Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


Fearless Programming: Invigorating the American Orchestral Tradition through New Music

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Emily Freeman Brown (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Timothy Messer-Kruse (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Kenneth Thompson (Committee Member)


Despite great efforts by American composers, their prodigious musical output has been mostly ignored by American orchestras. Works by living American composers account for an annual average of only 6% of all the music performed by American orchestras, while works by living composers of all nationalities combined totals a meager 11%. This study examines some of the historical breaking points in the relationship between American orchestras and new music. Five exceptional orchestras are cited, the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, and the Seattle Symphony, that are thriving while successfully incorporating new music in their programing. This document draws attention to the significant role new music can play in the future of American orchestras by analyzing the programing of new music and projects that support composers, identifying innovative orchestral leaders and composers who have successfully served in advisory positions, and by recognizing and discussing the many creative strategies orchestras are using today. This document attempts to increase the understanding of the need for change in concert programing while highlighting several thrilling examples of innovative strategies that are making an essential contribution to the future of orchestral music.