Paola Prestini is the co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust as well as a composer who takes inspiration from otherworldly subject matter, from magicians to the Hubble Telescope. Here, Prestini reflects on her career and discusses current projects.
Artist: Paola Prestini
Composer Paola Prestini is the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn arts center National Sawdust. Since 1999, when she co-founded the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt (subsequently re-launched as National Sawdust Projects), she has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, and scientists in large-scale multimedia works. She was recently named an “Innovator” on the list of Top 30 Professionals of the Year by Musical America, the country’s oldest classical music magazine; she is on Brooklyn Magazine’s latest list of “influencers of Brooklyn culture…in perpetuity” alongside such household names as Chuck Schumer and Spike Lee; and is one of the Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music (Washington Post). As part of her commitment to education and mentoring the next generation of musical artists, she started the Hildegard Competition, for emerging female, trans, and non-binary composers.
Prestini’s music and works have been commissioned by and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Barbican Centre, the Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, Roomful of Teeth, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and the Young People’s Chorus, and she is a frequent collaborator with Beth Morrison Projects.
Her next steps include the following new commissions: a new piece for the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19 Initiative; a piano concerto for Lara Downes for the Oregon Bach Festival, Ravinia, and the Louisville Orchestra; a piano concerto for Awadagin Pratt and A Far Cry and Roomful of Teeth; a string quartet commissioned by Caramoor for the Thalea String Quartet; and the score to The Amazon, a music driven eco-documentary (and follow up to filmmaker Murat Eyuboglu’s The Colorado). Her upcoming operas include the grand opera Edward Tulane with librettist Mark Campbell and director Eric Simonson (Minnesota Opera), the chamber opera Sensorium Ex with poet Brenda Shaughnessy and director Tomer Tzvulun (Atlanta Opera and Beth Morrison Projects), and the foley chamber opera Silent Light with librettist Royce Vavrek and director Thaddeus Strassberger (Banff’s Opera in the 21st Century).
She has collaborated with artists such as the multidisciplinary talent Rinde Eckert; astrophysicist Mario Livio; conservationist William deBuys; VR writer and director Eliza McNitt; throat singer Tanya Tagaq; directors Julian Crouch and Robert Wilson; and musicians such as Helga Davis and Jeffrey Zeigler. She has been a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and a Sundance Fellow and was a graduate of The Juilliard School.