K-12 New Music Project

Photo by David Andrews

National Orchestral Institute + Festival Expands Initiative to Increase Representation in K-12 Orchestral Repertoire

Eight historically excluded composers to be commissioned for K-12 orchestral works


Know our “Why”

The K-12 New Music Project seeks to diversify the pool of composers who write for young players by commissioning works by historically excluded composers to write music for elementary, middle, high school and youth orchestras. As part of this project, these composers will work directly with instrumental teachers and students at secondary schools in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and two youth orchestras, DC Youth Orchestra Program (DCYOP) and Hawaii Youth Symphony (HYS), building on NOI+Fʼs existing partnerships with these institutions. Ultimately, schools across the nation will have access to these new works through our publishing partner, American Composers Alliance (ACA).

"The National Orchestral Institute + Festival has pledged to amplify creative voices that have been unfairly silenced in the orchestral ecosystem due to systemic racism. While professional orchestras have begun commissioning projects to increase representation in their repertoire, this project takes aim at the often overlooked music played by schools and youth orchestras around the country.”

— Richard Scerbo, Director of NOI+F 

History of the Project

A pilot phase of the K-12 New Music Project was held from 2019 to 2020 under the curatorial leadership of NOI+F Sphinx Orchestral Futurist Fellow Camille Jones ’20. Jones, who is now a violin performance graduate student at the University of Michigan, coordinated commissions by composers Erica Telisnor and Carlos Simon for six PGCPS schools—three middle schools and three high schools. Throughout Spring 2020, Jones and NOI+F worked closely with PGCPS to collect feedback and written evaluations that will strengthen the K-12 New Music Project going forward. “This project will increase the available repertoire and diversify the pool of composers K-12 students are taught in the classroom,” says Jones. Jones now serves on the selection committee for the project. 

After the pilot year, the project was awarded a $30,000 grant from The League of American Orchestra’s Futures Fund to help further the efforts. This grant supports orchestral organizations that implement innovative ways in which to grow audiences and increase their relevance. With new funding and a larger scale to the project, Lauren Floyd was brought on as project manager. 

In this new phase, the K12 New Music Project and its partners will commission eight historically excluded composers- two each for elementary, middle school, high school and youth orchestra. 

At the conclusion of the two rounds of premieres, NOI+F will make the first round of commissions available at no cost to launch partners and for purchase to schools and youth orchestras across the country. The new commissions will be integrated into PGCPS instrumental music curricula and DCYOP and HYS programming throughout the 2021-22 and 2022-2023 academic years. The commissioned repertoire will also be accompanied by visits from the composers so that the students can interact and ask questions, a unique experience they may have never had.

“This will be an exciting and immersive experience for our students—the cultural and musical connections from this project will leave a lasting impression on our young performers.”

— Lionel Harrell, PGCPS Instrumental Music Supervisor

Interested in Programming this Repertoire?

All pieces associated with the project, excluding Carlos Simon’s, can be found on ACA’s website here.

Carlos Simon’s works are published by Bill Holab Music. You can access his piece, Journey, here.

If you program any of these pieces, please contact us and let us know at noi@umd.edu!


“The dynamism of young orchestral musicians provides an incredible opportunity to explore, celebrate and champion equity and diversity. We are thrilled to be working alongside partners from DCYOP, PGCPS and NOI+F to bring forward these conversations and to share in the universal joy of music."

— Randy Wong HYS President


Meet our Commissioned Composers

Clarice Assad: A Retirada for Middle School String Orchestra 

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Brazilian American Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop and jazz genres, renowned for her evocative colors, rich textures, and diverse stylistic range. A prolific Grammy nominated composer, with over 70 works to her credit, her work has been commissioned by internationally renowned organizations, festivals and artists, and are published in France (Editions Lemoine), Germany (Trekel), Criadores do Brasil (Brazil) and in the US by Virtual Artists Collective Publishing. A sought-after performer, she is a celebrated pianist and inventive vocalist. Ms. Assad has released seven solo albums and appeared on or had her works performed on another 30. Her music is represented on Cedille Records, SONY Masterworks, Nonesuch, Adventure Music, Edge, Telarc, NSS Music, GHA, and CHANDOS. As an innovator, her award-winning Voxploration Series on music education, creation, songwriting and improvisation has been presented throughout the United States, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East. With her talents sought-after by artists and organizations worldwide, the multi-talented musician continues to attract new audiences both onstage and off.

Nicholas Felder: Work for Elementary School Orchestra (Title TBD)

Having a passion for community engagement and working with youth, Nicholas Felder seeks to create art that inspires relational bonds between people in a given space. In addition to writing music, his work centers writing prose and poetry, teaching grade-school students in the neighborhood and advocating for university student voices in the performance space and classroom.

Nicholas has earned a number of honors, including 1st place in the 2016 Kennesaw State University (KSU) Music Composition Contest and finalist for the 2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Award. He has had his works performed by ensembles, such as the Mivos Quartet and the KSU Symphony Orchestra.

Nicholas is currently earning his Master of the Arts in Music Composition at the University of Michigan. Learn more about Nicholas at https://www.nicholasfeldermusic.com. 

Michael-Thomas Foumai: Paniolo Credo for Elementary String Orchestra 

Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987) is a composer of contemporary concert music, arranger and educator whose work spans the avant-garde to the commercial. His concert music focuses on storytelling and the history, people, and culture of his Hawaiʻi home. Foumai's orchestral works have been conducted and performed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Lina Gonzalez-Granados with the National Symphony Orchestra, George Manahan with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra. In 2021, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra presented a summer festival of his music conducted by Rei Hotoda, Lidiya Yankovskaya, Sarah Hicks and JoAnn Falletta. In addition, he is the HSO program notes annotator for the Masterworks and summer Starlight series and arranger for guest artists. Honors for his music have included a Fromm Foundation Grant from Harvard University, the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year Award, the Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival and three BMI composer awards. Foumai is currently on faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu and holds multiple degrees in music composition from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (BM) and the University of Michigan (MM, DMA). For more information, visit www.michaelfoumai.com.

Brian Nabors: Work for High School String Orchestra (Title TBD)

Brian Raphael Nabors (b.1991, Birmingham, AL) is a composer of emotionally enriching music that tells exciting narratives with its vibrant themes and colorful harmonic language. Nabors’ music has been performed by the Cincinnati, Atlanta, Nashville, & Detroit Symphonies, as well as ROCO Chamber Orchestra. He has also been performed by artists such as the Atlanta Chamber Players, Dallas's Voices of Change, Boston Musica Viva and the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings.

He was named a 2021 composition fellow of the Tanglewood music festival; a 2021 Seikilos Focus Fellowship recipient by Air Serenbe, The Serenbe Institute; a 2019 composer fellow in the American Composers Orchestra’s Earshot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; a 2019 composer fellow with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s Composer Lab; and 2019 cycle five grand prize winner of the Rapido! National Composition Contest. Nabors was also a 2020 Fulbright scholarship recipient to Sydney, Australia, studying with composer Carl Vine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Carlos Simon: Journey for High School String Orchestra

Simon’s latest album, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT, was released on the Navona Records label in April 2018. Described as an “overall driving force” (Review Graveyard) and featured on Apple Music’s “Albums to Watch”, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT incorporates spoken word and historic recordings to craft a multifaceted program of musical works that are inspired as much by the past as they are the present. 

As a part of the Sundance Institute, Simon was named as a Sundance Composer Fellow in 2018, which was held at the historic Skywalker Ranch. His string quartet, Elegy, honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner was recently performed at the Kennedy Center for the Mason Bates JFK Jukebox Series. With support from the US Embassy in Tokyo and US/Japan Foundation, Simon traveled with the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI) on a two-week tour of Japan in 2018 performing concerts in some of the most sacred temples and concert spaces in Japan including Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan. 

Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He has also received degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. Additionally, he studied in Baden, Austria at the Hollywood Music Workshop with Conrad Pope and at New York University’s Film Scoring Summer Workshop.

Adrian Sims: Undiscovered Pathways for High School String Orchestra

Adrian B. Sims (b. 2000), born in Seattle, Washington is an emerging composer, conductor, educator, and trombonist. Adrian graduated from Catonsville High School (class of 2018) located in Catonsville, Maryland. His music has been played at The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and selected for the Bandworld Top 100 List. Adrian has also been selected as a winner in multiple composition competitions including the Maryland Music Educators Association Young Composers Project and the Make Music Young Composers Contest. On many occasions, he has rehearsed and conducted his music in performances at schools across the state of Maryland.

As a trombonist, Adrian has performed in a wide variety of musical ensembles including pit and symphony orchestras as well as jazz and concert bands. In high school, he was selected to participate in the Maryland All-State Band several times and has played side by side with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He currently plays in the top ensembles at The University of Maryland and studies with Matthew Guilford, solo bass trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra. Adrian is grateful for the continued support from his band directors Christopher Gnagey and Cindy Stevenson, and is pursuing a dual degree in Music Education and Composition at The University of Maryland. He credits Dr. Robert Gibson, Professor of Composition at The University of Maryland, and world-renowned composer Brian Balmages for his development as a composer.

Derrick Skye: Flames Nurtured the Rose for Youth Orchestra 

Derrick Skye is a composer 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.”

Skye’s works have been commissioned or performed by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Dayton Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony, Netherlands Philharmonic, and Albany Symphony Orchestra, among others. He is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.

Asha Srinivasan: Work for Middle School String Orchestra (Title TBD)

Indian-American composer Asha Srinivasan draws from her Western musical training and her Indian heritage to create her compositional language. Her music has been presented at various venues including SEAMUS, ICMC, June in Buffalo, SCI and the National Flute Convention. Her work Dviraag was awarded at the 2011 Thailand International Composition Festival and won the Flute New Music Consortium competition in 2015. In 2012, Alarm Will Sound premiered Svara-lila at the Mizzou International Composers Festival. She has also won national commissioning competitions, including the BMI Foundation's Women's Music Commission and the Flute/Cello Commissioning Circle. Other honors include: the Walsum prize for Kalpitha, the Prix d'Eté 2nd prize for Alone, Dancing and multiple ASCAP Plus Awards. Her works have been released on CD by Ablaze Records, Mark Records, Beauport Classical and SEAMUS CD Series (vol. 22). In 2012, she co-hosted the SEAMUS national conference at Lawrence University. Her studies include: D.M.A. Composition at University of Maryland, College Park; M.Mus. Computer Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy at the Peabody Conservatory and B.A. at Goucher College. Ms. Srinivasan is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence University and recently she joined the board of the American Composers Forum. Learn more at www.twocomposers.org.

Erica Telisnor: Together We Are Strong for Middle School String Orchestra (Note: Piece unavailable for performance)

Erica Telisnor is a 27 year-old composer, arranger, producer, pianist and music educator from Boston, Massachusetts. During high school and college, Telisnor has been fortunate enough to mentor and workshop with many premiere musicians, including Patrice Rushen, Victor Wooten, Jon Faddis, Bobby McFerrin, Nnenna Freelon, Russell Ferrante, Dee Dee Bridgewater, just to name a few. In 2015, Telisnor earned her B.A. in Contemporary Writing & Production from Berklee College of Music. In 2016, she had the opportunity to work with some of New York’s elite in theatre and hip-hop performance, including Rafael Casal (HBO Def Jam Poetry), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, original Broadway cast) and Black Thought (The Roots). Now back in Boston, Telisnor is steadily working with other artists and expanding her already impressive arsenal of over 80 compositional and arranging works.


Meet Our Partners


The University of Maryland’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival trains aspiring orchestral musicians from across the country in a month of dynamic music-making and professional exploration at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. As part of The Clarice’s Artist Partner Programs, NOI+F musicians are chosen through a rigorous, cross-country audition process. Every year, these young artists present passionate and awe-inspiring performances of adventuresome repertoire both at The Clarice and in the College Park, Maryland community. In 2019, conductor David Alan Miller and the NOI+F Philharmonic received a Grammy nomination in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category for their Naxos recording “Ruggles, Stucky, Harbison."



A Maryland native, Camille Jones received her B.M. in violin performance from the University of Maryland. She was the recipient of the 2019 Sphinx Orchestral Futurist Fellowship at the National Orchestral Institute + Festival where she engaged in professional arts administration alongside the festival director Richard Scerbo. Jones founded Voices Unheard, a student-led collective that creates spaces for underrepresented artists to be seen, valued and celebrated. Jones is currently pursuing her M.M. in Violin Performance at the University of Michigan.



Founded in 1960, DCYOP has been an integral part of the Washington, D.C. community, fostering the musical and academic development of more than 60,000 youth since its inception. Today, DCYOP serves more than 600 students each week in Saturday and after-school programs. The program’s group lessons and ensembles, culminating in the renowned DC Youth Orchestra, serve a diverse community of students ages 4½  to 18 who come from across the D.C. metropolitan area.


Established as a non-profit organization in 1964, the Hawaii Youth Symphony promotes and celebrates the importance of music study on academic achievement and social-emotional development, through its mission to develop youth to their fullest potential through orchestral music. Its programs service youth through orchestral music education, performances and community engagement. Each year, the organization serves more than 700 students ages 7 through 18 from over 100 schools statewide.



Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS), the nation's 20th largest school district, has 206 schools and centers, more than 136,500 students and 22,000 employees. Under the leadership of CEO Monica Goldson, Ed.D. and the Prince George’s County Board of Education, the school system serves a diverse student population from urban, suburban and rural communities located in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. PGCPS is nationally recognized for college and career-readiness programs that provide students with unique learning opportunities, including dual enrollment and language immersion.



The League of American Orchestras leads, supports and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 1,700 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website and other publications inform people around the world about orchestral activity and developments. Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers and business partners.