The Roger Nixon Living Music Initiative

Roger Nixon

Composer Roger Nixon

In 2013 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, RNLMI advanced 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, the New Voices Project Competition for composers under age 30, and the Composers’ Invitational.

RNLMI is a success, supporting inauguration of two NEW composer programs; SFCA now offers six formal programs to support living composers.  “SFCA+1” was added in 2015, and the “Wild Card Program” of commissions and collaborations in 2016.

The SFCA+1  program commissions repertoire for chamber choir and an instrument. Grammy-winning, jazz-classical violinist Mads Tolling was the inaugural SFCA+1 artist, and we have since been joined by the Galax Quartet, percussionist Peter Maund, tenor Brian Thorsett with pianist Teresa McCollough and harpsichordist Jillon Stoppels Dupree with cellist Paul Hale, as well as the klezmer ensemble Veretski Pass.

Wild Card Commissions are designed to support and showcase more composers whom SFCA admires, and the inaugural season gave audiences world premieres from two diverse composers— Robin Estrada (March 2016) and Veronika Krausas (June 2016). Wild Card Collaborations enable major, multi-year artistic projects.

As of the 2019-2020 season, SFCA’s six composer-focused programs have hosted 22 Composers-in-Residence, 11 Composers-Not-in-Residence, 28 New Voices composers under age 30, four SFCA+1 composers with two SFCA+1 guest artists, two Wild Card composers, two Wild Card collaborations, and more than 130 Composers Invitational premieres.

  • Composers Invitational [since 1994]
  • Composer-in-Residence [1999]
  • New Voices Project Competition for composers under age 30 [2005]
  • Composer-Not-In-Residence [2010]
  • SFCA+1, to commission new music for chamber choir + one instrument [2015]
  • Wild Card Program [2016]

RNLMI also helps support SFCA’s student-composer mentoring to foster the next generation of new talent through, for example, collaborations with SF Conservatory of Music and University of San Francisco—in addition to SFCA’s own 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 long collaboration with Nixon 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.