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First Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize Awarded to Nathaniel Heyder

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Heyder will receive a $6,500 commission, serve as composer-in-residence and have his piece premiered during the 2024 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music season.

June 21, 2023 by Mark Taylor

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), in partnership with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, announced today Nathaniel Heyder, 24, as the winner of the first Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize. 

Announced in February 2023, this award is a new independent commissioning prize to a finalist from the SFCM Emerging Black Composers Project (EBCP) pool of applicants. It is chosen by Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival Cristian Măcelaru. This award is in addition to the SFCM and the San Francisco Symphony’s EBCP Michael Morgan Prize awarded earlier this month. 

As the winner, Heyder will receive a commissioning cash prize of $6,500 for the composition of a new five to seven-minute symphonic work. The piece will receive its world premiere performance featuring the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Măcelaru during the 2024 Cabrillo Festival season. Heyder will also be invited to participate as a 2024 Cabrillo Festival composer-in-residence.

“I was immediately impressed by Nate Heyder’s music. The clarity of style and the beautiful musical gestures all attest to a mature and creative mind. I am looking forward to our collaboration,” said Maestro Măcelaru. 

Heyder, who recently completed his master’s degree at the Juilliard School, currently resides in New York City. His music has been performed by members of both the Cleveland Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra. “I’m very honored to have been chosen by Maestro Măcelaru for this upcoming commission, and to be entrusted with the opportunity to contribute to the Festival next season," he said of his win. "It’s a privilege to collaborate with such a wonderful conductor and to join forces with all the orchestral musicians. I’m looking forward to embarking on this project!” 

The Emerging Black Composers Project is a ten-year commitment to spotlight early-career Black American composers under age 35 and their music. In partnership with the San Francisco Symphony, it was launched in 2020 with the first-place commission given in June of 2021 to Trevor Weston. 

The Emerging Black Composers Project and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music commissioning prizes are made possible through the generosity of Michèle and Laurence Corash.



America’s longest running festival dedicated to new music for orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival is a preeminent force in new music, both nationally and internationally. Celebrated as a “summer mecca for musicians and a premier musical destination for audiences” (San Jose Mercury News), the Festival attracts some of the world’s top contemporary composers, whose compositions are shared with an award-winning orchestra and an enthusiastic audience.