American Composers Forum

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The American Composers Forum facilitates an ecosystem of creativity through music. Their goal is to make music creators, and their music, a vibrant and integral part of human culture.


Through commissions, grants, mentorships, performances, publications, residencies, and hosted gatherings, they provide innovative opportunities for composers and their music to flourish, and they link communities and composers through creation, connection, and engagement. ACF facilitates an ecosystem that reflects the diversity of our world, and they partner with a variety of creative musicians and organizations to develop generations of new music creators, performers, and advocates. Since March 2019, ACF has been working to center racial equity in all of its activities, including a public Racial Equity and Inclusion Forum that featured musical creators and collaborators at the Twin Cities PBS station in September 2019. The organization is currently undergoing a comprehensive strategic plan and transformation over the 2019-20 season to respond to the feedback and recommendations artists have offered ACF in its endeavors to both model and advocate for greater racial equity for music makers.

Twin Cities PBS PBS television affiliate in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota

Twin Cities PBS is a non-profit organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States, that operates the Twin Cities' two Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television stations, KTCA-TV and KTCI-TV, both licensed to Saint Paul. It produces programs for local, regional and national television broadcast, operates numerous websites, and produces rich media content for Web distribution.

By highlighting the individuals creating music through their unique stories and the impact of their art, ACF strives to demonstrate the relevance, vitality, and beauty of the musical experiences being designed and experienced across the country. Furthermore, they seek to shine light on those artists working on the fringe, the artists whose stories reimagine the word “composer,” and the transformations made possible through musical experiences. ACF is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive place for creative artists across racial and gender identities, musical languages, and communities.


ACF organized in 1973 as a group of students at the University of Minnesota, led by co-founders Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus, for the purpose of creating performance opportunities outside the academic setting. They incorporated in 1975 as the Minnesota Composers Forum and focused their early efforts on a series of concerts featuring the music of their members.  In the early 1980s the organization expanded their services by launching the Jerome Composer Commissioning Program (1979), the McKnight Fellowships (1982) and innova® recordings (1983) – all of which continue today. One of the earliest public advocacy initiatives was the Composers Voice program with Minnesota Public Radio (1993), a series of 13 one-hour broadcasts featuring prominent national composers such as John Adams, Meredith Monk and Philip Glass among others.

University of Minnesota public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN. The Twin Cities campus comprises locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) apart, and the St. Paul location is in neighboring Falcon Heights. The Twin Cities campus is the oldest and largest in the University of Minnesota system and has the sixth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 51,327 students in 2019-20. It is the flagship institution of the University of Minnesota System, and is organized into 19 colleges, schools, and other major academic units.

Libby Larsen American composer and educator

Elizabeth Brown Larsen is a contemporary American classical composer. Along with composer Stephen Paulus, she is a co-founder of the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composers Forum.

Stephen Paulus American composer

Stephen Paulus was a Grammy winning American composer, best known for his operas and choral music. His best-known piece is his 1982 opera The Postman Always Rings Twice, one of several operas he composed for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, which prompted The New York Times to call him "a young man on the road to big things". His style is essentially tonal, and melodic and romantic by nature. He received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Foundation and won the prestigious Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize. He was commissioned by such notable organizations as the Minnesota Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, the American Composers Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, the Harvard Glee Club and the New York Choral Society. Paulus was a passionate advocate for the works and careers of his colleagues. He co-founded the American Composers Forum in 1973, the largest composer service organization in the U.S., and served as the Symphony and Concert Representative on the ASCAP Board of Directors from 1990 until his death in 2014.

In 1996 the Board of Directors adopted the current name of American Composers Forum (ACF) in recognition of its growing national reach. Eight chapters were established in major urban centers, and the 50-state commissioning program Continental Harmony was launched in 1998 as a millennium celebration in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Among its more singular historical programming was the First Nations Composer Initiative from 2004-2010 to support the unique needs of Native American composers and performers.

National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The NEA has its offices in Washington, D.C. It was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1995, as well as the Special Tony Award in 2016.

BandQuest®, a series of music for middle school bands composed by prominent American composers, has reached an estimated 625,000 students since its inception in 1997. There are now twenty-two published works in the series ranging from Michael Colgrass, Libby Larsen, Michael Daugherty and klezmer revivalist, Hankus Netsky, to name a few. ChoralQuest® is the newest education program for middle school, with commissions from Stephen Paulus, Alice Parker, Jerod Tate, Jennifer Higdon, and Chen Yi among others.  NextNotes®, the newest program, awards promising high school students with meaningful performance and mentorship opportunities.


BandQuest is a series of band music for middle-level band commissioned and published by the American Composers Forum, a national non-profit composer service organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The series is exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Michael C. Colgrass was an American-born Canadian musician, composer, and educator.

Michael Daugherty American composer, pianist, and teacher

Michael Kevin Daugherty is an American composer, pianist, and teacher. He is influenced by popular culture, Romanticism, and Postmodernism. Daugherty's notable works include his Superman comic book-inspired Metropolis Symphony for Orchestra (1988–93), Dead Elvis for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble (1993), Jackie O (1997), Niagara Falls for Symphonic Band (1997), UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra (1999) and for Symphonic Band (2000), Bells for Stokowski from Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra (2001) and for Symphonic Band (2002), Fire and Blood for Solo Violin and Orchestra (2003) inspired by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra (2003), Ghost Ranch for Orchestra (2005), Deus ex Machina for Piano and Orchestra (2007), Labyrinth of Love for Soprano and Chamber Winds (2012), American Gothic for Orchestra (2013), and Tales of Hemingway for Cello and Orchestra (2015). Daugherty has been described by The Times (London) as "a master icon maker" with a "maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear."

Over the course of four decades, ACF has nurtured the work of thousands of composers. The innova recording label has released over 600 titles, and our BandQuest® and ChoralQuest® series for middle level students has reached over half million students. New programs like ACF | connect offer direct connections and commissions with leading national ensembles. The organization has a rich history of granting programs, readings, salons, conferences, and residencies that support the creation of new work and connect composers to communities.

Innova Recordings is the independent record label of the non-profit American Composers Forum based in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was founded in 1982 to document the winners of the McKnight Fellowship offered by its parent organization, the Minnesota Composers Forum.

Today, ACF has over 1,000 members across the country, including composers, performers, colleges, and universities. Members come from both urban and rural areas; they work in virtually every musical genre, including orchestral and chamber music, world music, opera and music theater, jazz and improvisational music, electronic and electro-acoustic music, and sound art.

See also

The American Composers Alliance (ACA) is an American nonprofit composer service organization dedicated to the publishing and promoting of American contemporary classical music. Founded in 1937 by Aaron Copland, Milton Adolphus, Marion Bauer and others, it is the oldest national organization of its kind, and represents over 200 member composers.

The American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is an American orchestra administratively based in New York City, specialising in contemporary American music. The ACO gives concerts at various concert venues in New York City, including:

Founded in 2001, the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project (NACAP) is an outreach program of the Grand Canyon Music Festival that is dedicated to teaching Native American young people to compose concert music. Each year, young musicians work with a Native American composer and a string quartet in residence in partnership with their school's music program. For the 2011 season, the Sphinx Organization's Catalyst Quartet participated as NACAP's first Fellowship Ensemble.

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