Roger Nixon Photo

Roger Nixon

In 2013 San Francisco Choral Artists proudly announced the Roger Nixon Living Music Initiative. Created in honor of the eminent composer Roger Nixon (1921-2009) by his five children, RNLMI was designed to significantly advance SFCA’s commitment to new American choral music by doubling funding for SFCA’s composer commissioning programs— the Composer-in- and Not-in-Residence programs and the New Voices Project Competition for composers under age 30—as well as by expanding the Composers’ Invitational.

Happily, the success of RNLMI  now supports two NEW composer-focused programs—”SFCA+1″, inaugurated in 2015 to celebrate SFCA’s 30th season, and “Wild Card Commissions”, new in 2016.  SFCA+1  aims to enlarge the repertoire for chamber choir and a single instrument, and jazz-classical violinist, Grammy-winning Mads Tolling was the inaugural SFCA+1  artist. This June, Galax Quartet joins SFCA to explore SFCA+1 commissions (and other) works as the 2016 SFCA+1  artist. Wild Card Commissions are designed to support and showcase more composers whom SFCA admires, and this season gives audiences world premieres from two very different composers— Robin Estrada (March 2016) and Veronika Krausas (June 2016).

Through RNLMI, SFCA offers six formal programs to support living composers and, as of the 2015-16 season, has hosted 18 Composers-in-Residence, 7 Composers-Not-in-Residence, 23 New Voices composers under age 30, 2 SFCA+1 artists, and 2 Wild Card composers:

  • Composers Invitational [since 1995]
  • Composer-in-Residence [1999]
  • New Voices Project Competition, for composers under age 30 [2005]
  • Composer-Not-In-Residence [2010]
  • SFCA+1, to commission music for chamber choir + one instrument [2015]
  • Wild Card Commissions [2016], to commission works from more composers whom we admire

RNLMI also supports SFCA’s student-composer mentoring to help foster the next generation of new talent through, for example, collaborations with SF Conservatory of Music, University of San Francisco, and Crowden School of Music—in addition to SFCA’s New Voices Project Competition for young composers.

Roger Nixon had a lifelong passion for the composition and performance of new choral works.  As a professor at SF State University, he taught composition and theory for 30 years. Soon after receiving his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1952, Nixon was 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. 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.