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.”

Paola Prestini is “the imaginative composer” (The New York Times), “Visionary-In-Chief” (Time Out NY), and Co-founder/Artistic Director behind the Brooklyn venue and music incubator National Sawdust. 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; she is one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post); and on the “Top 100 Composers in the World” list by NPR. Prestini’s music and works have been commissioned by and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Barbican Centre, The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Brooklyn Rider, The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the Kennedy Center, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Opera, The New York Philharmonic,  Roomful of Teeth, and the Young People’s Chorus of NYC, among others. In 1999 she co-founded the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt (VIA) while at the Juilliard School, (now relaunched as National Sawdust Projects). Through VIA she has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, conservationists and astrophysicists in large-scale multimedia works (often in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects). VIA is the sustaining force behind more than one hundred original productions to date. Prestini also presided over the launch of VIA Records, hailed as “an essential new voice in the future of American classical music” (New Sounds, WQXR), now relaunched as National Sawdust Tracks.

Incorporating powerful visual and dramatic components, Prestini’s multimedia creations address such extra-musical issues as conservation, astrophysics, and politics.

Large scale works in development include music for the next installation of filmmaker Murat Eyuboglu’s eco/film cantata : The AmazonOld Man and the Sea, an opera-theater work directed by Robert Wilson, with librettist Royce Vavrek, vocalist Helga Davis and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler; Edward Tulane, an inter-generational grand opera for Minnesota Opera with librettist Mark Campbell and Academy Award winning director Eric Simonson; Film Stills, a monodrama with artist Cindy Sherman, director R.B. Schlather, mezzo soprano Eve Gigliotti and librettist Royce Vavrek commissioned by National Sawdust and the Kennedy Center; Sensorium Ex, a chamber opera with librettist Brenda Shaughnessy and director Tomer Zvulun for Atlanta Opera and Beth Morrison Projects; Stellet Licht, a chamber opera with librettist Royce Vavrek and director Thaddeus Strassberger for Banff’s Opera in the 21st Century; and Four Quartets, a new piano concerto inspired by the work of T.S. Eliot, for pianist Awadagin Pratt, and ensembles Roomful of Teeth and a Far Cry.

Recent works include the grand opera Gilgamesh for Arts Emerson at the Cutler Majestic, with direction by Michael Counts, libretto by Cerise Jacobs, and visuals S. Katy Tucker; the Labyrinth Installation Concertos for cellist Maya Beiser and violinist Cornelius Dufallo, with direction by Michael McQuilken, visuals by Erika Harrsch and Carmen Kordas, performed at the Isabella Gardner Museum and commissioned by the Krannert Center; The Hubble Cantata with virtual reality by Eliza Mcnitt, narrations by astrophysicist Mario Livio and libretto by Royce Vavrek, performed at Bric’s Celebrate Brooklyn, the Kennedy Center, and LA’s Ford Theater with Los Angeles Opera, and commissioned by Bay Chamber Concerts and National Sawdust Projects; the opera-theater work Aging Magician with performer/librettist Rinde Eckert, director/designer Julian Crouch, instrument inventor Mark Stewart and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, workshopped at the Park Avenue Armory and MASS MoCA, commissioned by the Walker Art Center and Krannert Center with performances at ASU Gammage and the New Victory Theater; the choral installation Epiphany for the Young People’s Chorus, performed at BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival with visuals by Ali Hossaini; The Colorado, Murat Eyuboglu’s eco/film cantata developed at MASS MoCA for Roomful of Teeth, percussionist Glenn Kotche, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Houston’s Da Camera series, Stanford Live and the Kennedy Center; The Hotel That Time Forgot, for orchestra and video artist Mami Kosemura for the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; We Breathe Again, a film score released on PBS with a stellar group including Nels Cline, Jeffrey Zeigler, Cornelius Dufallo, David Cossin, and Tanya Tagaq performed at National Sawdust’s Winterreise Festival; the choral/visual work The Glass Box for The Young People’s Chorus and the Yale Chorus with libretto by Royce Vavrek and visuals by Kevork Mourad; and The Imaginary World of Wild Order for the Mass Re-Imaginings Projects commissioned by Choir of Trinity Wall Street with text by Brenda Shaughnessy.

Prestini’s honors include two ASCAP awards, a fellowship from Paul & Daisy Soros, and the Sundance Institute. She has been granted residencies at MASS MoCA, The Park Avenue Armory, The Watermill Center, Florida’s Hermitage Artist Retreat, Wyoming’s Ucross Foundation, and LMCC Governor’s Island. Passionate about education, she has taught at inner city schools in New York, with the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, with El Sistema in Venezuela, and at institutions and in the field in Italy, Africa, and Mexico.

Paola Prestini’s music is released on National Sawdust Tracks, Innova, and Tzadik Records; her writing is published in the Arcana series by Hips Road, and she is the editor of the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composer handbook. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she studied under Samuel Adler, Robert Beaser, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

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.