and performance series Open G to National Sawdust. This series is focused on modern classical music, showcasing new composers and performers with unique backgrounds and voices. Jesús González is a Galician (Spanish) composer with a fiercely modern classical voice. Hailing from Vigo, González writes instrumental music of great intensity and color, inspired by architecture, nature, and visual art.

March 8 at 7pm
Waves & Lines | Gemma Peacocke
Waves & Lines is adapted from a collection of Afghan landays — female Afghan folk poems — translated into English language poetry. The poems are single rhyming couplets touching on love, sex, war, and grief, and they often have a sting in the ending. Peacocke’s fifty-minute song cycle explores distance, anonymity, and strange new forms of intimacy.

March 9 at 7pm
Songs for Petra
Music by John Zorn with lyrics by Jesse Harris, performed by Petra Haden, Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder, Kenny Wollesen, and Harris himself.

March 14 at 7pm
Magos Herrera with Brooklyn Rider
Celebrating the power of beauty as a political act, Magos Herrera teams up with Brooklyn Rider to explore the artistry of poets and dissidents who dared to dream under repressive regimes. Delving deep into work imbued with a love of humanity, a belief in possibility, and a demand for justice, Herrera and Brooklyn Rider deploy their extraordinary technique in the service of wonder, lifting audiences into the orbits of these extraordinary songs.

March 20 at 7pm
Forward Music Project 2.0: in this skin
A 2018–19 National Sawdust Project-in-Residence, cellist Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 2.0: in this skin focuses on the first-person perspectives of women. Gookin has commissioned six composers to write new works for solo cello highlighting issues of sex positivity, trans rights, pleasure and pain, gender nonconformity, fashion and dignity, hysteria, BDSM, and more. Several of these pieces push the boundaries of traditional cello writing, incorporating toys, staging effects, and even Gookin’s voice.

March 24 at 6pm
Jean Brassad’s Cabaret
In the first edition of Jean Brassard’s new theatrical cabaret series, he pays homage to Paris, with Broadway stars Karen Ackers, Steve Ross, and Kathleen Landis.

March 30 at 9pm
The Revolution, Vol. 37
The Revolution is a performance series highlighting Brooklyn- and Harlem-based artists and musicians that not only represent the core of independent pop culture but also stand in the breeding ground of evolution within their genre. This special third-anniversary edition will feature performances from six of the series’s most beloved artists.

March 31 at 7pm
NationalSawdust presents Joyce DiDonato and Sasha Cohen
Met Opera star Joyce DiDonato and Olympic skater Sasha Cohen discuss how to thrive in the challenging worlds of sports and the performing arts.


April 4 at 7pm
American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) Presents Listening to Tom-Tom
Scholar Lucy Caplan leads a discussion of Shirley Graham Du Bois’s opera Tom-Tom following an introduction of excerpts by AMOC’s bass-baritone Davóne Tines.

April 5 at 8pm
National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence L’Rain presents a new performance piece featuring new music and collaborations.

April 6 at 7pm
Chris Grymes Open G Series | Porte Mande
Porte Mande is a duo of clarinetist Mark Dover and pianist/keyboardist Jeremy Jordan. Dover and Jordan are players of incredible skill with a breadth of styles, from modern classical to jazz and all things in between, and Open G Records is proud to present them at National Sawdust.

April 7 at 7pm
Chris Grymes Open G Series | Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill is a composer and pianist with a modern voice and a classical sensibility. Gill’s music is achingly beautiful, and will be performed by many of the players and voices for which these works were written, including Philadelphia's Variant 6 and New York's Duo Prism (Jesse Mills and Rieko Aizawa).

April 10 at 8pm
AMOC in Concert
AMOC presents a program of chamber music by Matthew Aucoin, Celeste Oram, and Eric Wubbels.

April 12 at 8pm
J Hoard
J Hoard shares the stage with electronic artist Shaun Benjamin, aka Kid Singapore, with opening sets by Jill Peacock and Kamilah.

April 14 at 4pm and 7pm
FIRST SONGS: Dawn Upshaw with the Bard College Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program
Soprano Dawn Upshaw, artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory, joins forces with the singers of the program and its associate director, Kayo Iwama, in two programs of new and recently composed works for voice and instruments, all New York City premieres.

April 22 at 7pm
PUBLIQ Access 4.0: Our Environment
Dedicated to commissioning works by composers from beyond the classical canon, PUBLIQuartet premieres three new works written in response to environmental issues.


May 17 at 8 pm
Simon Scott (Slowdive) Balún
Transnational Brooklyn electronic indie band Balún is legendary for their decade-long odyssey of transformational genre-reinvention. Originally breaking out of San Juan’s DIY hardcore punk scene, the group has absorbed styles as far-ranging as contemporary classical, Puerto Rican folk, and IDM to craft a musical language that has led NPR to praise the band as “masterful rhythm manipulators” with “ethereal and beguiling vocals.” After a set by composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound ecologist Simon Scott, Balún will play an evening of captivating songs from their latest album in this unforgettable evening of stylistic transcendence.

May 23 at 8pm
NationalSawdust presents Paul Muldoon’s Against the Grain | Min Jin Lee and Tracy K Smith
The third installment of Paul Muldoon’s new literary-music series features award-winning writers Min Jin Lee and Tracy K Smith, plus musicians to be announced.

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About National Sawdust

National Sawdust’s mission is to build new audiences for classical and new music by providing outstanding resources and programmatic support to both emerging and established artists and composers. Centered on discovery within music, its programming introduces audiences to new artists and styles, and introduces artists to new audiences. An incubator of new music, National Sawdust also provide artists the space, time, and resources they need to create their art.

National Sawdust is both a state-of-the-art performance venue and a recording studio housed within a preserved century-old sawdust factory. The building — which has won multiple architecture awards — also houses Rider, a two-story bistro and bar led by James Beard Award–winning chef Patrick Connolly. Rider completes the audience experience by offering an exceptional menu of food and drink during performances.


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