Ear Taxi Festival 2021 (ETF2021), a presentation of New Music Chicago (NMC), is a citywide, multi-day celebration of new and experimental musical traditions that will feature approximately 600 Chicago artists in dozens of hours of programming, the vast majority featuring recently created works by Chicago composers, improvisers, and sound artists. Reaching estimated audiences of over 10,000 through in-person and live-streamed performances, workshops, and receptions, ETF2021 elevates Chicago as an internationally recognized center for extraordinary musical and cultural innovation.
NMC advocates for the importance of a vital, vibrant music scene in our city. NMC is a member organization supporting a passionate community through online and in-person services, including a calendar, social media presence, networking opportunities, professional development, and performances. Out of this advocacy for Chicago artists grew the inspiration for the ETF2021 Mission Statement. The statement below highlights the need for ongoing commitment and work, for which ETF2021 represents only the first steps of a much longer journey.
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 musicians of color, and especially the contributions of Black 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.
This commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion – and decolonization of the field — has been foundational to ETF2021 planning, organization, and programming. NMC will carry this intentionality forward into board member recruitment and committee structure, programming and opportunities, as well as membership.
NMC has a significant history of presenting and facilitating festivals, series, and one-time programs featuring members’ work. In October of 2020, NMC celebrated its 15 th anniversary featuring its members in a live-streamed concert at the new Epiphany Center of the Arts. In 2006, NMC organized Sonic Impact, a two-day festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and in 2009 NMC presented Mayfest, showcasing the city’s thriving art music scene. In 2011, several NMC ensembles collaborated to present Terry Riley’s In C in Millennium Park, followed the next summer by a collaborative performance of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit, and a collaborative 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2015.
In 2016, NMC served as the fiscal sponsor for the first iteration of Ear Taxi Festival, created and spearheaded by Augusta Read Thomas, who remains among the most highly respected and sought after composers and arts advocates of our time. The festival was a joy-ride through Chicago’s new music scene co-curated by Thomas, Stephen Burns, and a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leading artists and intellectuals and supported by festival Director Reba Cafarelli. ETF presented over 350 musicians and 54 world premieres in over six days of concerts, lectures, and sound installations.
Building upon the growing momentum of NMC and the success of the 2016 ETF, NMC launched two new concert series in 2018 featuring its members: Impromptu Fest, an eight-concert festival at the Chopin Theater and Guarneri Hall, and New Music Chicago Presents… an ongoing free, monthly series featuring 21st century music by living composers at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Simultaneously, Melissa Ngan and Dan Visconti began planning towards the next ETF, now fully a presentation of NMC. In 2019, the leadership changed to the current team: Jennie Oh Brown, Executive and Artistic Director, Michael Lewanski, Curatorial Director, Jessica Wolfe, Managing Director, LaRob Payton, Director of Community Engagement (beginning in spring 2021), and Justin Peters, Production Manager (beginning in summer 2021). This new version of NMC’s ETF is designed as a repeatable model, each future iteration to be led by a new leadership team. Plans were well underway for ETF to be held in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all gatherings to be canceled. The leadership team made the swift decision to postpone the festival a full year to 2021 and continued to work together virtually throughout the quarantine to ensure its success.
The New Music Chicago and Ear Taxi Festival 2021 leadership teams are thrilled to highlight the great art taking place all throughout our city and borne from Chicago’s complex history. As symbolized in the new ETF logo created by artists Ana María Bermudez and Milo Hopkins of Studio Ibid Design, Ear Taxi Festival will be a point of intersection where a multitude of traditions and histories meet and where new and ongoing connections will be forged and shared.