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Alexis C. Lamb Selected to Create New Work for Curtis Institute of Music’s Ensemble 20/21

Composer’s proposal involves collaboration with projection designer Camilla Tassi

PHILADELPHIA—July 29, 2020—The Curtis Institute of Music and the Purple Project for Democracy announce that composer Alexis C. Lamb has been selected to create a new work for Ensemble 20/21, Curtis’s contemporary music ensemble, following an international competition. Ms. Lamb will receive a cash prize of $10,000 USD, and Ensemble 20/21 will perform and record the work.

Selected from over 100 applicants, Ms. Lamb intends to work closely with projection designer Camilla Tassi. The new piece will be scored for a small instrumental ensemble with a vocalist. It will utilize texts from past Supreme Court hearings, as well as source images and animations of those elements representing the accomplishments of individuals who have taken an active role in shaping democracy in the United States, with a primary focus on voting campaigns and peaceful protests. “We want the images to not only demonstrate the result of engaging with democracy, but to show that engagement can lead to building a stronger and more unified community, a current need within our country,” Ms. Lamb notes. This project is her second collaboration with Ms. Tassi.

Curtis and the Purple Project announced their call for proposals, which required the involvement of a collaborative artistic partner, in April 2020, aiming to explore how art can increase engagement with democracy. “We believe the impact of primary sources of text and images accompanied with vivid music will lead to greater engagement with democracy on a local, regional, state, and national level. We hope to increase the audience’s understanding of the power of our democracy and educate all about our democratic principles and processes,” says Ms. Lamb of her planned composition.

The winning proposal was selected by a panel of judges including Amy Beth Kirsten, award-winning composer and visiting faculty member at Curtis; Jennifer Koh (Violin ’02), soloist and active commissioning artist; Daniel Ott (Composition ’97), member of the composition faculty at the Juilliard School and Fordham University; and Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboist with the international touring ensemble Imani Winds.

“Alexis’s project proposal really resonated with the Purple Project for Democracy’s mission. That, plus the extraordinary quality of her music, resulted in her selection as winner,” says David Serkin Ludwig, director of Ensemble 20/21. “I am very excited for us to premiere her new piece with Camilla, and plans are already underway to look for partners for further performance opportunities.”

“On behalf of the Purple Project for Democracy, I would like to thank over 100 composers and their collaborators for submitting their entries to this competition,” says Purple Project organizer and Wharton School professor Yoram “Jerry” Wind. “At a time when our democracy is fundamentally challenged, it is encouraging that so many composers devoted their creativity to outlining plans for a composition that enhances our democratic values.”

Ensemble 20/21—a multi-instrumental ensemble of Curtis students, faculty, and alumni, which explores social issues through works from the 20th and 21st centuries in much of its programming—will record and perform Ms. Lamb’s composition for audiences in Philadelphia at a date to be determined.

Alexis C. Lamb
is a composer, percussionist, and educator who is interested in fostering communities of mindful and genuine music-making, particularly through the medium of storytelling. She is the education and publications director for Arcomusical, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the artistic advancement of the Afro-Brazilian berimbau and related musical bows. Ms. Lamb was a recipient of the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award for Meia, a song cycle for berimbau. Her compositions for berimbau can be found on Innova Recordings and National Sawdust Tracks.

As a composer, Ms. Lamb has received multiple commissions and has collaborated with various individuals and ensembles, including Evan Chapman, Percussia, Zeitgeist, the University of Nebraska Percussion Ensemble, the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra, and the Northern Illinois University World Steelband. Her music has been performed in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa.

As a percussionist, she is a core member of Projeto Arcomusical, the berimbau ensemble associated with Arcomusical. Ms. Lamb is currently working on a solo project that incorporates spoken word poetry with percussion and electronics; the first of the project’s premieres occurred in June 2020.

As an educator, Ms. Lamb has served as a teaching fellow and teaching assistant at Yale University and as a band director for Meridian CUSD 223 in Stillman Valley, Ill., where she received awards including Recognition of Service and Teacher of the Week. She has been a percussion instructor for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and created a week-long percussion camp at Northern Illinois University (NIU) that is now led by faculty through the NIU percussion and steel pan studios.

Ms. Lamb earned a Master of Music degree in composition at the Yale School of Music. She graduated summa cum laude with Bachelor of Music degrees in music education and percussion performance from Northern Illinois University. Her major teachers include Hannah Lash, Martin Bresnick, Gregory Beyer, Michael Mixtacki, Robert Chappell, and David Maki.

Flexible in size and scope, Ensemble 20/21 performs a wide range of music from the 20th and 21st centuries, including works by Curtis students and alumni. The ensemble has appeared at major U.S. venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Miller Theatre, as well as international venues, including the Intimacy of Creativity festival in Hong Kong. The ensemble has presented concert portraits of iconic composers in residence Unsuk Chin, John Corigliano, George Crumb, Krzysztof Penderecki, Augusta Read Thomas, and Chen Yi, among many others. Of the ensemble’s Joan Tower portrait program, the New York Times wrote, “Ms. Tower could hardly have hoped for more passionate performances.”

The Purple Project for Democracy is a non-partisan coalition, campaign, and movement that spans the breadth of American society to rediscover and recommit to democratic values and institutions. Purple seeks to enhance people’s understanding and appreciation of, and engagement with, democracy and democratic values, and will be the leading edge of a movement to promote and reward citizen engagement in communities at every level. Learn more at WeThePurple.org.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. To ensure that admissions are based solely on artistic promise, Curtis makes an investment in each admitted student so that no tuition is charged for their studies. Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings each year in Philadelphia and around the world. 


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