United Sound’s ‘Composer Project’ Eliminates Barriers Schools Face in Performing Works by Composers from Minoritized Communities

SBO Staff • News • December 8, 2022

United Sound, a not-for-profit organization that provides students with disabilities equal access to the musical performing arts, has launched a bold, new initiative designed to break down barriers school music programs face in performing works by composers from minoritized communities.

The Composer Project actively assists emerging composers of classical and jazz music and related genres who are not represented equitably in published and performed literature. To accomplish this, United Sound has assembled a team of mentors who will provide these aspiring individuals with free masterclasses and recording partners who will work with them to refine and ultimately record their music. In addition, The Composer Project will make recordings and sheet music more accessible to educators than ever, providing them with lists of music by underrepresented composers, recordings of new music, and free music for lower-income schools.

“I didn’t have any spare time when I was teaching, so the only new music I heard was what I could listen to on my drive to and from work,” said Julie Duty, United Sound’s founder and executive director. “Our goal with The Composer Project is to help emerging composers gain the vital information and connections needed to launch their careers faster. At the same time, we will enable educators to search for music by composers from historically minoritized communities as easily as listening to the radio.”

Brian Balmages, a member of The Composer Project Advisory Board, said, “This project is an incredible opportunity to give back and inspire a new generation of composers interested in writing music for all levels. To be a part of a team that is so visionary, talented, and passionate is as exciting for me as it may be for the young composers who will participate in the workshops and masterclasses. We hope to help foster a musical landscape that celebrates composers of all backgrounds and helps inspire a new group of composers as unique and diverse as the people in this beautiful world of ours.”

Omar Thomas, famed composer and Composer Project Advisory Board member, said, “Our ultimate goal is to create a system that puts a wider range of musical styles, written by more varied composers, in front of younger students to push back against any implicit biases that may arise from a less diverse musical repertoire.”

Ms. Duty stresses that this new initiative amplifies United Sound’s peer mentoring program for students with disabilities, for which the organization is best known.

“Our mission is to remove barriers and foster social change through music,” said Ms. Duty. “Initially, this was done through a peer mentoring program that enabled students with disabilities to get involved in instrumental music. More than 12,000 students in 31 states have participated in the peer mentoring program, which continues to achieve great success and growth each year. With this new initiative, United Sound is excited to tackle another barrier to equity in music.”

Financial support for The Composer Project is provided in large part by Yamaha Corporation of America. Yamaha and United Sound share the mission to build meaningful diversity measures that benefit students, educators, composers, and performers.

For more information about United Sound and The Composer Project, please email info@unitedsound.org or visit www.unitedsound.org

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