National Sawdust (NS), an unparalleled, artist-led, non-profit venue, is a place for exploration and discovery. A place where emerging and established artists can share their music with serious music fans and casual listeners alike.

In a city teeming with venues, NS is a singular space founded with an expansive vision: to provide composers and musicians across genres a home in which they can flourish, a setting where they are given unprecedented support and critical resources essential to create, and then share, their work.

As a composer, I believe the role of an artist in the 21st century should be that of creator, educator, performer, and entrepreneur. I believe that 21st-century composers/artists need to be thinking about what impact they can have on their existing community, both locally and globally.
At National Sawdust (NS), we believe in remaining flexible and true to the needs of artists. Our core mission is centered on the support of emerging artists, and on commissioning and supporting the seeds of ideas. Each year, we explore one large theme and construct programming and questions around that theme. This year, that theme is opera. We are producing and commissioning ten of them. Additionally, we are exploring  song cycles in our annual Winterreise festival, and celebrating the voice in our FERUS festival.
We also believe the future of new art lives in education. We define education broadly. To us, education is about giving young people and community members opportunities and tools to explore their potential for artistic and creative expression. But it is also about ensuring that artists themselves never stop learning – about their craft, about the work of their peers, about the business of the arts, about their own capacities to be educators and advocates. NS facilitates this kind of learning by bringing together artists from around the world in exciting composition- based projects, teaching opportunities, cultural exchanges, and hands-on management experience. Through this cultural synthesis artists leave lasting impressions on one another, become more versatile and resilient professionals, and create works that reflect a plural understanding of American society.

Paola Prestini, Creative & Executive Director

Summer Labs

The Summer Labs initiative consists of incubation periods during which curators and guests focus on in-depth multimedia development work that may enter into the NS-VIA repertory.


The vitality of today’s artistic community depends upon artists’ abilities to be exceptional creators, but also savvy entrepreneurs, managers, collaborators, and communicators. NS is pleased to offer several programs geared towards preparing artists for enriching, well rounded, sustainable careers.


Master Artists who program their own work and their discoveries. They share the spirit of discovery of other artists and forms and are auteurs and masters at their craft.


Groups who receive National Sawdust Systems of Support (commissioning, marketing and fundraising support) and Next Steps mentorship. These groups complete specific projects-from operas to recordings-and use the resources from National Sawdust to accomplish set goals.


Artists who receive National Sawdust Systems of Support (commissioning, marketing and fundraising support) and Next Steps mentorship. These artists are on the brink of a new phase of their careers and will complete new commissions, recordings and projects during their time at National Sawdust.


Organizations that share the desire to foster new work and directions through partnerships. These partners help us form a network for our artists and groups in residence and program concerts, festivals and events in partnership with NS.


National Sawdust+, created by Elena Park, brings artists and thinkers together for stimulating, and often unexpected, concerts and conversations in an intimate setting. NS+ Concerts have been curated by directors Julie Taymor and Michael Mayer, RadioLab’s Jad Abumrad, and visual artist Elizabeth Peyton, who share their musical passions. NS+ Talks, pairing luminaries from different walks of life, have presented Marina Abramovic + Laurie Anderson, Waltraud Meier + Patti Smith, and Terry Riley + François Girard in revealing conversations.


Our home series, these concerts introduce our community to artists we are excited by, and who may then be introduced into our curatorial programs. Submissions are directed to our internal programming staff for inclusion in this series.