American composer Jessie Montgomery, in demand at orchestras from coast to coast

Posted on: September 9, 2021

Jessie Montgomery photo by Tamara Blake Chapman/New York Times

“Some composers—almost always white men—[have been] exalted as pathbreakers, while truly original work coming from artists of color has been overlooked,” writes Joshua Barone in Monday’s (9/6) New York Times. Recently, “classical [music] institutions en masse have made earnest, if sometimes clumsy, efforts to … grant overdue attention to the marginalized composers who have always had answers to the question of America’s musical identity. One composer the field has especially turned to is Jessie Montgomery, whose often personal yet widely resonant music … will be difficult to miss in the coming season. The number of times Montgomery’s orchestral works were programmed more than doubled each year from 2017 to 2020 … In 2021, it is expected to be nearly 400 … And her calendar is booked with commissions … including as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new composer in residence…. Her swift rise to prominence is also the result of orchestras overhauling their repertoires to more prominently feature composers of color—an achievement that can sometimes feel like a burden on a single artist to speak for a whole race or nation…. ‘The work comes first, and then the declarations come later,’ ” Montgomery said.