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Contemporary Composers

We value the opportunity we have to expand our field as musicians and support the composition of new works and bringing world premiere performances to life.

"Looking at this as an arts organization and new festival I think it’s very important to create new work because even though we might have our favorites that we like to listen to, it’s really important to find artists who are relevant in our times, and who are thinking about the same questions we’re all thinking about, to write music we can perform and people can experience through whatever lens they want."  

                                                                         Katie Tertell, President and Artistic Director

Click to explore more about ACMF's Commissioned Composers and

other highlighted Contemporary Composers from ACMF programming.

Commissioned Composers

Rufus Reid




~ ACMF 2023 Participant ~

World Premiere of "WIND & SAIL"

Commissioned by The Composers Guild of New Jersey

Rufus Reid is one of a handful of true renaissance figures in the Arts.  This bassist and composer has been an active presence in the jazz world since the 1970’s.  He has recorded over 500 albums, 25 under his own name, with Terrestrial Dance and Always In The Moment released in Vinyl by Newvelle Records.  The 2022 CD release, Celebration, features the jazz trio with a string quartet.  Reid can be heard on recordings with Dexter Gordon, Andrew Hill, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Quartet, Kenny Barron, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Lee Konitz, Jack DeJohnette and many others.  


Reid has written for strings, chamber ensembles, solo bass, jazz ensembles of varying sizes and symphony orchestras and has had the privilege of having all of them performed.  

His reputation as an educator is equal to that of his musical achievements.  His book The Evolving Bassist (Myriad Limited, 1974) remains the industry standard for double bass methodology.  Reid and Dr. Martin Krivin created the Jazz Studies and Performance Bachelor of Music Program at William Paterson University.  This program offered the first professional academically accredited Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies in the NY, NJ, CT tri-state area.

He has received the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the MacDowell Colony Grant among others.  His 2014 release, Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project, received two Grammy Nominations; for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and for Best Instrumental Composition.  

Rufus Reid continues to be the Evolving Bassist.  

Learn more at



2023 World Premiere of "Freezing" and "Raging"

Selections from his larger project

A Winter's Journey, Reimagined

ACMF 2023 Commissioned Composer

Sponsored by Marellen Aherne

Mark took his first step into music by studying with Peter Reynolds at RWCMD before continuing his studies with Ken Hesketh at the Royal College of Music, where he was generously supported by the RVW Trust and Henry Wood Trust. He graduated with Distinction from the MMus course in Advanced Composition in 2011.

He has been awarded a Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal (2008), the LSQ New Music Competition First Prize (2008), the Composer's of Wales William Mathias Composition Prize (2009), The Friends of the Music of St. Giles Cathedral Composition Competition (2010), the British Composer Awards (BASCA) Student Competition (2010) and the University of St. Andrews 600th Anniversary Composition Competition (2011). In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious John Clementi Collard Fellowship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians and was re-awarded the fellowship in 2017. Mark was made an associate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2018.


Of Woods and Water

for String Quartet

ACMF 2022 Commissioned Composer

Sponsored by Berryville Graphics

Judith Ring (1976) has been writing music for over 20 years and has been greatly inspired by living in such places as Berlin, London, York, Paris and Dublin. In general her music stems from the electro-acoustic world and its core technique is based on the practices of musique concrète. Over the years this has expanded and been influenced by more improvised and instrumental territories derived from a deep exploration of instrumental timbre through collaborative projects with a large number of solo musicians. 

Most recent works include a set of cello pieces called WILDWOOD for cellist Martin Johnson, which was released in February 2022 on bandcamp, a choral piece for The Guinness Choir called The Weaver, a set of flute pieces for Lina Andonovska (one of which “A Breath of Fresh Air” features on Lina’s new CD “A Way A Lone A Last” on Diatribe records), and four pieces for vocal trio Silver Kites of which she is a member. All supported by either commission awards or bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland. 
Ring’s work is often deeply textural and developed through complex layering techniques. For the most part each piece is highly collaborative as she works closely with musicians to discover what their instruments can do. Over the years she has recorded a wide range of sound samples from the standard orchestral instruments to the Ondes Martenot and adapted viola. Each player offers something new to the mix and so each piece is unique to the player(s) involved.

In October 2014 her debut cd entitled What Was was released on Ergodos records to great acclaim. This was funded by the Music Network recording scheme.

Her EP The Ring Lieder was self-released in 2017 and used four poems by poet Roderick Ford as the lyrics for the songs. These were performed by Ring herself (voice and piano), Adrian Hart (violin), Lisa Dowdall (viola) and Kate Ellis (cello).

She has written pieces for Concorde ensemble, Crash Ensemble, Percussemble (Berlin), Trio Scordatura (Amsterdam), Tryst, University of York chamber orchestra, and Bradyworks (Canada). She has also written a large number of solo/duo with/without tape for Lina Andonovska (flute), Matthew Jacobson (drum kit), Martin Johnson (cello), Adele Johnson (viola), Michelle O’Rourke (voice), Kate Ellis (cello), Garth Knox (viola), Natasha Lohan (voice), Paul Roe (bass clarinet), Laura Moody (Cello), Damien Harron (percussion), Elisabeth Smalt (adapted viola), Malachy Robinson (double bass), Andre Leroux (tenor sax) and Rolf Hind (piano) and more. Her pieces have been performed worldwide.

After completing a PhD by composition at the University of York, UK in 2009 she returned to Ireland to re-establish herself on the Irish music scene. Since then she has expanded her musical output by writing for theatre (OFF PLAN by Simon Doyle), putting together a multidisciplinary festival called Sensorium with two colleagues from York, Angie Atmadjaja and Emily Kalies (as The-Link-Project). She is a current member of vocal trio Silver Kites and a former member of Laura Hyland’s group Clang Sayne.

She has lectured and been a tutor in composition at Trinity College Dublin in various capacities since 2019. 

Ring is represented by the Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland.

For more information please visit:



String Quartet No. 1, "Appalachia"

2021 ACMF Commissioned Composer

Sponsored by Berryville Graphics

Ailbhe McDonagh is an Irish composer and cellist based in Dublin, Ireland. She is a member of the cello faculty of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin. 

Ailbhe began composing at an early age and won first prizes for composition at 'Feis Ceoil', (the Irish National Music Festival) and in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin.  While still at school the first of her pieces was published in 2002, when the RIAM Local Centre Examinations (Irish National Grade Examination System) included ‘Anastasia’ in their Grade 4 examination collection.
In addition to piano and cello, Ailbhe studied composition at university in Ireland.  Following that, she took classes in composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY while studying for her Master’s Degree in Performance on cello. 
Ailbhe composes for all instruments and ensembles. As a cellist, she performs worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician and performs contemporary music regularly. Most well-known for her compositions for piano for children, Ailbhe has had numerous compositions published by the RIAM Examinations System resulting in her pieces being performed nationally by thousands of children in Ireland.

Chamber music commissions include works for the Great Music in Irish Houses Festival, Hamburg Chamber Music Festival, Calary Music Festival and the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival, USA.

In 2017, Ailbhe released two books of piano compositions for the beginner pianist called ‘It’s a Piano Thing’ Books 1 & 2 which were published by Boosey&Hawkes. Since then, Ailbhe has been commissioned by performing artists and festivals worldwide.

In 2021, Ailbhe released two books of cello compositions for the young cellist with Boosey&Hawkes called ‘It’s a Cello Thing’ Books 1 & 2. Other publications for Boosey&Hawkes include works for violin, viola and double bass. She has also been published by LCM, Hal Leonard and on the ABRSM piano syllabus.

Contemporary Composers


By Natella.M - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh


Rəqs (Dance) (2015)

Franghiz Ali Aga Kïzï Ali-Zadeh[n (born 29 May 1947) is an Azerbaijani composer and pianist of contemporary classical music. Her music synthesizes Western classical modernist techniques with the Azerbaijani mugham art music. Among her better known works are the chamber piece Gabil Sajahy (1979) for cello and piano, as well as the ballet Empty Cradle (1993); she has also written instrumental, vocal and film music. 

Salim Dada


Miniatures Algériennes, five pictures for string orchestra or string quartet (2010)

Composer and multi-instrumentalist musician (guitar, bass, oud, kwitra, mandole and percussions), Salim Dada was the first composer of the National Symphony Orchestra of Algeria. In his artistic paths crossed his musical language is constantly enriched bringing the energy of popular music and eastern artistic expression in the symphony orchestra and western writing techniques.

Currently, Salim Dada was composer in residence with the Orchestre Symphonique Divertimento in Paris region and musicologist researcher at the Sorbonne.

salim dada soundcloud.jpg
Jessie Montgomery 2023.jpg

Jiyang Chen Photography

Jessie Montgomery

Composer & Violinist

Voodoo Dolls (2008)

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post).


Her growing body of work includes solo, chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Some recent highlights include Shift, Change, Turn (2019) commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Coincident Dances (2018) for the Chicago Sinfonietta, and Banner (2014)—written to mark the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner”—for The Sphinx Organization and the Joyce Foundation, which was presented in its UK premiere at the BBC Proms on 7 August 2021.

Summer 2021 brought a varied slate of premiere performances, including Five Freedom Songs, a song cycle conceived with and written for Soprano Julia Bullock, for Sun Valley and Grand Teton Music Festivals, San Francisco and Kansas City Symphonies, Boston and New Haven Symphony Orchestras, and the Virginia Arts Festival (7 August); a site-specific collaboration with Bard SummerScape Festival and Pam Tanowitz Dance, I was waiting for the echo of a better day (8 July); and Passacaglia, a flute quartet for The National Flute Association’s 49th annual convention (13 August).

Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African American and Latinx string players and has served as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, the Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble.

A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and a former member of the Catalyst Quartet, Jessie holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a PhD Candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University. She is Professor of violin and composition at The New School. In May 2021, she began her three-year appointment as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Caroline Shaw


Plan & Elevation (2015)

Caroline Shaw is a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed. She works often in collaboration with others, as producer, composer, violinist, and vocalist. Caroline is the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, several Grammy awards, an honorary doctorate from Yale, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. This year’s projects include the score to “Fleishman is in Trouble” (FX/Hulu), vocal work with Rosalía (MOTOMAMI), the score to Josephine Decker’s “The Sky Is Everywhere” (A24/Apple), music for the National Theatre’s production of “The Crucible” (dir. Lyndsey Turner), Justin Peck’s “Partita” with NY City Ballet, a new stage work “LIFE” (Gandini Juggling/Merce Cunningham Trust), the premiere of “Microfictions Vol. 3” for NY Philharmonic and Roomful of Teeth, a live orchestral score for Wu Tsang’s silent film “Moby Dick” co-composed with Andrew Yee, two albums on Nonesuch (“Evergreen” and “The Blue Hour”), the score for Helen Simoneau’s dance work “Delicate Power”, tours of Graveyards & Gardens (co-created immersive theatrical work with Vanessa Goodman), and tours with So Percussion featuring songs from “Let The Soil Play Its Simple Part” (Nonesuch), amid occasional chamber music appearances as violist (Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, La Jolla Music Society). Caroline has written over 100 works in the last decade, for Anne Sofie von Otter, Davóne Tines, Yo Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, LA Phil, Philharmonia Baroque, Seattle Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Aizuri Quartet, The Crossing, Dover Quartet, Calidore Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, Miro Quartet, I Giardini, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Ariadne Greif, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Britt Festival, and the Vail Dance Festival. She has contributed production to albums by Rosalía, Woodkid, and Nas. Her work as vocalist or composer has appeared in several films, tv series, and podcasts including The Humans, Bombshell, Yellowjackets, Maid, Dark, Beyonce’s Homecoming, Tár, Dolly Parton’s America, and More Perfect. Her favorite color is yellow, and her favorite smell is rosemary.


Photo by Kait Moreno

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Derrick Skye


American Mirror for String Quartet

Derrick Skye is a composer, conductor, and musician based in the Los Angeles area who often integrates music practices from different cultural traditions around the world into his work with classical music communities. The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.”The Times (London) described Skye’s music as “deliciously head-spinning.” During his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and the California Institute of the Arts, music across many cultures became an integral part of his musical vocabulary. Skye studied classical music with Ian Krouse, Alex Shapiro, Paul Chihara, Randy Gloss, and David Rosenboom while also studying West African music and dance with Kobla Ladzekpo, Beatrice Lawluvi, and Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole; Persian music theory with Pirayeh Pourafar and Houman Pourmehdi; Balkan music theory with Tzvetanka Varimezova; and tala (rhythmic cycles) in Hindustani classical music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan.

Skye’s music has been commissioned and/or performed by ensembles including Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Canada), Chicago Sinfonietta, Albany Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, The National Orchestral Institute at Kennedy Center, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Conspirare, EXIGENCE, Cantori New York, Cecilia Chorus New York, Yale Glee Club, The Juilliard School, Sphinx Virtuosi, Lincoln Center, Bridge to Everywhere, Salastina Music Society, Lyris Quartet, Super Devoiche (Bulgarian Women’s Choir), and Lian Ensemble (Persian Ensemble).

Skye received the New Music USA Award in 2010 and 2011 and was awarded a composer residency with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra through New Music USA’s “Music Alive” program for the 2015-2016 season. In 2021, Skye was awarded the Prince Grace Honoraria in the Theatre category for his work “Mother of Bravery” and “Best New Composition” in the San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for his work “Mind the Rhythm” for violin and electronics.

Skye has given pre-concert talks and workshops about the use of non-Western music in his compositions at universities and institutions including UCLA, USC, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Skirball Cultural Center. He served as a composer panelist for the 2022 and 2019 League of American Orchestras Conference, and previously spoke at the 2016 conference on the topic of how classical music orchestras can forge stronger relationships with their diverse communities. Skye serves as Artistic Director of the new music collective and arts organization Bridge to Everywhere, Director of Instrumental Ensembles at Mount Saint Mary’s University, and Artistic Advisor for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Skye is an American who has Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, Irish, and Native American ancestry. His ancestry and identity have led him to claim and develop an “American” aesthetic that incorporates many cultural influences into his work, reflecting the diverse communities he is part of. Skye passionately believes in music as a doorway into understanding other cultures and different ways of living. Through learning the music of other cultures, the opportunity for dialogue rather than conflict between strangers is opened, and our society can become one with less conflict due to cultural misunderstanding. He is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.

Learn more at

Steven Snowden


2023 World Premiere of "Murder Ballads"

for Banjo, Cello, and Piano

The music of Steven Snowden has been described as “A visceral evocation of raw communal memories” (GoldenPlec, Dublin), “Beguiling… combining force with clarity” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “Wonderfully dynamic” (Interlude Hong Kong),  “Marvelously evocative”, (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and “The most wildly intriguing sight and sound I have experienced at a concert” (The Boston Musical Intelligencer). Writing music for dance, theater, multi-media installations, and the concert stage, his work often focuses on underground American history and how past events relate to modern society. While his musical influences are deeply rooted in bluegrass, folk, and rock, he utilizes non-traditional techniques and processes to compose works that don’t squarely align with any single genre or style.


A native of the Ozarks countryside, he began studies in music composition in 2002 and received degrees from Missouri State University (BM), University of Colorado at Boulder (MM), and University of Texas at Austin (DMA). In 2012-2013 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, researching the implementation of motion tracking technology as a means to facilitate collaboration between music and dance. In 2013-2014, he was a visiting professor and composer in residence at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and is the co-founder/director of the Fast Forward Austin Music Festival.  He currently works as a freelance composer in Boston and when he’s not writing music, you can find him deep in the woods foraging for mushrooms with his wife, violist Lauren Nelson. 

Learn more at 


Photo by Elisa Ferrari



Frederik Øland (Violin); Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (Violin);
Asbjørn Nørgaard (Viola); Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin (Cello)

Among today’s many exceptional chamber music groups, the GRAMMY® nominated Danish String Quartet continuously asserts its preeminence. The Quartet’s playing reflects impeccable musicianship, sophisticated artistry, exquisite clarity of ensemble, and, above all, an expressivity inextricably bound to the music, from Haydn to Shostakovich to contemporary scores. Performances bring a rare musical spontaneity, giving audiences the sense of hearing even treasured canon repertoire as if for the first time, and exuding a palpable joy in music-making that have made them enormously in-demand on concert stages throughout the world. The recipient of many awards and prestigious appointments, including Musical America’s 2020 Ensemble of the Year and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, the Danish String Quartet was named in 2013 as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists and appointed to the The Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two).


American Fiddler & Composer

Mark O'Connor began his creative journey at the feet of American fiddling legend Benny Thomasson, and the iconic French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Now, at age 55, he has melded these influences into a new American classical music, and is perpetuating his vision of an American School of String Playing.


Mr. O’Connor has won three Grammys, seven CMA awards as well as several national fiddle, guitar and mandolin champion titles. His distinguished career includes representing the United States Information Agency in cultural diplomacy to six continents and performing in front of several U.S. presidents.

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