After sifting through more than 100 applications, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has announced the first winner of its annual Emerging Black Composers Project: Trevor Weston, professor of music at Drew University in Madison, N.J. The 54-year-old composer will receive a $15,000 commissioning fee for an orchestral work to be performed by the San Francisco Symphony in 2022.
Weston, who received his Ph.D. in composition from UC Berkeley in 1997, working with the great Olly Wilson, has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall/American Composers Orchestra (Flying Fish, 2016), Bang on a Can All-Stars (Dig It, 2019), and won the 2019 Sonori/New Orleans Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition with Juba for Strings. He notes that he completed the reorchestration of Florence Price’s Concerto in One Movement for piano for the Center for Black Music Research in 2010.
“Winning the first Emerging Black Composer Project is an immense honor and wonderful recognition,” said Weston. “This is an incredible opportunity to develop my music with the mentorship of internationally acclaimed musicians and institutions.”
Thanks to a gift by Michèle and Laurence Corash, the selection committee named three additional prizewinners: Jonathan Bingham, who has composed more than a dozen film scores and whose latest work, CIVIC, for the Portland Youth Philharmonic, received its online premiere this past April; Shawn Okpebholo, who received a high-profile premiere of his Two Black Churches in a recital and subsequent recording by baritone Will Liverman and who is beginning a two-year residency with the Chicago Opera Theater (2021–2023); and jazz artist Sumi Tonooka, who is also the founder of the Artists Recording Collective record label. Each of them will receive $8,000 and a premiere of their new work by the Oakland Symphony, SFCM, or the National Brass Ensemble during the 2022–2023 season.
The award was created as part of a response to calls for diversity in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd and is part of a broader set of initiatives overseen by the Advisory Council. The selection committee was led by Oakland Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan, SFCM Music Director Edwin Outwater, and SFS Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, along with composers John Adams, Elinor Armer, Carmen Bradford, Anthony Davis, Germaine Franco, and Berkeley Symphony conductor Joseph Young.