Classical Music

The American Composers Orchestra Appoints Next Artistic Director

Three-time GRAMMY-Nominated violinist and composer Curtis Stewart will assume the role, effective immediately  


American violinist and composer Curtis Stewart will succeed Derek Bermel in the position, who will complete his decade-long tenure and remain on the American Composers Orchestra’s (ACO) Board of Directors. 

As new artistic director, Stewart will be involved with ACO’s programming and concert curation, as well as their readings, recordings, and other programs. He will also continue to develop and maintain ACO’s relationships with individual and institutional artistic partners, plus organize artistic strategy alongside ACO’s president and CEO, Melissa Ngan.

Additionally, Stewart will work closely with ACO’s director of artist equity Garrett McQueen, overseeing ACO’s EarShot composer advancement initiatives, such as participant mentorship and artistic development and programming guidance for partner orchestras and national organizations.

“In his own artistic practice and the many ways he has nurtured the creative work of others, Curtis embodies the sense of adventure, discovery, and generosity through which ACO serves the American orchestral ecosystem now and in the future,” Ngan stated in the press release. “He leads with deep authenticity, cultivates human connections in every aspect of his work, and develops artistic projects through the widest possible lens. It is a joy to welcome him to the ACO family, and to support his leadership as we enter this next chapter.”

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music and University of Rochester, where he studied mathematics, Stewart has since performed solo at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Juilliard School, Carnegie Hall, the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, among others. He is also a member of the award-winning ensembles PUBLIQuartet and The Mighty Third Rail.

He has been commissioned for solo, orchestral, and chamber works by the Virginia Symphony, Royal Conservatory of Music, Eastman Cello Institute, The Knights, La Jolla Music Society, Sybarite5, New York Festival of Song, Newport Classical Festival, and Carnegie Hall: Play/USA writing for Anthony Roth Costanzo and New York Philharmonic musicians. 

As an educator, Stewart teaches chamber music and cultural equity and performance practice at The Juilliard School and directs the contemporary chamber music stream of the Perlman Music Program. He has also served on the Board of Concert Artist Guild, conducted several orchestras, and has taught music theory at his alma mater, the LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts for 10 years in New York City. 

“The opportunity to lead artistic programming for ACO is truly an awe-inspiring one, presenting a vast new canvas and landscape of challenges — aesthetic, historic and cultural,” said Stewart. “My vision is to translate the technical, musical and process-based languages of various types of creators into orchestral contexts; encouraging them to dream big, much like ACO has done for me all these years,” he continued. 

“I want creators to know that all forms of musical expression have a place on orchestral stages — and that the will to embrace your authentic, honest and vulnerable voice, framed in orchestral context, does exist in this country…Let’s see what we can do!” 

Founded in 1977, the ACO performs a wide range of music including championing those that are lesser-known and that reflect gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age diversity. Having performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works, the ACO also produces concerts, outreach composer education programs, and composer advancement programs.

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