Composer’s work commissioned

Hannah Ishizaki received a prize grant to develop a musical composition that will be performed at the National Sawdust Ensemble’s New Works Commission Concert in New York City on March 9. 

Hannah Ishizaki, Mt. Lebanon High School Class of 2018, is one of five winners of National Sawdust’s Hildegard Commission.

National Sawdust is a nonprofit performing arts organization and music venue in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, conceived in 2015 by arts lover and musician/attorney Kevin Dolan, and composer Paola Prestini.

The Hildegard Commission is National Sawdust’s mentorship initiative, highlighting outstanding women and other marginalized genders in the early stages of their careers. It supports them with a commission, mentorship and access to collaborators.

Ishizaki, a composer now based in New York City, graduated from Juilliard in May. In 2017, she became the youngest woman to have a world premiere with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Her work explores the physicality of music performance. She often experiments with a wide range of instruments; everything from acoustic instruments to digital sensors to rocks and zippers.

The Hildegard Commission, made possible by the Onassis Foundation and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, includes a $5,000 cash prize, mentorship with a member of the jury, a performance on March 9 by the National Sawdust Ensemble and a professional live recording.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to work with Paola Prestini as a mentor and write a piece for the National Sawdust ensemble, and I am so grateful to the Onassis Foundation and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for making this project possible,” Ishizaki said.

She plans to compose a piece based on Cavafy’s The Sculptor of Tyana—a monologue in which a sculptor takes the reader through their workshop, naming and describing each of the pieces displayed. The composition will be written for mezzo-soprano/narrator, cello, percussion, and motion sensor with live electronics. The narrator will play the role of the sculptor. Wearing a motion sensor on their hand, their gestures will electronically influence the sound of the other performers as they take the audience through “the workshop.”

“I’m also especially excited to explore how my piece as a concert work will translate into a sound installation,” she said.

This project will also be a part of Carnegie Hall’s season-long exploration of the many contributions women have made to music.