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Southwest Chamber Music
Mission & History
Southwest Chamber Music's mission is to build musical bridges between cultures. As the voice of New Classical Music, we combine the wisdom of tradition with the color of diversity in concerts, recordings, commissions, and educational programming which reflects the depth of art music from around the world.

Founded in 1987, Grammy® Award-winning SOUTHWEST CHAMBER MUSIC provides concert and educational programming that combines European classics, contemporary work by American composers, and new music from Latin America and Asia. Our highly-rated education programs—Project Muse in-school concerts and the Mentorship Program for student musicians— served more than 1800 students annually at schools throughout Los Angeles County with in-depth programming that engaged students through multiple visits by musicians and composers. They were cited as model programs in the field by the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Southwest Chamber Music initiated the LA International New Music Festival in 2011 as a celebration of its 25th anniversary. Highlights included the world premiere of Ten Freedom Summers by Wadada Leo Smith, a three-part cycle inspired by the main events and figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Blending Southwest’s ensemble with Smith’s Golden Quartet, Ten Freedom Summers was premiered over three evenings at REDCAT in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Working closely with the Cage Trust in New York, the ensemble continued its nationally recognized Cage 2012 festival celebrating the centennial of Los Angeles-born composer John Cage. Concerts took place at the Japanese American National Museum, Art Center College of Design, Pacific Asia Museum and The Colburn School. The season concluded with the inaugural LA International New Music Festival including new works commissioned to celebrate the ensemble’s 25th anniversary, including compositions by Unsuk Chin, Charles Wuorinen, Anne Le Baron, Lei Liang, Vu Nhat Tan, Tôn Thât Tiêt, Gabriela Lena Frank, Gabriela Ortiz, Hyo-shin Na, Kurt Rohde, and Alexandra du Bois. National and international co-commissioners included the Nieuw Ensemble in Amsterdam, the Tanglewood Music Center of the Boston Symphony, members of the New York Philharmonic, FONCA in Mexico City, and the Vietnam National Academy of Music in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Southwest experienced a transformative season in 2009-2010 as international cultural ambassadors for the United States. The U.S. State Department selected our ensemble from a highly competitive field to produce the Ascending Dragon Music Festival and Cultural Exchange from March to May 2010, the largest cultural exchange between Vietnam and the United States in the history of the two nations. Ascending Dragon involved six weeks of performances in Hanoi, Saigon, and Los Angeles, with performances at the Hanoi Opera House, the Vietnam National Academy of Music, the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory in Saigon, the Colburn School, and the Armory Center for the Arts.

Ascending Dragon received significant media attention in both Vietnam and the United States. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times traveled with the ensemble to Vietnam, posting numerous articles from Hanoi and Saigon, as well as in Los Angeles. Wall Street Journal-Asia, the Harvard Business Review, Voice of America, CNN International, Pasadena Star News, and the American Record Guide all created important stories. Over 25 print and online media outlets in Vietnam covered the project, including all national television stations. Summing up the impact of Ascending Dragon between Vietnam and the United States, Mr. Swed wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Good can only come out this exchange.” A two hour national radio broadcast highlighting Ascending Dragon concerts was produced and broadcast by KUSC and WFMT in January 2011.

In December 2009, Southwest Chamber Music traveled to Mexico, representing the United States at the Guadalajara FIL Arts Festival, a festival produced alongside the world’s largest Spanish book fair. The festival invites one host country each year, which in 2009 featured arts organizations from Los Angeles. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Southwest reunited with members of the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble of Mexico City performing music of John Adams, William Kraft, Carlos Chávez, and Aaron Copland. Southwest Chamber Music also performed in May 2007 at the UNAM Center in Mexico City with a cycle of five concerts of the complete chamber works of Carlos Chávez, joined by the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble.

In December 2006 the ensemble performed at Cambodia’s Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, the 2006 World Culture Expo at the temples of Angkor Wat, and the Vietnam National Academy of Music in Hanoi. The 2006 tour featured the music of Grawemeyer Award-winning, Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung. These were the first residencies by an American ensemble since the end of the Vietnam War and Khmer Rouge era in Southeast Asia.

In March 2003 Southwest Chamber Music became the first American ensemble to perform at the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna. The ensemble has also been presented by the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., Cooper Union in New York City, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Getty Center, Orange County Performing Arts Center, Ojai Festival, and Luckman Fine Arts Center. Guest conductors appearing with the ensemble have included Oliver Knussen, Stephen L. Mosko, and Charles Wuorinen.

As a two-time GRAMMY® Award-winner and nine-time nominee, Southwest Chamber Music has one of the most significant recorded discographies of any American chamber ensemble. The ensemble’s 30 recordings are available from Cambria Master Recordings, with worldwide distribution by Naxos (Classics Online). Southwest received six consecutive nominations for its four volume cycle of the Complete Chamber Works of Carlos Chávez on Cambria Master Recordings, including Best Classical Album, and won 2003 and 2004 Grammy Awards in the Best Small Ensemble category. The Composer Portrait Series received a 2002 ASCAP-Chamber Music America Award for a “landmark set of 12 compact discs featuring American music of our time.”

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