Wednesday, July 12th, 2023
American Composers Forum (ACF) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s ACF McKnight Composer Fellowships and ACF McKnight Visiting Composer Residencies. Both programs are funded by the McKnight Foundation and provide meaningful support to artists to create music through engagement with Minnesota communities. The awardees of the ACF McKnight Composer Fellowships are Mychal “MMYYKK” Fisher, deVon Russell Gray, LaAerial, and Troy Rogers (aka Robot Rickshaw). The awardees of the McKnight Visiting Composer Residency are Yoon-Ji Lee and Steve Parker. More information on the artists and their work is below.
ACF would like to acknowledge the strength of the applications beyond those receiving awards. Specifically, the panel has offered honorable mentions to Philip Agustin Gonzales (ACF McKnight Composer Fellowship) and Kevin Ramsay (ACF McKnight Visiting Composer Residency). Yotam Haber and Kyle Rivera were named alternates for the visiting composer program.
The four ACF McKnight Composer Fellows were selected from a pool of 55 applicants from around the state. The fellowships are part of the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program, created to increase the exploratory opportunity, economic stability, and productive capacity of artists by providing $25,000 in unrestricted support for beyond-emerging artists living in Minnesota.
Music creators living in other parts of the U.S. were invited to propose a residency project that responds to or reflects the unique qualities of people and communities in Minnesota. The two ACF McKnight Visiting Composers were selected from a pool of 47 applicants, and each will receive $10,000 to spend time in Minnesota pursuing a self-designed residency project.
“We are grateful to join the McKnight Foundation and our fellowship partners in supporting the artists and culture bearers who make Minnesota their home as well as help us see the community through new perspectives,” said ACF Executive Director, Vanessa Rose. “By investing in the artist — and not an end product — we have seen incredible ideas and processes take shape, and learned even more about our own home state.”
ABOUT THE MCKNIGHT COMPOSER FELLOWS
Mychal “MMYYKK” Fisher (he/him)
MMYYKK (pronounced “Mike”) is a visionary multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer based in Minneapolis, MN. With an eclectic sound at the intersections of soul, jazz, electro, and R&B, his music blends analog synthesis with neck-breaking rhythms, resulting in mesmerizing sonic alchemy. Recognized as the new high priest of neo-soul, MMYYKK’s understated tunes evoke D’Angelo strapped to a spaceship, drawing inspiration from the cosmic funk of Thundercat and Flying Lotus, and the finesse of Anderson .Paak and Stevie Wonder. His forthcoming project, “Midst of Things,” challenges societal norms, questioning American values, exploring the impact of technology and globalization, and addressing personal experiences of trauma and the resilience of the black community. MMYYKK aims to provoke conversation and engage listeners, using his voice as an instrument to create an inspiring and thought-provoking sonic journey.
deVon Russel Gray (he/him)
Who is deVon Russell Gray? A divinely guided multi-media social justice activist or a pantheistic audial alchemist? Central to his creative practice is the fundamental belief of starting from a place of “I know nothing” when approaching any new composition, performance, or creative endeavor. Embracing the idea that empty vessels receive new knowledge more efficiently, he constantly seeks a transformative death/rebirth process to expand his artistic horizons. Among other known knowns about this artist, Gray absorbs tremendous inspiration from the natural world, finding solace and reflection in the great outdoors. He cherishes moments of indulgence in eating, drinking, and merriment, and he possesses a deep appreciation for activities such as moon gazing, leaf peeping, and immersing himself in the world of cinema. In his downtime, he reluctantly participates in the commonplace mixed economy, feeling frustrated by its limitations and yearning for something different. In his uptime, he creates exceptional art while also taking every opportunity to integrate himself in tent camping adventures.
(written by Rashida Naomi Black)
Drawing inspiration from the depths of her soul and experiences, LaAerial calls herself a Purveyor of All Things Creative. Her multidisciplinary work dances across music, poetry, audio-visuals, and prose. She is a scholar holding three distinguished degrees in creative fields and has a body of work that stretches back to the 2000’s. Her career has included touring as a supporting vocalist and morphed into performance residencies in Asia. She has since found her voice as an independent creative. LaAerial is passionate about writing, lyricism, and visual art as an extension of musical expression. She has independently produced/composed four music projects to date and is a fan of concept albums. Her fifth release: ‘Some Come to Destroy’ will explore a range of topics, including addiction, colonization, and heartache. In addition to these works, LaAerial has self-published two books of poetry and is working on a memoir based on her life and travels.
Troy Rogers (aka Robot Rickshaw) (he/him)
Troy Rogers is deeply involved in the creation, performance, and dissemination of early 21st-century semi-nomadic robot herder’s music. His Robot Rickshaw was a human-driven cart full of musical robots designed for all-terrain performance scenarios ranging from guerrilla drive-by rapid-fire black-MIDI-burst-spewing dadaist street interventions to extended duration post-human dronecore therapy sessions. His instruments and performances joyfully teeter between mind-bending wonder and catastrophic failure, underscoring both a skepticism for the chances of contemporary civilization surviving its technological adolescence, and yet an unwavering belief in the power and potential in humans as amplifiers of low probabilistic states.
ABOUT THE MCKNIGHT VISITING COMPOSERS
Yoon-Ji Lee (she/her)
Yoon-Ji Lee is a Korean composer based in Boston and New York. Her music is based on unconventional and non-linear structures with a powerful focus on quickly juxtaposing and transforming disparate elements in acoustic and electroacoustic mediums. Her works actively engage with interdisciplinary, multimedia, and intercultural influences. Lee’s music has been performed in Korea and throughout the U.S., by ensembles including JACK Quartet, MIVOS Quartet, Argento Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, Talea Ensemble, and many others. Lee received the Fromm Foundation Commission, the Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, the Jane Geuting Camp Fellowship, the Patsy Lu Award, and the Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship. Lee has participated in artist residencies at National Sawdust, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Lee earned her Ph.D. at NYU and did her Masters/GD at New England Conservatory. Lee is currently an Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music.
For her residency, Lee will compose an intercultural, interdisciplinary, and multimedia piece for chamber ensemble with voice, electronics, and video animation titled Here, which will be based on Korean-American writer Kim Jackson’s book of the same name, which chronicles the histories of Korean American adoptees.
Steve Parker (he/him)
Steve Parker is an artist that works with salvaged musical instruments, amateur choirs, marching bands, urban bat colonies, flocks of grackles, and pedicab fleets to investigate systems of control, interspecies behavior, and forgotten histories. He is the recipient of the Rome Prize, the Tito’s Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Pollock-Krasner Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Parker’s projects include elaborate civic rituals for humans, animals, and machines; listening sculptures modeled after obsolete surveillance tools; and cathartic transportation symphonies for operators of cars, pedicabs, and bicycles. Exhibition and performance highlights include the American Academy in Rome, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, CUE Art Foundation, the Fusebox Festival, Gwangju Media Art Festival, the Lincoln Center Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic inSIGHT, the Lucerne Festival, MASS MoCA, SXSW, and Tanglewood. As a soloist and as an artist of NYC-based “new music dream team” Ensemble Signal, he has premiered 200+ new works.
During his residency, Parker will create FIGHT SONG, a project that aspires to transform the marching band – from its historical connections to warfare, masculinity, confederate anthems, and sonic weaponry – and reimagine it as an expressive, radical tool for healing and self-care.
ABOUT THE MCKNIGHT ARTIST FELLOWSHIPS PROGRAM
Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding beyond-emerging Minnesota artists in 14 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $2.8 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit mcknight.org/artistfellowships.
ABOUT THE MCKNIGHT FOUNDATION
The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Established in 1953, the McKnight Foundation is deeply committed to advancing climate solutions in the Midwest; building an equitable and inclusive Minnesota; and supporting the arts in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research.
ABOUT AMERICAN COMPOSERS FORUM
ACF supports and advocates for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art. We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources. Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists. We provide direct funding and mentorship to a broad and diverse field of music creators, highlighting those who have been historically excluded from participation.
Founded in 1973 by composers Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus as the Minnesota Composers Forum, the organization continues to invest in its Minnesota home while connecting artists and advocates across the United States, its territories, and beyond. ACF frames our work with a focus on racial equity and includes within that scope, but does not limit it to: diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, religions, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of “American.” Visit www.composersforum.org for more information.