About American Composers Forum

ACF envisions a world where living music creators are celebrated as essential to human culture. We are leading catalysts in an ecosystem that invites generations of composers, artists, advocates, and audiences to pursue this vision with us.

Our Mission is to support and advocate for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art.

We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources.
Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists.
We provide direct funding and mentorship to a broad and diverse field of music creators, highlighting those who have been historically excluded from participation.
Our Core Values are Leadership, Anti-Racism, Courage, Support, and Curiosity.

We frame our work with a focus on racial equity and includes within that scope, but not limited to, diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, religions, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of being “American.”

Our History

ACF organized in 1973 as a group of students at the University of Minnesota, led by co-founders Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus, for the purpose of creating performance opportunities outside the academic setting. They incorporated in 1975 as the Minnesota Composers Forum and focused their early efforts on a series of concerts featuring the music of their members. In the early 1980s the organization expanded their services by launching the Jerome Composer Commissioning Program (1979), the McKnight Fellowships (1982) and innova® recordings (1983) – all of which continue today. One of the earliest public advocacy initiatives was the Composers Voice program with Minnesota Public Radio (1993), a series of 13 one-hour broadcasts featuring prominent national composers such as John Adams, Meredith Monk and Philip Glass among others.

In 1996 the Board of Directors adopted the current name of American Composers Forum (ACF) in recognition of its growing national reach. Eight chapters were established in major urban centers, and the 50-state commissioning program Continental Harmony was launched in 1998 as a millennium celebration in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Among its more singular historical programming was the First Nations Composer Initiative from 2004-2010 to support the unique needs of Native American composers and performers.

BandQuest®, a series of music for middle school bands composed by prominent American composers, has reached an estimated 625,000 students since its inception in 1997. There are now twenty-two published works in the series ranging from Michael Colgrass, Libby Larsen, Michael Daugherty and klezmer revivalist, Hankus Netsky, to name a few. ChoralQuest® is the newest education program for middle school, with commissions from Stephen Paulus, Alice Parker, Jerod Tate, Jennifer Higdon, and Chen Yi among others. NextNotes®, the newest program, awards promising high school students with meaningful performance and mentorship opportunities.

Over the course of four decades, ACF has nurtured the work of thousands of composers. The innova recording label has released over 650 titles, and our BandQuest® and ChoralQuest® series for middle-level students has reached over half million students. Newer programs like ACF CONNECT offer direct connections and commissions with leading national ensembles. The organization has a rich history of granting programs, readings, salons, conferences, and residencies that support the creation of new work and connect composers to communities. (See Historical Timeline below).

In 2020, ACF acquired the multimedia hub I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, which has enabled the organization to support more artists and writers, expand the diversity of music criticism, and share more stories about and by music creators, performers, administrators, and supporters.