“Best. In. America.”

It’s been hailed as “a model for residency programs across the country” (Mercury News), and former resident composer Dan Visconti calls it simply the best residency program in the country.

California Symphony’s groundbreaking Young American Composer-in-Residence program turns 30 this year, helping to launch the careers of ten composers to date. We checked in with the three most recent members of this prized residency: Dan Visconti (2014-2017), Katherine Balch (2017-2020), and current resident composer, Viet Cuong (2020-23).

Originally published in May 2021

Music director Donato Cabrera with Dan Visconti, Young American Composer-in-Residence, 2014-2017


Currently residing in Chicago, Dan Visconti, our 2014-2017 resident composer gives the program serious props:

“The young American composer in residence program impacted me tremendously. Of course it led to other opportunities, but I think one of the best things I could say about it is the way it helped me make the most of existing connections, and to turn them during those three years in the program into some of the most amazing collaborations ever. I would say in particular, a wonderful concerto that I got to work on with Grammy winning soloist, Jason Vieaux, on guitar.”

“When I think of three words that best describe the impact the young American composer residents program has had, I would say “Best in America.” A lot of opportunities purport to help composers or connect them and advance their careers, but few really allow a composer a long term chance to do that much. [Young American Composers-in-Residence] are really embedded in the community, and for that, this program continues to stand out.”—Dan Visconti

A recipient of the 2020-21 Rome Prize Fellowship, Katherine Balch and 2017-2020 Young American Composer-in-Residence, is currently based in Rome, Italy, where she is building an outdoor installation of automated wind chimes that can be experienced in a socially-distanced, COVID friendly environment.

Robyn Bollinger leads Katherine Balch to center stage after the May 2019 world premiere of Artifacts

“I am sure my time as composer-in-residence with the California Symphony will remain one of the highlights of my musical life. The chance to collaborate with the orchestra and my longtime friend, Robyn Bollinger, on my violin concerto, Artifacts, was a dream come true. Though my residency was cut short due to COVID, I look forward to the chance to return to California for the belated premiere of Illuminate and make music again with this incredible organization when it is safe and possible to do so.”

“I am so thrilled about the incredible work the California Symphony did to bring music to audiences during this difficult time! They are an inspiration and role model to orchestras across the country and I am proud to have been a part of their path-forging legacy.”—Katherine Balch

Viet Cuong’s Next Week’s Trees receives its world premiere in the first episode of Poetry in Motion, on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

Living in Georgia where he’s a member of the faculty at Kennesaw State University, Viet Cuong is the current Young American Composer-in-Residence, 2020-23.

“My favorite experience so far with the orchestra has been the rehearsal and recording process of my first piece for string orchestra. I know that over the next three years I’ll get much better at writing for the orchestra, and I really hope that orchestral writing will be a big part of my career going forward.”

“Three words to describe my experience so far are inspiring, resilient, and community.”

“Thank you, California Symphony supporters!”—Viet Cuong

In their own words

It really changed my life. It was such an exciting moment, to have this opportunity to write three works which were rehearsed and tried out even before the week of premiere.”—Kevin Puts (Composer-in-Residence 1996-1999; Rome Prize 2002; Pulitzer Prize for Music 2012)

The skills not only in working with musicians in the California Symphony but also in working with the community have been really important things that I’ve learned in those three critical years at the California Symphony.”—Mason Bates (Composer-in-Residence 2007-2010; Rome Prize 2004; Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence 2015)

Here’s what California Symphony composers-in-residence have to say about their experience with us.

You can support the Young American Composer-in-Residence program and other music education and community engagement initiatives, making a difference in the lives of thousands of people in the Bay Area.  Donate online or call the office at 925.280.2490 for assistance.

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