American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation and promulgation of music by American composers. In pursuit of its singular mission, ACO maintains an unparalleled range of activities including concerts, commissions, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs and new music reading sessions.
ACO identifies today's brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established artists and increases international awareness of the variety of American orchestral music. ACO incubates new ideas, develops talent, and serves as a catalyst and advocate for American composers and their music. To date, ACO has performed music by over 600 composers, including more than 200 world premieres and commissioned works. Many ACO-commissioned composers have gone on to win important prizes such as the Pulitzer, Guggenheim Fellowship and Prix de Rome.
Now in its 35th season, ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. ACO programs will increase opportunities for American composers and generate broader awareness of their work. ACO's new approach will generate further interest and programming by other music organizations and increase the audience for contemporary American orchestral music by influencing music decision makers. Conductor George Manahan joined ACO as Music Director beginning with the 2011 season. Only the third music director in ACO’s history, his tenure ushers in a new era of innovative music in the most diverse styles, with an attention to detail and a performance level without equal.
Orchestra Underground is ACO’s experimental series originally designed for the state-of-the-art Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. The series challenges conventional notions about symphonic music, embracing multidisciplinary and collaborative work, novel instrumental and spatial orientations of musicians, new technologies and multimedia. In addition to its ongoing concerts, commissions and new music readings, ACO has recently launched several new initiatives. The SONiC: Sounds of a New Century Festival featuring works composed in the first decade of this century by composers aged 40 and under; EarShot, a National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network to assist orchestras around the country develop their own readings, composer development workshops, competitions and performances of new American music; Playing it UNsafe, a laboratory for the development and performance of experimental new works; and a renewed recording initiative that will disseminate live ACO performances on the Internet to the broader music field and public. ACO now commissions more new work each season than at any time in its history. ACO’s concerts focus on composers with a great diversity of stylistic influences, from world music to avant-garde jazz and rock.
Among the honors received by ACO are a special award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a proclamation from the New York City Council. BMI honored ACO for its outstanding contribution to American music, and the American Symphony Orchestra League’s ASCAP annual prize for adventurous programming was awarded to ACO 33 times, with ACO singled out by ASCAP as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States” for an unprecedented seven years.