Concerted effort

In the live music capital, Texas Performing Arts (TPA) is composing a contemporary vision for classical music performance by commissioning new works.

TPA Director Kathy Panoff knows how much of the general public would define classical music.

"Music by dead white guys played by symphony orchestras," says Panoff, a trained concert flutist. "The word 'classical' has been very narrowly defined, when classical music is truly like any other type of music, whether it's indie rock or bluegrass.

"It's a living breathing organism that evolves with the passage of time, the context of our world, and the quality and the creativity of the musicians playing it," says Panoff, who is also an associate dean in the College of Fine Arts. "If we truly want to broaden the field and ensure a sustainable future, we're going to have to make a concerted effort."

Panoff has made it her personal mission to correct that common misconception of classical music and now has resources to do so.

Texas Performing Arts recently received a $450,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The three-year initiative will support classical music programming and community engagement through programming that interconnects both arts and academic disciplines, the formation of a classical music task force, and extended artist-residencies that will include three modern and innovate ensembles: So Percussion, eighth blackbird and Brooklyn Rider.

A new work scheduled for the 2013-14 season pairs the Kronos Quartet with the avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson, while Illimaq receiving its world premiere here in fall 2012 is a drum kit opera written by John Luther Adams for percussionist Glenn Kotche of the alternative rock band Wilco.

The Mellon Foundation, formed in New York as a not-for-profit in 1969, makes grants in five core areas, performing arts being one of those areas. Institutions and programs receiving support are considered leaders in their fields, promising newcomers or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals. In 2010, The Mellon Foundation appropriated more than $36 million to the performing arts across the nation.