In 1977,Chamber Music America (CMA) was founded in New York City by 34 ensemble musicians to obtain recognition for the field and to increase funding opportunities for chamber music artists.
Chamber Music America was founded in 1977 by 34 musicians who were determined to bring greater recognition and opportunities to the ensemble music field.
The founders envisioned an organization that would unite, serve, and advocate for the thousands of ensemble music professionals working in the field nationwide. In its very first year, CMA launched an ensemble residency program, with support from the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundations. These residencies were among the first to bring live ensemble music out of the concert hall and into the community, with performances in venues such as museums, community centers, hospitals and schools.
Shortly afterward, CMA was chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to administer the Endowment’s first chamber music grant program.
Ben Dunham, CMA’s first board chair, launched the newsletter “American Ensemble,” which continues today as Chamber Music magazine. Dunham also made a pioneering agreement with TEIGIT to offer health-insurance policies to the CMA membership.
Professional development and career-building services began with the first National Conference in 1978. Today they are offered not only at the annual conferences, but also through seminars, institutes, individual consultations, and networking opportunities around the country and online.
CMA opened its membership to presenting organizations in 1980; and managers, publicists, and music-related businesses soon followed. The field as a whole was now represented.
Commissioning was another priority. Among the first works commissioned by members with CMA support were by Martin Bresnick, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and Charles Wuorinen—all in the early 1980s. In 1997, Aaron Jay Kernis’s String Quartet No. 2—commissioned by the Lark Quartet with CMA support—won the Pulitzer Prize. The current, much-expanded Classical Commissioning Program is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Jazz has been a significant part of CMA’s activities since 2000. With major funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, current jazz programs support composition, performance and career-development.
Thirty-four years after its founding, Chamber Music America serves a membership of nearly 6,000 ensembles, presenters, individuals, and music-related businesses. Since 1977 our ensembles and presenters have participated in more than 500 CMA-sponsored community residencies, and have commissioned nearly 250 classical/contemporary and jazz works with CMA funding.
With the launch of our interactive, member-centered website in 2011, CMA has taken the next step in developing its role as an information center and hub—connecting the ever-expanding national community of chamber music professionals to one another and to their audiences.