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Kenji Bunch, Kevin Day, Juantio Becenti, and Jessie Montgomery create new music for the group.

BOSTON — June 29, 2021 (updated July 5, 2023) Sheffield Chamber Players, the classical music group founded in 2014 that specializes in intimate concerts of string-based chamber music, announced today an ambitious commissioning project that will allow the group to present annual premieres by some of the country’s prominent and rising composers over the next five years.


Sheffield Executive Director Christina English says agreements have been made with several composers for new work, including: Diné/Navajo composer Juantio Becenti; widely performed and critically acclaimed Oregon-based composer Kenji Bunch; the New York City-based violinist and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Composer-in-Residence designate Jessie Montgomery; and rising Texas composer Kevin Day, whose commission will be the first to premiere, in Sheffield’s Spring 2022 season.  A fifth composer will be named later.


“This is a major leap in confidence and growth for our young organization,” English says, “and a great honor to commission these talented composers. This initiative helps us contribute to the rich history of new chamber music in a way that reflects the world we live in. This is possible because of the support and encouragement of our equally ambitious and visionary board.”


Sheffield violinist Sasha Callahan, who serves as the group’s development director, outlined the idea for the commissioning project in discussion with English, the board, and the group’s other players. “This feels like a real investment in the group and in our performing lives together,” Callahan says. “We present classical music that lives and breathes because of a deep engagement with our audiences. Having exciting new work to share adds another layer to that engagement."

Callahan and Sheffield cellist Leo Eguchi met Day when they served as faculty members and players at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music in California. Day was among a select  group of composers who came to the Academy to create work in a collaborative setting. “Leo and I were impressed with Kevin’s talent,” she says. “He is an incredible improviser; finely crafted and nuanced music seems to pour out of him.” 


Day’s prominence is rising: the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed his brass quartet “Ignition” at the Tanglewood Online Festival in 2020, and will play it again live at Tanglewood this summer. He was also recently commissioned to create a new piece for the New York Philharmonic brass section.


“It's a pleasure that a great rapport with Sasha and Leo has blossomed into a collaborative relationship with Sheffield Chamber Players," says composer Kevin Day.  "It was an honor to have Sheffield perform some of my work in their holiday program last year, and it’s exciting now to collaborate in this new capacity. There's nothing more satisfying to a composer than hearing a piece blossom from a technical, private concept into a live, shared experience performed by extraordinary players."


For information on Sheffield Chamber Players, and interviews with Sheffield representatives and artists who are part of the commissioning initiative, contact John Michael Kennedy, or 781-620-176; or Jennifer Astin, or 424-333-1718.

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