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Announcing the 2020-21 Luna Composition Lab Fellows

Luna Composition Lab is “changing the playing field by providing mentorship and exposure to teen-age female, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming composers” – The New Yorker

Meet the Fellows

The six teens selected as the 2020-21 Luna Composition Lab Fellows range in age from 14 to 17 and hail from New York City, Los Angeles and Harrisonburg, VA. They are: Vera Gjaja (age 15), Alisha Heng (age 17), Marina Zurita McKinnon (age 16), Jordan Millar (age 14), Zola Saadi-Klein (age 17) and Azalea Twining (age 14). Honorable Mentions were awarded to Oluwanimofe Akinyanmi, Anika Fuloria, Ella Kaale, Haeon Lee, Peyton Nelesen and Sofia Ouyang.

Luna Composition Lab addresses the gender gap in the field of classical music by inspiring young self-identifying female, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals to compose. Founded by 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Reid – the first composer to have been commissioned by Los Angeles’ four major classical music institutions – and 2019 Grammy nominee Missy Mazzoli – one of the first two women to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera – with NYC’s Kaufman Music Center in 2016, Luna Lab provides mentorship and performance opportunities to self-identifying female, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals ages 12-18.

During the 2020-21 season, the six aspiring teen composers will be mentored by established composers: Valerie Coleman, Kristin Kuster, Tamar Muskal, Gity Razaz, Ellen Reid and Alex Temple. The Fellows will receive one-on-one coaching and a high-quality recording of their work, and will gain access to a network of acclaimed professional composers and performers. This year, the program will expand to include new virtual masterclasses, livestreamed concerts and online networking events. 2020-21 Luna Lab Honorable Mention composers will each have a lesson with composers Courtney Bryan, Sarah Hennies, Jennifer Higdon, Yaz Lancaster and Nebal Maysaud

In spring 2021, the six Fellows and their mentors will participate in a weeklong festival that includes the world premieres of their new pieces, networking events and masterclasses. This festival will be held in New York City should city, state and federal guidelines and recommendations related to COVID-19 make it possible to do so safely, otherwise it will be in an online/hybrid format.

This season, we are delighted to announce the establishment of the Toulmin Luna Composition Lab Fellowship at Special Music School High School and the Toulmin Alumni Fund. The Fellowship was created to support self-identifying female, non-binary, and gender nonconforming composers at Kaufman Music Center's Special Music School – the only NYC public high school with a composition major. Marina Zurita McKinnon (Class of 2022) is the inaugural recipient of this award, which will underwrite both her curricular music education at Special Music School and her mentorship through Luna Composition Lab during the 2020-21 academic year. Open to all former Fellows, The Toulmin Luna Lab Alumni Fund will provide critical funds to cover costs related to music composition endeavors. The new Fund is intended to break down financial barriers that may impede Fellows’ continued professional and artistic growth after graduation and highlight the impressive work of Luna Lab graduates. We are deeply grateful to the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for its leadership support.

Luna Composition Lab has also convened a Creative Council of prominent artists who will serve as advisors to help ensure that Luna Lab is reaching and supporting the broadest possible community of young female-identifying, non-binary and gender nonconforming composers.

“Luna Composition Lab is helping to level the playing field by providing mentorship, role models and access to innovative music programs to aspiring young composers from across the United States,” says Kaufman Music Center Executive Director Kate Sheeran. “I can’t wait to hear the new Fellows’ work and see what they accomplish as they launch their careers.”

Luna Composition Lab co-founders Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid say, “Each year the quality and volume of work submitted to Luna Lab is higher and higher, and the process of selecting Luna Lab fellows becomes, happily, more and more difficult for our jury. We’re confident that these selected composers are well on their way to being prominent voices in our field, and we’re inspired by their work, passion and energy, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Each month of 2020 has brought with it unforeseen challenges to the arts community. At Luna Lab we have used our online platform to not only maintain our program but to expand to meet the needs of our growing community of composers. We’ve not only expanded to include a sixth student, but are offering additional masterclasses, live-streamed concerts throughout the year, and much-needed social and networking events to connect our composers who might be feeling particularly isolated at this time. Our composers are a source of energy and inspiration to us, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Luna Composition Lab has garnered attention from The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, Forbes, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, I Care If You Listen and NY1 News. In 2016, MusicalAmerica named Mazzoli and Reid Innovators of the Year for their work with Luna Lab.