Two years ago, San Francisco Choral Artists proudly announced the Roger Nixon Living Music Initiative. RNLMI, created in honor of the eminent composer Roger Nixon (1921-2009) by his five children, is designed to significantly advance SFCA’s commitment to new choral music by doubling funding for SFCA’s composer-focused programs–our New Voices Project for composers under age 30, the Composers’ Invitational, the Composers-In-Residence and Not-in-Residence programs, and new recordings. As support for the Initiative gathers speed, SFCA has widened the scope of its new music initiatives to enable SFCA’s artistic mission to have greater impact, adding the new SFCA+1 composer-artist project this season. We also are expanding the student-composer mentoring program to help foster new young talent.
Roger Nixon had a lifelong passion for the composition and performance of new choral works. Nixon received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1952, and soon became well known in the Bay Area and beyond for his dedicated mentoring of young composers, and his works for choir, orchestra, solo piano, opera, chamber ensembles, and especially concert band. As a professor at San Francisco State University, he taught composition and theory for 30 years. His career as a composer was distinguished: three of his orchestral works were premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, and he received numerous prestigious composition awards, including a Phelan Award, the Neil A. Kjos Memorial Award, and five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1973 he won the American Bandmasters Association’s Ostwald Award for his composition Festival Fanfare March, and he was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1979.
Nixon’s musical style brought together many influences, including his distinctive and colorful musical references to California history. He said, “I am a native Californian and have lived all my life there… Consequently, California communities, festivals, patrons, conductors, teachers, performing organizations, individual performers, composers, and students – all have served as inspirations for my compositions.”
In 1999, Roger Nixon became SFCA’s first Composer-in-Residence. SFCA’s collaboration with Nixon has resulted in 12 world premieres of his compositions, recordings of four works, and over 40 performances of his pieces, 18 of which are dedicated to SFCA.