USA Music Panel for 2009

Laura Mitgang (Chair)

Director of New Business Development, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY

Molly Sturges

Artistic Director, Littleglobe, Composer/Performer, and USA Simon Fellow, Santa Fe, NM

George Y. Massenburg

Recording Engineer and Producer, Nashville, TN

Peter Asher

Partner, Strategic Artist Management, Los Angeles, CA

Cristian Amigo

Composer, Guitarist, and Producer, New York, NY

Statement by Molly Sturges

The USA Fellows in Music for 2009 embody courage, rigorous musical investigation, and a bold commitment to their artistic vision. The terrains on which these musicians walk could not have been easily navigable. Even if road maps existed I suspect they would have been set aside—their unique creative journeys indicate personal conviction and passions that arise from deep within a person’s being.

This year’s USA Fellows have taken highly personal musical paths not limited to creating commercially oriented music. They are artists that have crossed boundaries of many kinds—geography, style, context, audience, generation, creative mediums, and more. Weaving contexts and musical threads they have illuminated palettes of new possibilities.

Numerous circumstances could have stopped these artists from developing their work. For some it was major relocations, keeping an endangered musical tradition alive in an unknown land, tenaciously gathering children’s songs from corners of the world, rising up and out of what is expected and crossings unimaginable barriers. For others the challenges emerged in daily life—the never-ending search for funding, working day jobs that take you to your bones, composing whimsical marches or string quartets between diaper changes, and making dinner for the kids.

Rather than stopping these artists, their challenges seem to have made them more of who they are. In many cases these are the core inspirations and contexts for their work. Their music integrates the many contours of life including family, community life, spiritual yearnings, commitments to and departures from heartfelt traditions, separation from a homeland, and many other broad strokes that define lives.

Why are these unique voices so vitally important at this time?

What does it mean for an artist to be willing to pursue a unique perspective when so many are simply struggling to survive?

These questions are central to my understanding of the United States Artists Fellowship and why this award is so vital to our times. The potency of this award is undeniable. In the midst of massive global shifts that often take the face of fear and unrest these musicians illuminate something fundamentally life-affirming. They have carved new roads with their tenacity. Their willingness to risk, reach, hold, experiment, nurture, and bring forth fosters essential cultural innovation and connection. By encountering them we are emboldened to look beyond what is familiar, what is comfortable, moving towards new approaches and combinations that will define our common future.

To the USA Fellows in Music for 2009, I want you to know that we have heard you, and we stand with you. We celebrate your courage, creative conviction, and immense dedication.