Ear Taxi Festival – Background


Ear Taxi Festival launched in 2016 on October 5-10 spearheaded by the visionary Augusta Read Thomas, who remains among the most highly respected and sought after composers and arts advocates of her generation. To speak with Thomas about the act of creating Ear Taxi Festival, her conversation will always return to her desire to be generous and supportive of her local community of Chicago musicians and the great art taking place all throughout the city. In addition to Ear Taxi Festival, she is also the creator of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago and, as Mead Composer-in-Residence, was central in establishing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series.

Ear Taxi Festival planning began with generous support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund, which instituted a biennial festival fund in 2008 supporting emerging American composers of classical contemporary music. It was a celebration of Chicago’s thriving contemporary music scene with concerts, lectures, marathons, webcasts and artist receptions featuring New Music Chicago and  New Music USA. Co-curated by Augusta Read Thomas and conductor Stephen Burns and a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leading artists and intellectuals, the festival was a joy-ride through Chicago’s new music scene. From Mana Contemporary and the University of Chicago on the south-side to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and The Chicago Cultural Center in the loop, to Constellation on the north-side, the whole city was humming with the sounds of creativity and innovation. Festival Director Reba Cafarelli’s organizational skills provided the mechanics behind this herculean effort and kept the Ear Taxi Festival “machine” running swiftly.

Concert venues were often filled to capacity and programs were received with enthusiasm. Ear Taxi Festival achieved its primary objective of shining a light on Chicago artists with success beyond all expectations. Building on this momentum, New Music Chicago made the decision to present Ear Taxi Festival again, with the prospect of having it be an ongoing endeavor to be repeated in coming years. This effort is now being led by Michael Lewanski, Curatorial Director, Jessica Wolfe, Managing Director, and Jennie Oh Brown, Executive and Artistic Director.

With over 110 proposals received from Chicago-centric artists, 5 commissioned composers, and many more premieres, Ear Taxi Festival promises to be another world-class celebration of Chicago music. Ear Taxi Festival will also reach throughout neighborhoods of the city as well including The Kehrein Center for the Arts, DePaul University’s Art Museum and Holtschneider Performance Center, University of Chicago Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Epiphany Center for the Arts, Constellation Chicago, and The Harris Theater. Official announcements about the festival will be made in fall 2020 on multiple platforms.