Significant grant awarded to Fredonia institute to increase visibility of Black, Latinx composers

Marketing and Communications staff
logo for Institute for Composer Diversity

By Dr. Rob Deemer

The Institute for Composer Diversity (ICD), based at the Fredonia School of Music, has been chosen as a recipient of a $100,000 Sphinx Venture Fund (SVF) grant for 2021.

A Detroit-based social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, the Sphinx Organization has committed to investing $1.5 million over five years to transform the future of cultural diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts with the SVF. ICD’s Database Expansion and Community Impact (DE&CI) Initiative was one of four proposals selected this year. The SVF aims to fund highly impactful programs affecting extensive and measurable positive change.

Through competitive grants, SVF will catalyze initiatives designed to solve a challenge or an issue related to DE&CI in the sphere of the performing arts, with an emphasis on classical music.

“During this transformative time, the voices of our artists and partners will propel the change that will empower our field to build a more just and equitable future. We are excited and energized by the energy and leadership of this year's recipients!” said Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx president and artistic director.

The ICD Database Expansion and Community Impact Initiative is a two-year project that will increase visibility of Black and Latinx composers and their works in communities and institutions around the world. The goal of this project is to assist institutions and organizations in diversifying their programming and creating inclusive artistic experiences for their communities in two phases over two years.

The first phase of this project will be to alleviate the current backlog of Black and Latinx composers whose works need to be added to the database which will make the database more accessible to performers, conductors, educators, administrators and scholars.

Using the work completed in the first phase, the second phase in this project will allow ICD consultants to work with artistic organizations and educational institutions to increase the number of Black and Latinx composers on concert programs and for the creation of advocacy and educational resources.

“We see this as some of our most important work as it has always been our mission to work with organizations who are committed to creating more diverse and truly inclusive concert programming,” said Ciyadh Wells, ICD associate director and head of development. “None of this though would be possible without the thousands of composers whose music is incredible and deserving of wider recognition.”

“This grant is important in many ways,” said ICD Founder and Director Rob Deemer, who is also a faculty member in the Fredonia School of Music. “ICD is basically a volunteer endeavor and obviously this will help us to provide our coordinators and research associates with much-needed support as they help us with these massive database projects which will entail researching hundreds of composers and thousands of works. Sphinx is demonstrating confidence and faith in us and we are humbled and honored by their selection.

“Special thanks must go to our associate director and head of development, Ciyadh Wells, for spearheading this initiative and agreeing to oversee it over the next two years,” said Deemer.

The winner of the 2018 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Media/Internet Award, the Institute for Composer Diversity works to encourage the discovery, study and performance of music written by composers from underrepresented groups in order to positively impact the audiences and students who will engage with the music, the conductors, performers and educators who serve to bring that music to those audiences and students, and the composers themselves.

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