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. These awards celebrate the vitality of Minnesota’s musical landscape, with the selected artists utilizing installations, sound objects, electronic and electroacoustic mediums, interdisciplinary practices, improvisation, theater, and cross-cultural collaborations.

The ACF McKnight Composer Fellowships awardees are Alex Bissen (IOSIS), Sivan Cohen Elias, Leyna Marika Papach, and Steve Tibbetts. The McKnight Visiting Composer Residency awardees are Tidtaya Sinutoke and John Peitso. More information on the artists and their work is below.

To acknowledge the strength of the applications beyond those receiving awards, ACF named Luke Martin and Timothy Roy as alternates and honorable mentions for the McKnight Fellowship Program. Danielle Jagelski and Ruby Fulton were selected as alternates for the McKnight Visiting Composer Residency.

The four ACF McKnight Composer Fellows were selected from a pool of 40 applicants. The fellowships are part of the McKnight Artist & Culture Bearer Fellowships Program, created to increase the exploratory opportunity, economic stability, and productive capacity of artists by providing $25,000 in unrestricted support for mid-career 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 32 applicants, and each will receive $10,000 to spend time in Minnesota pursuing a self-designed residency project.

“This form of unrestricted support is incredibly meaningful for artists to have space and resources to be creative,” said ACF Executive Director Vanessa Rose. “We are grateful for the McKnight Foundation’s shared belief in the impact of artists and culture bearers who make Minnesota their home – as well as those who bring new perspectives to us.”

The panelists who selected this year’s awardees were J.E. Hernández, Queen Drea, Mary Prescott, and Pascal Le Boeuf.


Alex Bissen (IOSIS) (he/him)

Alex Bissen (IOSIS) -- Photo by Charles Hainsworth
Alex Bissen (IOSIS) — Photo by Charles Hainsworth

IOSIS is the project of musician, composer and sound designer Alex Bissen. The music of IOSIS is built upon the foundational forms and textures found in drone, noise, and ambient composition, utilizing hardware synthesis means and electroacoustic techniques. IOSIS creates ritualistic sonic communal experiences. Alex is the recipient of a 2018 Minnesota Emerging Composer Award.

Sivan Cohen Elias (she/her)

Sivan Cohen Elias -- Photo by Vera Nebolsina
Sivan Cohen Elias — Photo by Vera Nebolsina

Sivan Cohen Elias is a composer and improviser. Her work combines modified musical instruments, objects, live & fixed electronics, and video. As noted by The NYTimes, she often “deconstructs the instruments themselves” to introduce new ways of music making. Elias’ work has received various prestigious international awards, residencies, commissions, and broadcasts. Her music has been performed by Klangforum Wien, Talea, and JACK Quartet, among many others in festivals such as Darmstadt, BOAC, and Ultraschall. Her new album will be released by innova Recordings. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard. She is currently the Assistant Professor of Composition/Music Technology at the U of Minnesota.

Leyna Marika Papach (she/her)

Leyna Marika Papach -- Photo by Masumi Kouakou
Leyna Marika Papach — Photo by Masumi Kouakou

Leyna Marika Papach is a composer, interdisciplinary artist, and performer from Japan and the United States. With music being her central lens of operation, she has created a body of work that spans across theater, dance, poetry and the visual arts. Her many works have been presented in Europe, Japan, West Africa, US, and her explorations and projects have been supported by programs such as the MAP Fund, NEA, HERE Arts Center, Minnesota Opera, BAX, and ACF amongst others. As a collaborator, she maintains long-term projects with artists across a wide range of disciplines. Leyna studied violin at the Prague Academy of Music and received an MA in Theater-Dance studies form DAS Theater (Amsterdam) and an MFA in sound/music/interdisciplinary studies from Bard College.

Steve Tibbetts (he/him)

Steve Tibbetts -- Photo by Anonymous
Steve Tibbetts — Photo by Anonymous

Steve has released 14 albums of guitar-based music on ECM, Hannibal, and Six Degrees Records. He’s toured Europe and Asia, been employed by study-abroad programs in Nepal and Indonesia since 1985, and worked part-time as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse). He has three children and an electric bike.


Tidtaya Sinutoke (she/her)

Tidtaya Sinutoke -- Photo by Shawn Poynter
Tidtaya Sinutoke — Photo by Shawn Poynter

Tidtaya Sinutoke (ฑิตยา สินุธก) is a Thai composer and writer, whose music reflects a lifelong multicultural journey. Born in Thailand and now based in NYC, her compositions draw from multiple genres, combining classical music, traditional Thai/world music tonality, and the complexities of contemporary music and pop hooks. Her theme in writing is to show authentic Asian/-American and immigrant identities and build more opportunities for female-driven stories and female performers. Her works have been performed and developed at the 5th Avenue Theatre, The Civilians, Crossroads Project, Polyphone Festival, Ancram Center for the Arts, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, New Victory Theater, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, American Opera Projects, Rauschenberg Artist Residency, and many others. Tidtaya received the Jonathan Larson Grant, Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative Award, and the Fred Ebb Award. BM: Berklee College of Music; MFA: NYU.

Sinutoke’s project, “The Journey of Flowers,” is an investigation piece that deals with a recently dismantled international human trafficking ring involving Thai immigrant victims. During the residency, Sinutoke aims to collaborate with Thai/-American organizations in Minnesota and engage in a series of interviews, crafting a bilingual verbatim performance with music composition inspired by the findings of the investigation.

John Peitso (he/him)

John Peitso -- Photo by Kim Chin-Gibbons
John Peitso — Photo by Kim Chin-Gibbons

For 30 years John Peitso has worked as Music Director with Double Edge Theatre, a 42-year-old ensemble theatre based in rural Massachusetts. His vocally centered and physically engaged works have been performed in the U.S., Western and Eastern Europe, and Russia. He has composed, arranged, and conducted music that explores the cultural aspects of song in the context of identity and place. From international theater festivals to community parades, Peitso has created musical experiences that engage both audience and performer. Recently, he performed and directed his compositions for the Studio A24 film Janet Planet, which premieres in 2024.

Peitso’s project, “Songs for a Hidden Future,” is an oratorio that re-frames the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala, in the context of 21st century Minnesota, weaving languages, music, and stories of its present day inhabitants and the multifaceted genres of 21st century sound.


Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists and culture bearers thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts and culture program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists and culture bearers has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist & Culture Bearer Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 15 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


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.


ACF’s mission is to support and advocate for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art. We do this by empowering composers, modeling creative partnerships, and advocating for them through storytelling and connections. Working with an ecosystem of artists, programmers, presenters, teachers, funders, and audiences, we frame all of our work with a commitment to racial equity, believing that creating a fairer world for artists benefits all of us.

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 for more information.