Meet a Winner of the Prestigious McKnight Foundation Fellowship

The American Composers Forum announced the winners of 2014's McKnight Composition Fellowship. Sixty-three applicants were in the running, but only four won. One of them is Alex Freeman, Carleton College assistant professor of music.

Before we take a closer look at Freeman, let's first explore aspects of the award itself. The American Composers Forum is but one of 10 awards that fall under the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program focused on Minnesota artists. Each award corresponds to a specific field of study, including choreography, ceramic arts, playwrights, and theater artists. Winners receive $25,000, although the rules and application deadlines vary according to the respective field of study.

Take the American Composers Forum, for example. As previously noted, the forum awarded four Minnesota-based composers who were selected for "exhibiting excellence in the field of music composition." In addition to the $25,000 in unrestricted funds, winners also get the opportunity to spend one month at an artist residency site. 

The forum also offers other awards and contests. For example, it recently held its 2014 American Composers Forum National Composition Contest, whereby its three finalists were instructed to compose an eight- to ten-minute piece for So Percussion, a Brooklyn-based percussion ensemble.

Ultimately, the goal of the forum is to foster composition, innovation, and creativity by providing "recognition and financial support for mid-career composers working in any musical genre." To quote their site, "The intent of this program is to enrich and strengthen the state of Minnesota by acknowledging the accomplishments of composers and providing for their artistic growth."

Much like other musical nonprofits, McKnight understands that new, original work is the engine that will fuel future interest in the arts. Which brings us back to Alex Freeman. His chamber works and choral music have won international acclaim and are characterized by a unique Finnish influence. Not surprisingly, he served as a Fulbright Fellow in Finland in 2001.

Freeman, along with the three other winners, was selected by a panel of three composers from outside Minnesota. 2014's panelists were composers Amir ElSaffar (New York, NY), Stacy Garrop (Chicago, IL), and Daniel Trueman (Princeton, NJ).