Founded by musician, social entrepreneur, and Miami native Portia Dunkley, Music of the Unsung America addresses the need for more diverse representation in the Western classical music arts in South Florida. With a matching grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2019 Knight Arts Challenge and support from the American Composers Forum’s ACF | connect program, Music of the Unsung America is an annual multi-event concert and conversation series that will feature a culturally-diverse chamber and orchestral ensembles, spotlighting works by Black composers and utilizing historic Black spaces as performance venues. Furthermore, Music of the Unsung America will increase community engagement through educational programming, concert conversations, and employing live-streaming production for broader audience access and participation.  

When it comes to the representation of Black musicians in orchestras, there are a few big problems: institutional and systemic biases that filter out Black musicians from the pipeline early on, a lack of equitable paying opportunities available to Black musicians, and organizational structures that do not value belonging in culturally supportive ways, and therefore alienate Black musicians. This cycle unfortunately limits the visibility of Black and other musicians of color and prevents young musicians from identifying role models that look like them in professional orchestra positions. Representation on stage and in the music they perform helps young people to imagine themselves in the future and see pathways there. The lack of representation is a huge lost opportunity to help enrich the lives of so many of our youth who may aspire to be musicians and one day contribute to the positive evolution of our cultural institutions. Music of The Unsung America was created to address the need for a more diverse and equitable approach to providing professional performance opportunities for and from residents of South Florida.

 Music of the Unsung America is dedicated to sourcing professional local talent, commissioning and performing new works by current composers of color, and amplifying the voices of those who are marginalized in classical music. This project is committed to social justice by creating an artistic platform that truly prioritizes building community through the classical music arts and reflecting more accurately the rich cultural landscape of South Florida.  


  • In keeping with our organization’s mission to support the “Music of the Unsung America” project and also supporting local artists: we are seeking works by Black composers who have substantial ties and/or are permanently  residing in South Florida. 
  • Applicants must have  substantial ties and/or be a resident of one of the following counties in South Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Monroe, Lee, Hendry, Martin, Glades, Charlotte, Okeechobee, Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Highlands, Colier, St. Lucie.
  • Applicants must be either a U.S. citizen or non-citizen lawfully and permanently residing, or studying full-time, in the United States. DACA status applicants are eligible to apply. 


The two selected composers will receive a performance of their selected work via digital streaming platform, a $1,000.00 cash award, $500 for workshops with musicians, and a $200 honorarium for a brief panel discussion. Workshops with the ensemble and panel discussion will take place remotely via online conferencing. The composer will also receive a recording of  the performance for portfolio purposes. 


Applicants will be notified via email of their application status by January 11, 2021. 

Scores and parts for the selected works will need to be submitted by Tuesday, January 19, 2021. 


  • We are seeking previously-created chamber works that include strings. Previously performed works are eligible. Works can be no longer than 20 minutes in duration, and movements of longer works will be considered.
  • Submit no more than three works for up to 8 performers .The instrumentation can be any combination of the following instruments, but must include at least one string performer, one part per instrument with the exception of violin which can include two parts: violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano, voice (any voice type), flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, and trombone. 
  • If available please submit a link to a recording of the work or a MIDI realization. 
  • The quality of the score submitted is the primary evaluation criterion. It is therefore in the applicant’s best interest that the score be clear, accurate, and the best representation of the composer’s work. 
  • If text/lyrics/words are used, proof of public domain or author’s written permission for use of text is required. 
  • Incomplete, ineligible, or late applications will not be considered.


There is no application fee.  Complete an online submission form via SlideRoom .

Upload or submit links to pdfs of the score(s) (up to 10MB) clearly labeled with the composer’s name and title of the work on the cover page. Please include a full instrumentation list after the cover page. The application process must be completed by 11:59 pm CST on November 20, 2020. Late submissions will not be considered. 

Music Creator’s Person Information (Questions 1 – 11): Name, Address, Phone, Email Address,  A Link One of the Following: Website, FaceBook Artist Page, Bandcamp or SoundCloud Page.  

Question Regarding Substantial Ties and/or Residency to counties in South Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Monroe, Lee, Hendry, Martin, Glades, Charlotte, Okeechobee, Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Highlands, Colier, St. Lucie. (Questions 12)

Music Creator’s Biography (Questions 13): Maximum 3,000 characters, including spaces. 

Words/Lyrics Permissions: If there are words/lyrics in any of your submitted pieces and you did not create them yourself, you are required to show proof that the text is in the public domain or that you have written permission from the author or the publisher of each set of text. Upload all permission(s) in one PDF document here. (PDF Up to 10 MB Max) (Questions 14) 

Up to Three Works Can Be Submitted (Question 15 – 35) :For each work provide: a link to audio samples if available, PDF of the score (up to 10MB), title of composition, year of composition, duration, instrumentation (Maximum 1,000 characters, including spaces), and a brief description of the work (Maximum 3,000 characters, including spaces). 

Music Creator’s Demographic Information (Questions 36 – 37): Providing this information is optional. 

Questions Regarding Social Media and How You Learned About this Opportunity (Questions 38 – 39)

Acknowledgement of Terms and Conditions (Question 40)

By applying, you attest:

    • to the accuracy of the information supplied in the application.
    • application materials submitted are the applicants sole and original work. Understand the purpose and conditions of the Music of the Unsung America program and to your acceptance to the program should you be selected as a participant. 
    • Providing false or misleading information on this application, or failing in any other way to comply with the guidelines  will subject you to disqualification to this program. 


A panel of five professional musicians with diverse musical backgrounds will review all submissions through a multi-round review process. The quality of the score submitted is the primary evaluation criterion. Pieces will also be evaluated according to these broad criteria: Originality, Creative Potential, Overall Musical Effect, Technique, and Impact on the artist and their work if selected for Music of the Unsung America. 


Portia Dunkley, Executive Director

Email: portia@americaunsung.org








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