K-12 New Music Project

Funded by

In partnership with


HYS Joins NOI+F to Increase Representation
in K-12 Orchestral Literature

The K-12 New Music Project was initiated by the National Orchestral Institute+Festival and builds on Hawaii Youth Symphony’s existing partnership with them. The project seeks to diversify the pool of composers who write for young players by commissioning works by historically excluded composers to write music for elementary, middle, high school and youth orchestras. As part of this project, these composers will work directly with instrumental teachers and students at HYS, the DC Youth Orchestra Program (DCYOP), and secondary schools in Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland) (PGCPS). Ultimately, schools across the nation will have access to these new works through our publishing partner, American Composers Alliance (ACA).

The project was awarded a $30,000 grant from The League of American Orchestra’s Futures Fund to help further the efforts. This grant supports orchestral organizations that implement innovative ways in which to grow audiences and increase their relevance.

In this new phase, the K12 New Music Project and its partners will commission eight historically excluded composers- two each for elementary, middle school, high school and youth orchestra.

At the conclusion of the two rounds of premieres, NOI+F will make the first round of commissions available at no cost to launch partners and for purchase to schools and youth orchestras across the country. The new commissions will be integrated into HYS, DCYOP, and PGCPS programming throughout the 2021-22 and 2022-2023 academic years. The commissioned repertoire will also be accompanied by visits from the composers so that the students can interact and ask questions, a unique experience they may have never had.

“The National Orchestral Institute + Festival has pledged to amplify creative voices that have been unfairly silenced in the orchestral ecosystem due to systemic racism. While professional orchestras have begun commissioning projects to increase representation in their repertoire, this project takes aim at the often overlooked music played by schools and youth orchestras around the country.”

— Richard Scerbo, Director of NOI+F 

“The dynamism of young orchestral musicians provides an incredible opportunity to explore, celebrate and champion equity and diversity. We at Hawaii Youth Symphony are thrilled to be working alongside our partners in this project, to bring forward these conversations and to share in the universal joy of music.”

— Randy Wong, HYS President

Interested in Programming this Repertoire?

All pieces associated with the project, excluding Carlos Simon’s, can be found on ACA’s website here.

Carlos Simon’s works are published by Bill Holab Music. You can access his piece, Journey, here.

If you program any of these pieces, please contact us and let us know at!

Meet our Commissioned Composers

Michael-Thomas Foumai: Paniolo Credo for Elementary String Orchestra

Dr. Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987, Honolulu, Hawai‘i) is a composer of contemporary concert music and educator. His music has been described as “vibrant and cinematic” (New York Times) and “full of color, drama, and emotion” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). A prolific composer of symphonic music, his work focuses on storytelling and the history, people and culture of his Hawaiʻi home. 

Hawaii Youth Symphony is honored to have a deep, long-standing relationship with Dr. Foumai. Michael-Thomas’s works have been featured in many of our concerts, including our recent Nā Mele televison specials! His first composition for HYS was premiered when he was Associate Concertmaster of Youth Symphony I, under the direction of Maestro Henry Miyamura. Mahalo, Michael-Thomas, for all that you do to support HYS!

Clarice Assad: A Retirada for Middle School String Orchestra 

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Brazilian American Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop and jazz genres, renowned for her evocative colors, rich textures, and diverse stylistic range. A prolific Grammy nominated composer, with over 70 works to her credit, her work has been commissioned by internationally renowned organizations, festivals and artists, and are published in France (Editions Lemoine), Germany (Trekel), Criadores do Brasil (Brazil) and in the US by Virtual Artists Collective Publishing. A sought-after performer, she is a celebrated pianist and inventive vocalist. Ms. Assad has released seven solo albums and appeared on or had her works performed on another 30. Her music is represented on Cedille Records, SONY Masterworks, Nonesuch, Adventure Music, Edge, Telarc, NSS Music, GHA, and CHANDOS. As an innovator, her award-winning Voxploration Series on music education, creation, songwriting and improvisation has been presented throughout the United States, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East. With her talents sought-after by artists and organizations worldwide, the multi-talented musician continues to attract new audiences both onstage and off.

Nicholas Felder: Work for Elementary School Orchestra (Title TBD)

Having a passion for community engagement and working with youth, Nicholas Felder seeks to create art that inspires relational bonds between people in a given space. In addition to writing music, his work centers writing prose and poetry, teaching grade-school students in the neighborhood and advocating for university student voices in the performance space and classroom.

Nicholas has earned a number of honors, including 1st place in the 2016 Kennesaw State University (KSU) Music Composition Contest and finalist for the 2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Award. He has had his works performed by ensembles, such as the Mivos Quartet and the KSU Symphony Orchestra.

Nicholas is currently earning his Master of the Arts in Music Composition at the University of Michigan.

Brian Nabors: Work for High School String Orchestra (Title TBD)

Brian Raphael Nabors (b.1991, Birmingham, AL) is a composer of emotionally enriching music that tells exciting narratives with its vibrant themes and colorful harmonic language. Nabors’ music has been performed by the Cincinnati, Atlanta, Nashville, & Detroit Symphonies, as well as ROCO Chamber Orchestra. He has also been performed by artists such as the Atlanta Chamber Players, Dallas’s Voices of Change, Boston Musica Viva and the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings.

He was named a 2021 composition fellow of the Tanglewood music festival; a 2021 Seikilos Focus Fellowship recipient by Air Serenbe, The Serenbe Institute; a 2019 composer fellow in the American Composers Orchestra’s Earshot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; a 2019 composer fellow with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s Composer Lab; and 2019 cycle five grand prize winner of the Rapido! National Composition Contest. Nabors was also a 2020 Fulbright scholarship recipient to Sydney, Australia, studying with composer Carl Vine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Carlos Simon: Journey for High School String Orchestra

Carlos Simon’s latest album, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT, was released on the Navona Records label in April 2018. Described as an “overall driving force” (Review Graveyard) and featured on Apple Music’s “Albums to Watch”, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT incorporates spoken word and historic recordings to craft a multifaceted program of musical works that are inspired as much by the past as they are the present.

As a part of the Sundance Institute, Carlos Simon was named as a Sundance Composer Fellow in 2018, which was held at the historic Skywalker Ranch. His string quartet, Elegy, honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner was recently performed at the Kennedy Center for the Mason Bates JFK Jukebox Series. With support from the US Embassy in Tokyo and US/Japan Foundation, Simon traveled with the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI) on a two-week tour of Japan in 2018 performing concerts in some of the most sacred temples and concert spaces in Japan including Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He has also received degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. Additionally, he studied in Baden, Austria at the Hollywood Music Workshop with Conrad Pope and at New York University’s Film Scoring Summer Workshop.

Adrian Sims: Undiscovered Pathways for High School String Orchestra

Adrian B. Sims (b. 2000), born in Seattle, Washington is an emerging composer, conductor, educator, and trombonist. Adrian graduated from Catonsville High School (class of 2018) located in Catonsville, Maryland. His music has been played at The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and selected for the Bandworld Top 100 List. Adrian has also been selected as a winner in multiple composition competitions including the Maryland Music Educators Association Young Composers Project and the Make Music Young Composers Contest. On many occasions, he has rehearsed and conducted his music in performances at schools across the state of Maryland.

As a trombonist, Adrian has performed in a wide variety of musical ensembles including pit and symphony orchestras as well as jazz and concert bands. In high school, he was selected to participate in the Maryland All-State Band several times and has played side by side with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He currently plays in the top ensembles at The University of Maryland and studies with Matthew Guilford, solo bass trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra. Adrian is grateful for the continued support from his band directors Christopher Gnagey and Cindy Stevenson, and is pursuing a dual degree in Music Education and Composition at The University of Maryland. He credits Dr. Robert Gibson, Professor of Composition at The University of Maryland, and world-renowned composer Brian Balmages for his development as a composer.

Derrick Skye: Flames Nurtured the Rose for Youth Orchestra 

Derrick Skye is a composer and musician based in the Los Angeles area who often integrates music practices from different cultural traditions around the world into his work with classical music communities. The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.”

Skye’s works have been commissioned or performed by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Dayton Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony, Netherlands Philharmonic, and Albany Symphony Orchestra, among others. He is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.

Asha Srinivasan: Work for Middle School String Orchestra (Title TBD)

Indian-American composer Asha Srinivasan draws from her Western musical training and her Indian heritage to create her compositional language. Her music has been presented at various venues including SEAMUS, ICMC, June in Buffalo, SCI and the National Flute Convention. Her work Dviraag was awarded at the 2011 Thailand International Composition Festival and won the Flute New Music Consortium competition in 2015. In 2012, Alarm Will Sound premiered Svara-lila at the Mizzou International Composers Festival. She has also won national commissioning competitions, including the BMI Foundation’s Women’s Music Commission and the Flute/Cello Commissioning Circle. Other honors include: the Walsum prize for Kalpitha, the Prix d’Eté 2nd prize for Alone, Dancing and multiple ASCAP Plus Awards. Her works have been released on CD by Ablaze Records, Mark Records, Beauport Classical and SEAMUS CD Series (vol. 22). In 2012, she co-hosted the SEAMUS national conference at Lawrence University. Her studies include: D.M.A. Composition at University of Maryland, College Park; M.Mus. Computer Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy at the Peabody Conservatory and B.A. at Goucher College. Ms. Srinivasan is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence University and recently she joined the board of the American Composers Forum. Learn more at

Erica Telisnor: Together We Are Strong for Middle School String Orchestra (Note: Piece unavailable for performance)

Erica Telisnor is a 27 year-old composer, arranger, producer, pianist and music educator from Boston, Massachusetts. During high school and college, Telisnor has been fortunate enough to mentor and workshop with many premiere musicians, including Patrice Rushen, Victor Wooten, Jon Faddis, Bobby McFerrin, Nnenna Freelon, Russell Ferrante, Dee Dee Bridgewater, just to name a few. In 2015, Telisnor earned her B.A. in Contemporary Writing & Production from Berklee College of Music. In 2016, she had the opportunity to work with some of New York’s elite in theatre and hip-hop performance, including Rafael Casal (HBO Def Jam Poetry), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, original Broadway cast) and Black Thought (The Roots). Now back in Boston, Telisnor is steadily working with other artists and expanding her already impressive arsenal of over 80 compositional and arranging works.