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Second Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize Awarded to Tyson Gholston Davis

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Davis will receive a $6,500 commission, serve as Composer-in-Residence, and have their piece premiered during the 2025 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

July 8, 2024 by Alex Heigl

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), in partnership with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, announced today Tyson Gholston Davis, 23, as the winner of the second annual Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize.

First announced in February 2023, this award is an independent commissioning prize to a finalist from the 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 year.

As the winner, Davis will receive a commissioning cash prize of $6,500 for the composition of a new five to nine-minute symphonic work. The piece will receive its world premiere performance featuring the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under the direction of Măcelaru during the 2025 Cabrillo Festival season. Davis will also be invited to participate as a 2025 Cabrillo Festival Composer-in-Residence.

“What attracts me to contemporary music is the way each individual personality stands out. Yes, the same notes Bach used are used today, but what immediately speaks to identity is the space between those musical sounds," Maestro Măcelaru said. "Tyson’s music mesmerized me; the pacing had me intrigued and curious for the next gesture to appear. Never too late, but always breathing. I cannot wait to present our Cabrillo Festival community their latest composition!”

"I am deeply grateful to the Cabrillo Festival for choosing me for this commission," Tyson said, "It is an honor to write for such fantastic musicians. I am looking forward to collaborating with Maestro Măcelaru in the creation of this new work.”

Davis began composing at the age of eight years old and entered the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) as a high school freshman, studying with Lawrence Dillon. He has already received more than 22 commissions including by the Juilliard String Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Metropolis Ensemble, and many other ensembles. He is currently studying at the Juilliard School, and resides in New York City.

This is the second Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize, the first being awarded in 2023 to Nathaniel Heyder. In total, this marks the ninth commission from the Emerging Black Composers Project since it launched in 2020. The Emerging Black Composers Project is a ten-year commitment to spotlight early-career Black American composers under age 35 and their music. It was launched in 2020 in partnership with the San Francisco Symphony 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.