FRANCISCO J. NÚÑEZ NAMED MUSICAL AMERICA’S 2018 EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
NEW YORK, NEW YORK (October 17, 2017) — Francisco J. Núñez, Artistic Director and Founder of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC), was today announced as the recipient of Musical America’s Educator of the Year award.
Musical America will hold a ceremony for award winners at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Terrace Room on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. Other winners include Andris Nelsons (Artist of the Year), Mason Bates (Composer of the Year), Augustin Hadelich (Instrumentalist of the Year), and Sondra Radvanovsky (Vocalist of the Year).
Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur “genius” fellow, is a conductor, composer, leading figure in music education, and the founder of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award-winning Young People’s Chorus of New York City, renowned worldwide for its diversity and artistic excellence. Since YPC’s founding in 1988, he has changed the perception of the capabilities of a children’s chorus, dramatically heightening an appreciation for the unlimited potential of children to rise to unforeseen levels of artistry.
Mr. Núñez’s early years contributed to his passion for providing children with a path to fulfilling their life’s potential. He grew up in a close-knit Dominican family in New York City’s Washington Heights. As a piano prodigy, he spent his time away from school at home practicing piano. Through his musical talent, he met other children with the same interests in music but from different cultural and economic environments. He learned from them, and they learned from him. After he graduated from NYU as a piano performance major, he formed the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, bringing children from underserved neighborhoods together with children from more privileged circumstances. With music as the equalizer, the diversity in the group resulted in new vocal colors and a confident urban style, creating not only a vibrant new choral sound, but also an avenue for children to succeed.
“What music did for me,” Núñez says, “was not make me a great pianist; it made me a more complete human being. And the way I see it, what I’ve done with Young People’s Chorus is not really about music-making. Making music is what I do. If I were a soccer player, I might be doing the same thing I’m doing now, but using soccer instead.”
What the Young People’s Chorus is about, for Núñez, is social engineering and community building—bringing together children of different racial, religious, and economic backgrounds, and having them bond by working for common artistic goals.
From Allan Kozinn’s Musical America Educator of the Year profile of Mr. Núñez.
YPC now reaches over 1,600 young people—ages 7 to 18—each year through music, from Renaissance and classical traditions to gospel, folk, pop, contemporary, and world music. Through his YPC Transient Glory commissioning series of concerts, recordings, symposia, and publications, Mr. Núñez has greatly expanded and invigorated the repertoire of choral music for young people. In a unique collaboration with Chester Novello and G. Schirmer, the Transient Glory compositions are being published by Boosey & Hawkes, where Mr. Núñez is an editor, so that other choruses worldwide can have access to this challenging music. In 2009 he extended Transient Glory to Radio Radiance, a radio, digital media and internet program, presented in association with public radio, to develop new audiences for cutting-edge choral music through national broadcasts, along with a grassroots effort in collaboration with youth choruses in cities both on and off the U.S. mainland. To date, he has commissioned more than 100 pieces of music for young voices from many of today’s most distinguished composers, such as John Corigliano, David Del Tredici, Michael Gordon, Missy Mazzoli, and Meredith Monk.
Mr. Núñez has led YPC in performances on four continents, including concerts at or with Carnegie Hall, the Tokyo Philharmonic, Bang on a Can, Adolf Fredrik Festival in Stockholm, Sweden; Polyfollia in Normandy, France; Basel, Switzerland; Hong Kong; Shanghai; Songbridge in Finland, and over 30 Japanese cities. He also frequently appears with YPC on national television, including in an Emmy Award-winning feature on PBS-TV’s From the Top at Carnegie Hall, ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, CNN’s New Day, and NBC-TV’s Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, and The Tonight Show, among many others. His performance with YPC for Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on the pope’s first trip to America was streamed to more than a billion people around the world.
To advance and expand the instructional methods that have been so successful with YPC choristers, Mr. Núñez has established a conducting fellowship program, which provides young conductors with the unique opportunity to work hands on with all YPC choral divisions under his mentorship and that of YPC’s associate conductors. He has also formed the Núñez Initiative for Social Change through the Choral Arts as part of his effort to further effect positive social change for young people. The Initiative promotes social advocacy to choral conductors and music teachers across the nation through teacher training, workshops, and events.
As a leading authority on the role of music in achieving equality and diversity in today’s society, Mr. Núñez is often invited to give keynote addresses by such organizations as Chorus America, Yale University, the Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Hong Kong International Youth and Children’s Choir Festival, the Tokyo College of Music, Festival 500 in Newfoundland, Roche International, and the Rhodes World Public Forum in Greece.
Mr. Núñez is a member of the Chorus America board. In addition to receiving a MacArthur Fellowship in 2011, he has been recognized with an ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the New York Choral Society’s Choral Excellence Award, and ABC-TV has honored him as its Person of the Week. Hispanic Business magazine named him one of its 100 Most Influential Hispanics, General Motors Corporation hailed him as an unsung Hispanic hero, LaSociedad Coral Latinoamericana named him its Man of the Year, and he has been honored for his dedication and efforts in promoting Latino culture by Centro Cívico Cultural Dominicano. He has also been profiled by Fox News as part of Hispanic Heritage Month for “changing young lives with music,” named among Musical America’s 30 “Influencers” for his contributions to the music industry, honored by NYU Steinhardt with a Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award; presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Ithaca College; and recently given Bang on a Can’s Visionary Award at its 30th Anniversary Gala.