Paola Prestini

Composer, Co-Founder, & Artistic Director

“National Sawdust is a home for curious artists and listeners, and in our inaugural season, we are offering a vast range of new music created and discovered by our curators. Our hope is to create an inclusive home where artists and audiences can learn, explore and listen creatively. I want to give other composers and artists the kinds of opportunities that would have helped me when I was in my 20s. I believe that by giving artists the reins to program the space and by lending support to their projects in the early phases of development we will make a unique contribution to New York City’s musical ecosystem.”

Composer Paola Prestini is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of 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 she 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 nonbinary composers.

Prestini’s 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, among others.

Her next steps include the following new commissions: A new piece for the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19 Initiative, a piano concerto for Awadagin Pratt and A Far Cry, a string quartet commissioned by Caramoor for the Thalea String Quartet, and the score to The Amazon, a documentary and arts event (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 Stellet Licht 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 is an alumna of the Juilliard School and has been a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and a Sundance Fellow.

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Short Bio

Named one of Musical America’s “Top 30 Musical Innovators 2016″ and one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post), Prestini’s music has been commissioned by and been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, BAM, and the Barbican Centre, by groups such as Brooklyn Rider, Attacca Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The New York Philharmonic, and Choir of Trinity Wall Street, among others. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of National Sawdust (NS), a nonprofit Brooklyn-based space for arts incubation and performance, and the “visionary-in-chief” (Time Out New York) of VisionIntoArt, the multimedia production company she co-founded in 1999, now merged with National Sawdust.