American Music Center
Throughout the years, the American Music Center has been a consistent leader in pioneering new programs and services to support and advance the field of new American music. Founded in 1939 by Marion Bauer, Aaron Copland, Howard Hanson, Otto Luening, Harrison Kerr, and Quincy Porter, the original mission, as created by these six composers, performers, publishers, and educators was:
...to foster and encourage the composition of contemporary (American) music and to promote its production, publication, distribution and performance in every way possible throughout the Western Hemisphere.
To meet this mandate, the founders created a library of scores and recordings to address significant problems of access and promotion and an information-gathering and distribution service to provide difficult-to-obtain data necessary for the promotion of contemporary music.
The 1940s saw substantial growth in the library and information services offered by AMC, as well as the development of a non-profit music publishing and recording operation. In the 1950s, the Center created the first significant national program to commission, perform, and record new American orchestral works. This groundbreaking model for consortium commissioning—a three-year program—resulted in 18 commissioned orchestral works, 72 performances, 12 recordings, and a Pulitzer Prize for John La Montaine's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. AMC also created a syndicated radio show introducing contemporary American composers and their works to a wider audience and began publishing the first formal newsletter for contemporary music, Music Today.
In the early 1960s, AMC created the Composer Assistance Program, the first and only national program to provide funding to composers for extracting and copying parts from their scores, as well as other expenses related to preparing materials for a premiere performance.
Meet The Composer began as a program at AMC in 1974. Its initial purpose was to provide funding that would allow composers to interact with audiences at live performances of their music. Inherent in the program was the notion—by no means universally held at the time—that composers played a vital role in the public advancement of music and deserved to be paid accordingly as professionals. AMC sheltered and nurtured this idea at a crucial moment, allowing MTC by 1978 to incorporate as a separate organization and pursue important new programming paths.
In the 1980s, the Center created American Music Week, a national new music festival supported by a network of corporations, foundations, and the NEA. The '80s also brought the first issues of Opportunity Update, as well as the creation of the Jazz Library and Information Support Program.
In the early 1990s, AMC pioneered one of the first music industry sites on the internet and has continued to attract a large number of visitors from all over the world seeking information and connection to a larger community.
On May 1, 1999, the American Music Center ushered in a new era of advocacy and communication for American music with the launch of NewMusicBox, the nation's first-ever online publication dedicated exclusively to contemporary American music. Since then, NewMusicBox, winner of the first ASCAP-Deems Taylor Internet Award, has filled the need for a national forum dedicated to contemporary American concert music and provided a platform for the exchange of ideas about new music. Over the past twelve years, NewMusicBox has featured in-depth conversations with the most influential music makers of our time, articles on a wide variety of topics, interactive forums, and detailed information about hundreds of recordings of American music. All of the content is archived on the site.
On October 9, 2002, the Center continued to deepen its online presence with the creation of NewMusicJukeBox renamed the AMC Online Library in 2007, a searchable online database of works by American composers that provides immediate access to scores, performance information, and streaming audio samples. Then, on March 16, 2007, the Center further expanded its ability to disseminate new American music with the launch of Counterstream Radio. Drawing on AMC's substantial library of recorded music, the station streams influential American music of many pedigrees 24 hours a day.
In early 2011, after a year of intensive planning between the American Music Center and the two other largest national service organizations serving the new music field (Meet The Composer and the American Composers Forum), a new plan was conceived to advance the three organizations’ collective mission. The plan envisions a merger between the American Music Center and Meet The Composer to create a larger, more powerful organization to be named New Music USA. The new organization would work even more closely than before on national and international advocacy with the American Composers Forum, which would in turn assume the responsibility for membership and professional development that had previously been shared among the organizations.
New Music USA will continue to serve composers and their listening community, continuing and expanding its partnering organizations' online media programs as well as grants to composers, performers and presenters The intent is for the merger to be fully realized by the end of 2011, pending approval by the appropriate governmental authorities.
In the early 21st century, the original mandate, as envisioned back in 1939 by the American Music Center's founders, is remarkably fresh and appropriate. Our strong ties with other national organizations which share our goals have made this mandate more possible to realize that ever before. Our fundamental vision and mission remain strong and true; and, in response to our current cultural climate, we remain dedicated to building a national community for new American music.