Celebrating Communities Through Music
A major initiative of the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts, Continental Harmony links composers with communities across the country.
Originating as a Millenial Celebration the program's overwhelming success is extending the reach of new music, building civic pride in communities, and providing new markets and artistic challenges for composers.
Since 2001, 35 communities across the country have been selected to host composer residencies and mount musical celebrations expressing important aspects of local life. A panel organized by the Forum selects host communities from proposals submitted by coalitions of community groups. The Forum staff then assists selected communities in developing plans for the commission and residency, identifying local performers, and developing residency activities. Composers are invited to apply to the communities with ideas for turning their plans into realities. Local selection committees choose the composer with whom they wish to work, assuring matches that meet each community's needs.
The first round of Continental Harmony projects, the Millennial Celebration, brought composers into 58 communities across the country. A comprehensive study of these projects showed not only their success but also the lasting impact they've had on their participants.
What was the impact?
- Communities experienced an enhanced sense of place.
- Divided communities successfully began the process of reconciliation.
- Strong bonds and deeper understanding developed between generations.
- Local artistic and cultural resources were not only validated but also expanded.
- Coalitions of community groups were formed, improving civic vitality.
- Communities gained significant works of art that were uniquely their own.
- Composers found new roles, artistic challenges, and fulfilling relationships working in communities.
- Everyone had fun.
With the success of the Millennial Celebration, the Forum and the NEA have decided to once again bring Continental Harmony to communities across the country. Let the celebrations continue!
Continental Harmony's Millennial Celebration
In 2000, 58 communities, spanning all 50 states, leapt into a new millennium with musical celebrations of who they were and where they lived. This was Continental Harmony's Millennial Celebration, a joint initiative of the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment For The Arts.
Work on this massive undertaking began in early 1998. Selected communities gathered to discuss their histories, identities, and landscapes. Through these discussions, each community explored exactly what made them unique and how they could honor themselves with a public celebration. With the Forum's help, each community selected the composer who would become their partner in turning their plans into realities.
By the end of the millennial year, the country had seen the creation of a marvelous musical quilt. Individually, the projects united the often disparate elements of their communities-from the musical merger of Franco-American fiddling and classical music in Farmington, Maine, to the union of racially and economically segregated groups in Madison, Miss. Together, they honored the diversity and vitality of this country's peoples, cultures, and landscapes.
Reaching from small towns to big cities, Continental Harmony' Millennial Celebration honored this country' remarkable artistic and cultural resources, and its impact is still being felt. An extensive study of the participating communities has shown the many tangible ways they're changed through the program-from increased civic pride and the building of stronger community infrastructures to the bridging of long-standing community divisions. Participating composers, arts organizations, and community participants found themselves artistically challenged, and successfully rose to the occasion.
The Millennial Celebration's remarkable scope-premieres in all 50 states in a little more than one year's time-was captured by PBS in a television documentary and accompanying Web site, and its projects were documented by the Library of Congress. Its overwhelming success has led to the extension of the Continental Harmony through 2005, with another round of projects engaging communities across the country.
The first round of Continental Harmony was a Millennial Project of the American Composers Forum and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Rockefeller Foundation; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Land O' Lakes Foundation; Ecolab Foundation; and the state arts boards of Minnesota, Ohio, and Illinois.
Documentation of Continental Harmony, an associate partner of the White House Millennium Council, has been archived by the Library of Congress.