Ear Taxi Festival

Ear Taxi Festival 2021


Ear Taxi Festival launched in 2016 on October 5-10 spearheaded by the visionary Augusta Read Thomas, who remains among the most highly respected and sought after composers and arts advocates of her generation. To speak with Thomas about the act of creating Ear Taxi Festival, her conversation will always return to her desire to be generous and supportive of her local community of Chicago musicians and the great art taking place all throughout the city. In addition to Ear Taxi Festival, she is also the creator of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago and, as Mead Composer-in-Residence, was central in establishing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series.

Ear Taxi Festival planning began with generous support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund, which instituted a biennial festival fund in 2008 supporting emerging American composers of classical contemporary music. It was a celebration of Chicago’s thriving contemporary music scene with concerts, lectures, marathons, webcasts and artist receptions featuring New Music Chicago and  New Music USA.  Co-curated by Augusta Read Thomas and conductor Stephen Burns and a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leading artists and intellectuals, the festival was a joy-ride through Chicago’s new music scene. From Mana Contemporary and the University of Chicago on the south-side to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and The Chicago Cultural Center in the loop, to Constellation on the north-side, the whole city was humming with the sounds of creativity and innovation. Festival Director Reba Cafarelli’s organizational skills provided the mechanics behind this herculean effort and kept the Ear Taxi Festival “machine” running swiftly.

Concert venues were often filled to capacity and programs were received with enthusiasm. Ear Taxi Festival achieved its primary objective of shining a light on Chicago artists with success beyond all expectations.

Moving towards 2021

Building on this momentum, New Music Chicago made the decision to present Ear Taxi Festival again, with the prospect of having it be an ongoing endeavor to be repeated in coming years. This effort is now being led by Michael Lewanski, Curatorial Director, Jessica Wolfe, Managing Director, and Jennie Oh Brown, Executive and Artistic Director.

With over 110 proposals received from Chicago-centric artists, 4 commissioned composers, and numerous premieres, Ear Taxi Festival promises to be another world-class celebration of Chicago music. Ear Taxi Festival will also reach throughout neighborhoods of the city as well , and is currently in discussion with venues including The Kehrein Center for the Arts, DePaul University’s Art Museum and Holtschneider Performance Center, University of Chicago Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Epiphany Center for the Arts, Constellation Chicago, and The Chicago Cultural Center. Official announcements about the festival will be made in 2021 on multiple platforms. Ear Taxi Festival will be held on September 30 – October 4, 2021.


Ear Taxi Festival is supported by a generous gift from Helen Zell and grants from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Helen F. Whitaker Fund and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. Additional support has been provided for Ear Taxi Festival Preview concerts by DePaul Art Museum and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

As the presenting organization for Ear Taxi Festival, New Music Chicago is supported by the Amphion Foundation, Inc., the Alice M. Ditson Fund, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Theme of Ear Taxi Festival 2021

HEAR CHICAGO is a call to engage with the vast multiplicity of styles and traditions that constitutes Chicago’s expansive musical identity in the 21st century. It expresses our firm belief in the vitality of Chicago’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) musicians as a significant part of the city’s complex history. As our society takes steps to heal from the multiple tragedies it is currently experiencing, as well as its centuries-long legacy of injustice, inequity, colonialism, and violence, it is most importantly an invitation to challenge, collaborate, and change together as artists and listeners. We remain committed to doing the steadfast work necessary to progress towards a just society.