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Meet the Composer Mulls Cuts

November 06, 1994|Daniel Cariaga | Daniel Cariaga is The Times' music writer

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Meet the Composer has announced the latest re cipients in its Meet the Composer/Reader's Digest Commissioning Program. Grants totaling $511,000 have been allotted for new works to be commissioned by 107 U.S. arts organizations for performance in 57 cities in 28 states.

These commissions are financed in partnership with the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Last week, John Duffy, founder and president of Meet the Composer, acknowledged that, although these newest composer commissions are financed through the end of the fiscal year (June, 1995), after that projected cuts "probably in the area of 2%" may be instituted because of recent cutbacks in NEA funding.

"We understand the need for fiscal restraint," Duffy told The Times.

"What is disturbing to the general art community is that these NEA cuts in funding are not being applied across the board.

"And we wonder if some of them--heavy cuts in grants to filmmakers, for instance, and to creators of new works in several fields--have been made to placate Sen. (Jesse) Helms," the North Carolina Republican who is a longtime critic of governmental arts funding.

"We wonder if there are political motives behind this."

As of 1995, Duffy said, "the traditional partnership of public and private funding in our commissioning programs will have to be rethought. We are already engaged in looking seriously for new sources."

Speaking on the phone from New York City, Duffy also noted that some large contributors--he mentioned Exxon by name--"have stopped participating in programs funding new works, calling them 'elitist.' "

Among the West Coast recipients of the 1994 grants are L.A. Music Center Opera (for a one- act children's opera by Edward Barnes); UC Berkeley (for an opera project bringing together composer John Adams, librettist June Jordan and stage director Peter Sellars); the Pacific Symphony (a joint commission for three left-hand piano concertos from composer William Bolcom); Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (a double concerto for violin and guitar by Aaron Jay Kernis); UCLA Gamelan (a new electronic/acoustic piece from Elaine Barkin); California EAR Unit (a work by Mel Powell) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (a 20-minute piece for small ensemble by Chen Yi).

BALLET IN THE BLACK: At San Francisco Ballet, now noting the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking "Nutcracker" production in 1944, fiscal concerns steal the thunder of artistic ones: According to Executive Director Arthur Jacobus and Chairman of the Board Chris Hellman, the company has reduced its accumulated operating deficit by $230, 574.

At the ballet's annual meeting, Jacobus and Hellman announced that the company ended its third consecutive year in the black. Total revenues for 1993-4, including box-office receipts, government grants and other fund raising, is $15,972,867. The deficit reduction noted above has now brought the company's accumulated operating deficit down to $2,984,000.

During the season, it danced 115 performances in San Francisco and Washington for nearly 251,000 people. In addition, more than 11,000 dance-watchers, many of them students, were reached the the company's Community Outreach programs, which included five student matinees.

BRIEFLY: In collaboration with the Romola and Vaslav Nijinsky Foundation, the Severin Wunderman Museum in Irvine will present "Vaslav Nijinsky: Art of the World's Greatest Dancer," a collection of paintings, drawings, costumes, lithographs, serigraphs, photographs and personal effects, Monday through Feb. 7. . . . KUSC-FM is broadcasting concerts of the Long Beach Symphony this season. The first concert was aired Oct. 28; remaining broadcasts are scheduled for Dec. 9, Feb. 10, April 28 and June 9. . . . Halloween entertainment at the Donovan Correctional Facility at Otay Mesa in San Diego County was provided by the seven-member San Diego Opera Ensemble, led by musical director/pianist Catherine Miller. More than 100 of t/he state prison's 4,500 inmates were serenaded by music from American operatic works by Carlisle Floyd, Copland, Gershwin and Weill, among others. . . . Dance historian and former Balanchine dancer Nancy Reynolds has established a $1.75-million endowment for the George Balanchine Foundation. To be called the Nancy Remick Reynolds Endowment of the Balanchine Foundation, the fund will be used as seed money for a program of "research, documentation and educational publishing," including digital preservation and the creation of multimedia presentations on CD-ROM. Reynolds will serve as director of research.*

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