Ear Taxi Festival – FAQs

Q: When will Ear Taxi Festival 2021 take place?

A: Ear Taxi Festival 2021 will consist of two parts: the Spotlight series will take place Sept. 15-Sept. 29, 2021; with a few exceptions, the Mainstage series will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2021.


Q: When will the Ear Taxi Festival 2021 line-up be announced?

A: The majority of the line-up will be announced on www.eartaxifestival.com in early April, 2021.


Q: How can I apply to be a part of Ear Taxi Festival?

A: The proposal process for the Mainstage series is closed. It occurred in the winter of 2019-20, at a time when we thought it would be possible to hold Ear Taxi Festival in October 2020. Given that we were forced to postpone the event because of COVID-19, we granted all accepted artists for the 2020 festival the right of first refusal for the 2021 festival, rather than ask everyone to go through a second submission process. All slots are currently taken, and there is already a waiting list. If you wish to be added to the waiting list, you may submit a proposal Michael Lewanski (Curatorial Director, michael@nullnewmusicchicago.org) and Jessica Wolfe (Managing Director, jessica@nullnewmusicchicago.org).

Proposals for the Spotlight series are being taken until Friday, April 23, 2021, with May 1 deadline for inclusion in the program book. There is no waiting list for this series, and it is not subject to the same curatorial restrictions of the Mainstage series. Submit your Spotlight proposal to Michael Lewanski (Curatorial Director, michael@nullnewmusicchicago.org) and Jessica Wolfe (Managing Director, jessica@nullnewmusicchicago.org).


Q: What is the difference between the Mainstage series and the Spotlight series?

A: Though similar to how the postponed 2020 Ear Taxi Festival was conceived, a few changes have been necessary in the intervening time.

The Spotlight series will take place Sept. 15-29, 2021; it involves the following stipulations: 

  • Performers are able to self-produce their own concert or event two weeks before the Mainstage series; performers are welcome to present their own concert, or plan one with a partner or partners.
  • Ear Taxi Festival can provide introductions to friendly venues who have favorable financial terms for artists; Ear Taxi Festival would take no ticket revenue, thus performers on this series keep whatever percentage of the ticket sales based on their arrangement with the venue.
  • Performers maintain curatorial and programming freedom, though we ask that you keep Ear Taxi Festival’s theme in mind (see below).
  • Performers will be included in all of Ear Taxi Festival’s marketing and PR (including social media), via Bucklesweet Media.
  • Performers will be included in Ear Taxi Festival’s digital program book
  • Performers have a guaranteed spot in Ear Taxi Festival
  • Ear Taxi Festival will be happy to provide letters of support for grants that Spotlight artists might wish to apply for.

The Spotlight series may be appropriate for performers who missed the initial proposal process, who have an event they wish to produce that is beyond the scope of the Mainstage series (in terms of length, curatorial scope, logistics, etc.), who have an already scheduled concert during this time period for which they seek more advertising, who will be out of town during the Mainstage series, etc.

The Mainstage series will take place from Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2021; it involves the following stipulations:

  • Ear Taxi Festival provides performers a flat per-person honorarium for a fixed maximum number of performers; this is currently budgeted at $300 per person for a maximum of 6 individuals.  N.B.: A group is welcome to exceed the fixed maximum number of people, but Ear Taxi Festival would not be responsible for compensating them.
  • The total amount of performance time is limited to 40 minutes or less, including bows, walk-ons, remarks to the audience, etc.  
  • The vast majority of the work presented on the Mainstage series is Chicago music.  Most proposals that included more than one piece by inarguably non-Chicago composers, or were submitted by an inarguably non-Chicago organization, were not accepted.  
  • Performers will be included in all of Ear Taxi Festival’s marketing and PR (including social media), via Bucklesweet Media
  • Performers will be included in Ear Taxi Festival’s digital program book
  • We tried to accommodate as many people as possible, however we were not able to guarantee everyone a spot, as the Mainstage series has strict time limitations.  

The Mainstage series is meant for performers who are specifically interested in highlighting Chicago music, and who have a way to do that in a relatively short set.


Q: Can student groups be part of Ear Taxi Festival 2021?

A: Yes.  However, please note that people performing in a non-professional capacity—students and faculty performing as part of university ensembles, or training, youth, and school programs—are not eligible for ETF funds used as artists fees, though theoretically they can participate in either series.


Q: What kind of music does Ear Taxi Festival present?

A: Ear Taxi Festival exists to celebrate and highlight Chicago music; thus, the main thing that the vast majority of the music on Ear Taxi Festival will possess is Chicago-ness. Beyond that, we’ve had a number of in-depth discussions about exactly how to characterize the music that will appear as part of the festival. This discussion is difficult because specific terms have specific connotations and implications to different groups of people, and we are aiming to be as inclusive as possible without becoming unfocused or intellectually lazy. For instance, for some the phrase “new music” has a plain English meaning (i.e., music that is new); and for others, it is a genre—perhaps a translation of the German term “neue Musik“—that might indicate socio-economic status (music made by composers working in response to a classical music tradition, performed by specialists, often funded by universities). “Contemporary music” might indicate music of a contemporaneous time to some; to others it might mean something like, “contemporary classical music.” Our aim is not to adjudicate these discussions—if anything, we will probably render them more muddled. Put another way: more interesting to us than the answer is the question.

We sometimes use the phrase “new and experimental musics” when talking about Ear Taxi Festival. Though “musics” is a cumbersome word, we want to remain aware that we’re dealing with a multiplicity of traditions that are simultaneously interrelated and autonomous. More specifically, we imagine at least the following musics will be represented on the festival (this list is not meant to be comprehensive): new music, experimental music, improvised music, contemporary classical music, electronic music, creative music, sound art, performance art, DIY music, noise music. We do not intend for Ear Taxi Festival to be narrowly focused —say, a classical music festival, a jazz festival, or an improvised music festival (though it may include all three of these). Nor is it a festival of commercially successful pop music, though such music would not be excluded if it made curatorial sense.


Q: What is the theme of Ear Taxi Festival 2021?

A: The theme is HEAR CHICAGO, which is a call to engage with the vast multiplicity of styles and traditions that constitutes Chicago’s expansive musical identity in the 21st century. It expresses our firm belief in the vitality of Chicago’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) musicians as a significant part of the city’s complex history. As our society takes steps to heal from the multiple tragedies it is currently experiencing, as well as its centuries-long legacy of injustice, inequity, colonialism, and violence, it is most importantly an invitation to challenge, collaborate, and change together as artists and listeners. We remain committed to doing the steadfast work necessary to progress towards a just society.


Q: Do all participants in my performance need to be currently Chicago-based? Do all composers need to be currently Chicago-based?

A: No.  However, please note the following considerations: Ear Taxi Festival exists to celebrate and highlight Chicago’s new and experimental musics. It does not exist to bring to Chicago audiences national and international music that is under-represented in Chicago, as worthy as such a goal is. We ask that you keep this mission in mind when thinking about your programming. We will not, however, define precise parameters regarding what is permissible in the interest of being as inclusive as possible (i.e. there are not specific requirements related to genre, musical tradition, residency, nationality, etc.).


Q: Will composers be commissioned for Ear Taxi Festival?

A: The festival itself will commission only a small number of pieces during this iteration. Performers would be welcome to commission new pieces if desired. Jennie Oh Brown (Artistic and Executive Director) and Michael Lewanski (Curatorial Director) would be happy to provide letters of support for grants.


Q: Who is funding Ear Taxi Festival 2021?

A: Ear Taxi Festival is supported by a generous gift from Helen Zell and grants from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Helen F. Whitaker Fund and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.

As the presenting organization for Ear Taxi Festival, New Music Chicago is supported by the Amphion Foundation, Inc., the Alice M. Ditson Fund, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.