Jens Ibsen Selected as Winner of Second Annual Emerging Black Composers Project Award


The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), in partnership with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the SFCM President’s Advisory Council on Equity and Inclusion, announced today that Jens Ibsen is the recipient of the second annual Emerging Black Composers Project (EBCP). The San Francisco Symphony, led by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, will give the world premiere of his work during the 2023-2024 season.

As the winner of the Emerging Black Composers Project award, Ibsen will receive a $15,000 commissioning fee, mentorship from committee members and resources to prepare for his work with the SFCM, as well as a premiere of the work at Davies Symphony Hall. Ibsen joins Trevor Weston, Sumi Tonooka, Jonathan Bingham and Shawn Okpebholo as winners of the ten-year project.

Ibsen was selected following an anonymous review process overseen by a selection committee led by EBCP President Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and including SFCM Music Director Edwin Outwater and Salonen.

“Jens’ music made me feel things with immediacy,” Bartholomew-Poyser said. “It grabbed me and made me cry at times; at others I laughed out loud at the ingenuity. And then, when I looked at the score, I saw the contraption below. The craft and the potential. I really wanted to hear this person’s music, and I wanted them, in particular, to have no barriers to moving forward!”

Opera lover and self-proclaimed metalhead, Jens Ibsen is a multidisciplinary artist whose vocal talents have taken him to perform from Dubai to Shanghai. As a composer, his works range from solo repertoire to orchestral works, including electroacoustic music.

Born in Accra, Ghana to a Ghanaian mother and American father, his works are influenced by early exposure to Ghanaian drums and Arabic and Indian classical music, as well as later influences like progressive metal. and other high-distortion genres. He made history as the first African-born member of the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir, of which he was the principal soloist.

“Eclecticism is literally in my veins,” Ibsen said. “I strive to ensure that my work reflects this by exploring various musical languages ​​and weaving them into an entirely unique, yet familiar tapestry. I constantly dissect the harmonies and rhythms of everything I listen to and search for opportunities to add them to my vocabulary.I particularly enjoy reproducing the timbres of this music through extended techniques, whether it’s overpressing creaking strings or making a vocalist howl like a metal leader.

“Jens’ compositions have an exciting balance of rhythmic drive, elegant tonality and beautiful word arrangements,” Outwater said. “His music has touched me deeply on an emotional level and connects to contemporary life in a vital and compelling way. He writes in a variety of contexts and styles, but his overall voice as a composer never makes a doubt. I’m excited to meet Jens and learn more about his music!”

Ibsen received his BA in Music Composition from Pepperdine University. He earned his MM in Music Composition at Mannes School of Music. He is based in San Francisco and New York.

The Emerging Black Composers Project aims to shine a light on early career black American composers and their music. It launched in 2020 with the first inaugural commission awarded in June 2021 to Trevor Weston.

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