Paola Prestini

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Paola Prestini is “the imaginative composer” (The New York Times), “Visionary-In-Chief” (Time Out NY), and Co-founder/Artistic Director behind the Brooklyn venue and music incubator National Sawdust. She was recently named an “Innovator” on the list of Top 30 Professionals of the Year by Musical America, the country’s oldest classical music magazine; she is on Brooklyn Magazine’s latest list of “influencers of Brooklyn culture…in perpetuity” alongside such household names as Chuck Schumer and Spike Lee; she is one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post); and on the “Top 100 Composers in the World” list by NPR. Prestini’s music and works have been commissioned by and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Barbican Centre, The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Opera, The New York Philharmonic, Roomful of Teeth, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and the Young People’s Chorus, among others. Since 1999 when she co-founded the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt while at the Juilliard School, (now relaunched as National Sawdust Projects), she has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, conservationists and astrophysicists in large-scale multimedia works (often in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects). Large scale works in development include works for The Kennedy Center, Minnesota Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Banff’s Opera in the 21st Century. She frequently collaborates with Beth Morrison Projects, and with artists and scientists such as Mark Campbell, Julian Crouch, Helga Davis, William de Buys, Nathan Gunn, Rinde Eckert, Murat Eyuboglu, Mario Livio, Eliza McNitt, Jessica Rivera, Brenda Shaughnessy, Tanya Tagaq, Royce Vavrek, Julian Wachner, Robert Wilson, and Jeffrey Zeigler.

To Tell A Story for cello and electronics

When Amanda asked me to create this work for her, it was right around the time of the Kavanaugh hearings. Like most people, I was unable to focus and began thinking about the value of truth, and how Blasey Ford's truth had been manipulated violently into fiction. I began to think about whose voice, steadying and calm, could guide me through the difference between story and fiction, and quite naturally, fell upon an interview with Susan Sontag from 1983 where the interviewer had asked her about the power of storytelling.

While listening to the conversation I found his voice grating-- often interrupting the flow of her thoughts; I then realized that I only wanted to hear her side. So I began to structure the interview as an outline to the work, cutting apart the sound file and sampling excerpts of the interview. I worked with sound artist Sxip Shirey to create a compositional soundscape to reflect this, and through manipulations, repeats, stutters and an eventual breakthrough, Sontag guides us through how To Tell A Story.

The woman's voice instigates points of departure, her breaths resulting from cutting out all the speaking during the talk and just leaving her remaining breaths, while the cello tells the story in the abstract way that society has continued to require of women. The cellists lines includes a simple opening motif that gets interpolated through virtuosic passages, broken chords, and microtonal treatment, often in a soloistic approach or in consort with the electronics.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh

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Described as "stark" by WNPR, Iranian composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh's music has been commissioned and performed by Symphony Number One, Spark and Echo Project, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, Pianist Erika Dohi for Metropolis Ensemble Piano Series, Calidore and Cassatt String Quartets, and Invoke Quartet at numerous festivals, Atlantic Music Festival, Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music, SPLICE institute, New Music for Strings, MusLab electroacoustic festival in Mexico, University of Tennessee Contemporary Festival and more. Nilou is founder of Iranian Female Composers Association and a strong advocate of music education. She has worked as the site coordinator of Brooklyn Middle School Jazz Academy sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. She is currently a Teaching Artist for NY Philharmonic Very Young Composers program. This summer, she will be working with Akropolis Reed Quintet for a new piece as part of I-Park Foundation Artist in Residence.  

 Nilou is a Global Citizen Scholarship recipient of Goucher College as well as a Mahoney and Caplan Scholar from University of Oxford. Among her teachers are Lisa Weiss, Laura Kaminsky, Daniel Weymouth and Daria Semegen. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate degree in music composition at Stony Brook University under the supervision of Sheila Silver.

Shelley Washington


Shelley Washington (b. 1991) writes music to fulfill one calling- to move. With an eclectic palette, Washington tells stories focusing on exploring emotions and intentions by finding their root cause. Using driving, rhythmic riffs paired with indelible melodies, she creates a sound dialogue for the public and personal discourse. Shelley performs regularly as a vocalist and saxophonist, primarily on baritone saxophone, and has performed and recorded throughout the Midwest and East Coast- anything from Baroque to Screamo. She holds degrees from Truman State University; a BA in Music focusing on saxophone, and a Masters of Arts in Education. She also holds a Masters of Theory and Composition from NYU Steinhardt, where she studied with Dr. Joseph Church, Dr. Julia Wolfe, and Caroline Shaw. As an educator, she currently is Artistic Director for the Noel Pointer Foundation, located in Brooklyn, NY. In Fall of 2018 she will begin attending Princeton University in pursuit of the PhD of Music Composition. Shelley is a founding member of the composer collective, Kinds of Kings. 

Alex Temple

A sound can evoke a time, a place, a cultural moment, or a worldview.  Alex Temple (b. 1983) writes music that distorts and combines iconic sounds to create new meanings, often in service of surreal, cryptic, or fantastical stories.  She’s particularly interested in reclaiming socially disapproved-of (“cheesy”) sounds, playing with the boundary between funny and frightening, and investigating lost memories and secret histories.

In addition to performing her own works for voice and electronics, she has collaborated with performers and ensembles such as Mellissa Hughes, Timothy Andres, the American Composers Orchestre, Fifth House Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, and Spektral Quartet.  She has also played keyboards with the chamber-rock group The Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles, and made sounds using her voice, synthesizers and various household objects with a·pe·ri·od·ic.

Alex got her BA from Yale University in 2005, and her MA from the University of Michigan in 2007.  After leaving Ann Arbor, she spent two years in New York working for the New York Youth Symphony’s Making Score program for young composers.  She recently completed a DMA at Northwestern University, and is now working on a time-travel neo-noir monodrama.

Kamala Sankaram

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Praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times), and a “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times), Kamala Sankaram has received commissions from Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, the PROTOTYPE Festival, Opera on Tap, Opera Memphis, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, among others. She is the recipient of a Jonathan Larson Award from the American Theater Wing, and has received grants from Opera America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kevin Spacey Foundation, and the MAP Fund. Residencies and fellowships include the MacDowell Colony, the Watermill Center, the Civilians, HERE Arts Center, CAP21, Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis, the Hermitage, and American Lyric Theater. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created MIRANDA, which was the winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. THUMBPRINT, her second opera (written in collaboration with librettist Susan Yankowitz), premiered in the 2014 PROTOTYPE Festival, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition,  Agence French Presse, and over 25 media outlets around the world. THUMBPRINT has since received productions at LA Opera and Opera Ithaca. She is currently working with Opera on Tap and librettist Jerre Dye on THE PARKSVILLE MURDERS, the first opera written for virtual reality. Episode 1 is now available on SamsungVR.

As a performer, Kamala Sankaram has been hailed as “an impassioned soprano with blazing high notes” (Wall Street Journal). She has performed and premiered pieces with Beth Morrison Projects, Anthony Braxton, and the Wooster Group, among others, and is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble whose debut was named Best Eclectic Album by the Independent Music Awards Vox Pop. Bombay Rickey’s opera-cabaret on the life of Yma Sumac premiered in the 2016 PROTOTYPE Festival and was most recently presented in London at Tête-à-Tête Opera’s Cubitt Sessions. Bombay Rickey has been selected for the 2017/18 season’s Mid-Atlantic Arts touring roster, and will release their sophomore album in the spring of 2018.

Dr. Sankaram holds a PhD from the New School and is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase.