Classical Commissioning Guidelines
Extended Application Deadline: Thursday, April 13, 2023, 11:59 PM ET
Grant Notification: June 2023
Grant Period: July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2026
Grants made through this program are funded through the generosity of The Mellon Foundation.
Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program provides grants to professional U.S.-based presenters and ensembles whose programming includes Western European and/or non-Western classical and contemporary music. Grants are provided for the commissioning and performance of new works by American composers. The program supports works scored for 2–10 musicians performing one per part, composed in any of the musical styles associated with contemporary classical music.
The Board of Directors of Chamber Music America has made diversity, inclusion, and equity a primary focus of the organization’s work, and has adopted the acronym ALAANA (African/Black, Latinx, Asian/South Asian, Arab/Middle Eastern, and Native American) for use in its equity focus. Read CMA’s Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.
Women and ALAANA composers have historically been under-represented as Classical Commissioning program grantees. To help applicants become familiar with these artists, CMA has compiled a database of ALAANA, women, and gender non-conforming composers who have expressed interest in creating new work for classical/contemporary chamber ensembles. View the Composers Equity Project resource.
CMA’s goal, through its panel process, is to arrive at a final slate of grantees whose composers are representative of the field in terms of race, gender and contemporary style. Applicants are presented anonymously to panelists who, through multiple rounds, review submitted sound samples only, and make their selections without knowing the identities or demographics of the ensembles and composers.
An ensemble is eligible if:
- it is a professional group with a commitment to Western European or non-Western contemporary classical music (as demonstrated on a submitted work sample)
- it consists of fixed personnel and instrumentation or is part of a flexible roster or a collective that performs in varying configurations of no more than 10
- in the case of a duo, performs as equal partners, rather than as soloist and accompanist, and consistently publicizes itself as a duo
- the leader/primary member of the ensemble is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (non-profit status is not required of ensembles)
A presenter is eligible if it
- is a 501(c)(3) organization or otherwise eligible for charitable contributions for federal income, estate and gift-tax purposes
- presents classical, contemporary, other music genres, and/or multi-disciplinary performing arts programs
Presenters and Ensembles
- must be based in the U.S. or its territories
- must be CMA Organization-level members, membership must be current through June 2023
- must have no overdue reports or outstanding financial obligations to CMA
- must have completed any previous CMA commissioning project before re-applying
If the applicant is an ensemble, they may not also be on a presenter’s submission or be a guest on another group’s application. An ensemble or a composer may be on one application in either CMA’s 2023 Classical Commissioning or New Jazz Works program, but not both. A presenter may submit only one application; the ensemble on their submission must also be a current CMA Organization-level member.
Eligibility: The Composer
- must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- may not have outstanding commitments to this commissioning program, or to New Jazz Works
- may be a member of the applicant’s ensemble
- is an individual, not a group
The proposed new work
- must be a new concert-music piece written for 2–10 musicians and scored for one musician per part (a conductor, if used for the performances of the work, is considered one of the 10 musicians)
- must be in the form of a notated score (the composer retains all rights)
- must be finished and one digital copy of the score submitted to CMA by September 30, 2024
- must be booked for its premiere by February 1, 2025 (does not need to be premiered by this date)
- must be performed at least three times in public in the U.S. or its territories by June 30, 2026
- must be performed exclusively by the commissioned ensemble (including guest artists) through June 30, 2026
- may not include a greater number of guest artists than there are musicians in the applicant ensemble
The program does not fund previously written works or arrangements of previously written works, works-in-progress, portions of works (such as individual movements or variations), compositions that are soloistic in nature (such as concertos or works for soloist and accompaniment), consortium commissions, music for dramatic works (staged or unstaged), opera or choral works, incidental music for other media, or fees for non-musician participants in the proposed work (such as a narrator). If the work is to be written as part of a collaborative project involving other artistic disciplines, it must also be a stand-alone work for concert performance. Note to presenters: if awarded, the ensemble must be committed to performing the work the minimum required three times throughout the grant cycle.
Grant Components and Funding
The commission payment ranges from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the length of the proposed work, as well as on the size of the ensemble for which it is scored. CMA may fund the request in full or in part.
|Up to 10 Minutes||10-25 Minutes||More than 25 Minutes|
|2-4 Musicians||$5,000 to $7,500||$7,500 to $15,000||$13,000 to $18,000|
|5-10 Musicians||$7,500 to $10,000||$10,000 to $15,000||$15,000 to $20,000|
- Each musician, including any guest artist, receives $1,000 toward rehearsal of the new work.
- If the composer will perform or conduct the work, they are eligible for a rehearsal honorarium.
- Conductors are also eligible for an honorarium.
- The total number of musicians (including a conductor or any guest artists) may not exceed 10.
Applicants can request up to $1,000 in copying costs.
Grant Award and Payment
CMA contracts with and makes grant payments to the applicant entity—either the ensemble or presenter. It is the grantee’s responsibility to compensate the composer and, if the grantee is a presenter, the ensemble. CMA does not make payments to fiscal sponsors.
If a grantee ensemble has 501(c)(3) status, payment is made to the organization. If not, all grant payments are made to the designated ensemble member serving as grant contact, who must provide government-approved
documentation showing their U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. A presenter grantee must provide proof of non-profit status.
Grant funds are taxable; grantees must comply with all applicable city, state, and federal laws, ordinances, codes, and regulations affecting the project. The designated ensemble member or presenter grantee is solely responsible for the management of the project, and the disbursement and reporting of grant income.
If awarded, disbursement of the grant funds will be made as follows:
- Commission fee: 50% of the composer fee, after signing the CMA commissioning contract; the remaining 50% after CMA’s receipt of finished score
- Copying (if requested): after receipt of score and supporting invoice for copying
- Ensemble Honorarium: 50% after formal written notice of the date of premiere performance; the remaining 50% after completion of three required performances in the U.S. or its territories, and receipt of the final report
CMA uses an online application through Submittable. Only online applications will be accepted. Go to cma.submittable.com to create a free Submittable account if you do not already have one.
Log-in at cma.submittable.com
- You may type directly into the online form or draft your responses in an offline document and cut/paste your information into the online application.
- To save the work you have done on your application, you must click the “Save Draft” button at the bottom of the form before exiting. You may return to your saved application to continue working on it by following the log-in instructions.
- CMA recommends that you also save your draft in an offline document as backup.
Audio files must be uploaded to the online application. Submissions are reviewed from the beginning, unless cue times are indicated; therefore, editing of each audio file is recommended. MIDI files are not accepted.
The Composer’s Audio Work Samples:
- should provide high quality performances
- two selections, preferably chamber music, consisting of up to 5 minutes of a single work, or excerpt from a work on each file (the panel will listen to 2 minutes of each sample, see Panel Review Procedure below)
- must include work[s] written within the past 25 years
- may be re-recorded from a commercially released studio recording
- Additionally, if a work includes narration, the compositional element must be strong enough for panelists to adjudicate the composer’s artistry and technique)
- Only mp3 and/or m4a file types are accepted.
The Ensemble’s Audio Work Samples
- small ensemble works (2-10 musicians), consisting of up to 5 minutes of a single work or an excerpt from a work on each file (NOTE: the panel will listen to 2 minutes of each sample, see Panel Review Process below.)
- should show the group’s ability to perform contemporary music at a high level
- two selections (contrasting works are recommended)
- must include at least one work written within the past 25 years (Audio File 1 or 2)
- must include at least one unedited audio recording from a live concert or from an online performance (either Audio File 1 or 2); the remaining sample may be from a commercially released or studio recording
- Only mp3 and/or m4a file types are accepted.
Additional Important Ensemble Audio notes :
The files may not include works:
- performed by soloists or that contain extensive solo passages
- that prominently feature guests/soloists not involved in the proposed commission
- with orchestra
- that are scored for more than 10 musicians
- that are performed by more than one musician per part
- If the ensemble is a subset of a larger collective or roster, at least 50 percent of the musicians that will perform the commissioned work must appear on each work sample. Include, if possible, at least one work with the same (or similar) instrumentation and size as the work to be commissioned.
- The number of musicians on the ensemble files, however, should not exceed the commissioned instrumentation by greater than 50 percent.
- If a duo, both ensemble members must be included in the application and audio samples.
- If the new work is for a small group, such as a duo or trio, do not include audio performed by a larger ensemble.
- If the ensemble is of fixed instrumentation and personnel (such as a string quartet) and has had a personnel change, the recording must feature at least 50 percent of the current members.
- If desired, include a work of another period if the music reflects the group’s mission and strengths.
- It is recommended that the ensemble audio files feature different works rather than two movements from the same work.
- If a work includes narration, the instrumental element must be strong enough for panelists to adjudicate the artistry and technique of the ensemble.
Score Uploads for Composer and Ensemble Audio Samples
One Composer Score Sample and one Ensemble Score Sample must be accompanied by a relevant section of the printed score or graphic notation. Score Samples must be uploaded to the online application.
Please remove or delete any identifying information about the composer or work title in each upload. Acceptable file type: pdf only.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
MOU(s) from the composer and, if applicable, guest artist(s) are required. Presenter applicants must also upload one from the ensemble. A composer may not sign an MOU with more than one applicant, and an ensemble may not appear on more than one application. If a duplication occurs, the applicants will decide which application moves forward. If no agreement is reached, both applications will be disqualified.
Sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Panel Review Process
Classical Commissioning applications are reviewed by an independent panel of chamber music professionals versed in current compositional trends and performance practices. The panel does not include members of the CMA staff or board. See Representative list of panelists.
- Applicants may submit samples of up to 5 minutes
- Panelists listen to 2 minutes of each Audio Sample
- Applicants may indicate cue times to target the panelists’ audio review in the application
- Unless otherwise indicated with cue times, the panel will listen from the beginning of the audio sample
Round 1: Composer Audio Review
The Composer’s Audio Samples—listened to anonymously (without knowledge of the composer’s identity)—are evaluated for compositional technique/skill and understanding of the instrumentation.
Round 2: Ensemble Audio Review
Applicants advanced to this round (approximately half of the applicant pool)—listened to anonymously (without knowledge of the ensemble’s identity)—are evaluated for their performance of the selected repertoire, ability to show clear artistic vision, technical skill and ensemble cohesiveness in executing the selections.
Scores are combined and ranked from Rounds 1 and 2 to produce the final slate. The adjudication continues only if a tie between the applicants needs to be broken. If not, the top-scoring applicants will become the grantee slate.
To submit an application
Go to https://cma.submittable.com and click on “Classical Commissioning.”
- Complete all text boxes in Submittable
- Prepare your attachments.
- Label Audio files as indicated below:
- Ensemble Files: E1 – Applicant Name; E2 – Applicant Name
- Composer Files: C1 – Applicant Name – Composer Name; C2 – Applicant Name – Composer Name
- Score Samples: Label Score Sample pdfs as “C1 Score” or “C2 Score” and “E1 Score” or “E2 Score”
- Memorandum(s) of Understanding from the Composer and, if a Presenter applicant, between the Ensemble and Presenter
- Composer’s bio or résumé
- Upload attachments to application.
- When complete, sign and date the application.
- Click “Submit” to send the application to CMA. You will receive a confirmation email.
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