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Innovation Award Longlist 2020

We are happy to present to you this year’s nominees for the Classical:NEXT 2020 Innovation Award. Each project or person has been singled out by the expert members of the nominating committee for their outstanding profiles from amongst the myriad of other candidates in their respective home countries and across the globe. Longlist, shortlist, public vote - Read here how our Innovation Award works.



Against the Grain Theatre

Against the Grain Theatre, La Bohème (Canada)

In a geographically vast country like Canada, opera is typically only experienced in cities with large opera houses. To help build opera communities across Canada, we need to not only invest in them in the major centres, but in smaller communities as well. Each of the theatre’s events were presented almost exclusively in bars, rather than theatres. Of particular note is the recent La Bohème project, which bar-hopped across rural Canada. This approach is a unique way to make opera accessible and culturally relevant in rural communities.

Reason for nomination: For bringing opera to places where opera hasn’t traditionally been performed, let alone been popular. This makes Against the Grain so essential in Canada.


Andreas Ziegler

Andreas Ziegler (Germany)

TYX art is a innovative young record label driven only by conceptual art projects which turn out to be successful and meet the need of consumers for honest, innovative recorded music. The label works with connected musicians on a longterm base, leaving no space for one hit wonders.

Reason for nomination: The record industry is facing dramatic changes. TYXart envisions itself as a label that is commited to culture rather than commerce. The nominated label has a unique, strong and promising new concept - exactly the kind of innovation needed in the industry today.


Anna Stereopoulou, PLANO. Photo by Jacob Estupiñá Morales

Anna Stereopoulou, PLANO | part of her SYN ~ Cymatic Environment© (Greece)

Anna Stereopoulou’s project encourages people to increase their attention to and improve their listening by promoting new formats. The SYN ~ Cymatic Environment is inspired by Anna’s ongoing research on various art and science subjects, combining a music concert, AV installation and a lecture. It lies at the crossing between cinema art and art-education-wellness , serving as a model for an artistic form of hypnosis . The project helps listeners appreciate and trust all five of their senses.

Reason for nomination: To recognise Anna’s persistence in using obstacles as inspiration, to invent and open new paths; for remaining active, without waiting for things to get better themselves.


Barcelona Obertura Spring Festival

Barcelona Obertura Spring Festival (Spain)

The Barcelona Obertura Spring Festival is changing Barcelona's music scene by promoting the heritage of its musical past as the hometown of renowned artists like Montserrat Caballé, Pau Casals, Alicia de Larrocha, Frederic Mompou, Victoria de los Ángeles or Jordi Savall, among others. Organised by three leading institutions (Liceu Opera, Palau de la Música Catalana and L’Auditori), together with the support of the Town Hall of Barcelona, the aim is to spread classical music around the city and promote Barcelona as an international music city, with a daring and innovative cooperation management that links three main music institutions working together towards a common goal.

Reason for nomination: For engaging top artists and local talent, showing the high level of Barcelona’s music programme and to launch Barcelona as a truly international music city.


Barokksolistene. Musical director and concept: Bjarte Eike. Photo by Theresa Pewal

Bjarte Eike & Barokksolistene, Barokkfest (Norway)

Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene make really old music sound brand new with their corporal approach to music and music making. The Norwegian Opera and Ballet was turned on its head for a few weeks in March 2019, with the project Baroque Party (Barokkfest). Three different shows - new commissioned music developed along with the choreographies, an opera-ballet with Barokksolistene as characters and musicians on stage, and their own signature project The Alehouse Sessions - portrayed how fresh and contemporary baroque and early music can be, with the combination of virtuoso playing, improvisational skill, rhythmic groove, openness to the audience and the individual personalities. Their approach opens music for new audiences and shows existing audiences that there can be so much more to music than we thought we knew.

Reason for nomination: It highlights the grooviness of classical music, making the listener a physical part of the performance and they are the best at what they do.


Clowns, composed by Ana Sokolović. Photo by Donat

Dáirine Ní Mheadhra, John Hess & Pauline Ashwood, Tionscadal na nAmhrán Ealaíne Gaeilge / Irish Language Art Song Project (Ireland)

English has all but obliterated the native Irish (Gaelic) language in Ireland. The setting of texts in Irish in the world of art-music has been extremely limited. Tionscadal na nAmhrán Ealaíne Gaeilge has set out to change that by commissioning 50 songs in Irish. The project is the first ever, devised specifically to increase the availability of art-songs to texts in the Irish language. In one move it has more than doubled the size of the repertoire.

Reason for nomination: It’s very difficult to change the world. But this project has comprehensively and cogently — and with great imagination — set out to change the prospects for art-songs in Irish around the world.


Fernando Nina, Sugar Cello

Fernando Nina, Sugar Cello (Greece)

Sugar Cello focuses on the future and less (but also) on the origin and established traditions based on the cello's place within the musical territory of the past centuries. The project communicates impressions, thoughts and ideas through the sounds of the cello. Sugar Cello creates new unconventional music that incorporates urban dance, fashion and street art in a unique blend.

Reason for nomination: This indie production has mastered cross-genre recording and performance, weaving together street art, fashion, cello aesthetics and stand-out interpretation skills.


Flavia Furtado

Flavia Furtado (Brazil)

Flavia Furtado, director of the Amazon Opera Festival, has been working to create a network of opera houses in Brazil, in association with Opera Latino America, to promote a new space for opera, promoting encounters in which professionals share the social, economic and cultural impact of the genre. The novelty of what Flavia Furtado proposes lies in the creation of a new image for the genre, with research into costs and economic and social impacts that help show the meaning opera can have in society. She also fights for institutional, rather than personal, contact between opera houses.

Reason for nomination: For establishing a new connection between opera houses in Brazil, promoting dialogues about the social, economic and cultural impact of opera.


Hakan Ali Toker

Hakan Ali Toker (Turkey)

Classical music needs to have more improvisation than it did before the 20th century. For improvisation brings more spontaneity, and therefore life to music; it is one of the key elements that lure audiences and create excitement. Hakan Ali Toker is a pianist, composer and master of improvisation in all classical styles and beyond. He has brilliant artistry and a bright background, having had his piano and composition education at Indiana University, USA.

Reason for nomination: For his informative and interactive improvisational recitals breathing fresh air into old traditions; as well as his crossover projects combining genres that have never been crossbred before, in ways that haven't been tried before; hence reaching out to so many people from different backgrounds and bringing-in to the classical concert hall people who normally are not associated with classical music.


James Crabb. Photo by Chris Sheedy

James Crabb, Four Winds Easter Festival (Australia)

Four Winds Easter Festival addresses a need to move beyond notions of ‘classical’ music and out of the straight jacket of the urban concert hall, to keep live music – classical and beyond – relevant, real, participatory and full of wonder. Four Winds demonstrates a way forward for music through the power of collaboration, community and natural beauty. The Four Winds site, with the ‘Windsong’ Pavillion and outdoor SoundShell make it a world class venue and a one-of-a-kind audience experience.

Reason for nomination: James Crabb and the entire Four Winds team deserve international recognition for their role in creating an organisation which punches above its weight on artistic excellence, audience development and social and cultural impact. The diverse and inventive approach to programming and the collaboration with and integration of activities into its community is truly unique.


Juan Pablo Carreño

Juan Pablo Carreño, Misa por la Reconciliación (Mass for Reconciliation) (Colombia)

Misa por la Reconciliación puts together religious texts and names of the war's victims with contemporary sounds to highlight the pain, memory, loss and suffering caused by the 70-year long conflict with the FARC. The piece challenges the discourse about the role of music in the country's culture, explores the collective pain and suffering of an entire country and highlights contradictions, challenges, frustrations and pain. It expands the idea of what a mass can be - not as a religious ritual, but as a monument in which the names of the victims are at the forefront of the ritual.

Reason for nomination: Refusing to appeal to patriotic symbols or heroic narratives and decidedly opting to dwell in the horror of war, Juan Pablo Carreño offers Colombia and the world a piece that makes you think, remember and question the pertinence of official narratives and simple truths.


Krzysztof Cybulski

Krzysztof Cybulski (Poland)

Krzysztof Cybulski is a musician (double bass and guitar player), composer, sound artist, constructor of unusual music machines and last but not least software programmer. Experimenting with wood or aluminum, Cybulski investigates the behavior of materials in the context of sound and looks for a form for his unusual instruments. He then creates original software that animates them to interact and lets them play.

Reason for nomination: Krzysztof Cybulski is one of the most talented and original artists in Poland. His abilities to combine artistic and technical imagination enables him to create fascinating music sculptures, interactive installations and instruments. His use of technology is not an end in itself, but instead serves to control musical phenomena and is tailored to the needs of each instrument.


kultursegel education project. Photo by Olbor

kultursegel (Germany)

A young and committed team is developing a conclusive concept to bring culture into the region in a sustainable way and to achieve something locally - with the long-term goal of establishing a cultural and music academy in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The participatory approach includes musical school trips, orchestra flash mobs and mobile music workshops.

Reason for nomination: Professional in organisation and conceptual thinking, kultursegel impresses with its entrepreneurial spirit and its authentic focus on the region.


Liza Lim and Composing Women group

Liza Lim and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Composing Women (Australia)

Despite the seismic developments in recent years, women still face overwhelming challenges in the classical music arena, particularly in composition. Oftentimes exciting works go unheard or, worse, unwritten. Sydney Conservatorium’s Composing Women program targets this problem with two years of mentoring. Creative and performance opportunities empower selected participants, who for 2020 include women of different ages and of colour from a range of artistic practices.

Reason for nomination: This is the only higher-level composition program for women demonstrating a sustained, strategic commitment to change. Liza Lim and the Composing Women program deserves recognition for its strategic vision, resilience and ongoing commitment to excellence. It represents a successful model which could be – should be – adopted far and wide.


Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Directed by Long Yu. Photo by Sophie Zhai

Long Yu, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (Southern China)

Long Yu has been the most important celebrity in the classical music scene across China in the last decade. As the Herbert von Karajan or Valery Gergiev of China, his efforts and devotions have brought new ideas, visions, strategies and projects that closely connect the Western classical music world to mainland China. Under his direction, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra was the first Chinese orchestra to be signed by DG and he introduced Western audiences to the orchestra with performances at renowned European festivals.

Reason for nomination: For single-handedly changing the classical music industry and its audiences in China. He has made the environment for this music more harmonious with practices in other regions. Without Long Yu, audiences would still talk, eat, drink and take photos during the concerts - he is truly a hero for classical music in China.


Matt Peacock, With One Voice. Photo by Visível

Matt Peacock, With One Voice (UK)

With One Voice began at the time of the London Olympics in 2012, giving the homeless everywhere in the world a voice in music and the arts. It builds up their skills, confidence and sense of community and aims to strengthen the arts and homelessness sector through exchanges in practice and policy. It became an independent organisation in April 2019.

Reason for nomination: There has never been a more crucial time to highlight the needs of the homeless and to celebrate the work of this remarkable organisation, led by Matt Peacock, which harnesses the power of music, theatre and performance to change lives.


MDI Ensemble. Photo by Davide Santi

MDI Ensemble (Italy)

Formed in Milan in 2002, the MDI Ensemble changed the rituals of contemporary music in Milan, then expanded their activities to the rest of Italy, in Europe and in the USA. The open-minded approach with the music they perform is unique in the Italian contemporary music scene.

Reason for nomination: Described by the Los Angeles Times as “astonishingly competent”, the MDI ensemble is one of the best ensembles for contemporary music on the international scene. They just need more financial support.

Neeta Helms with children from Songbound in Mumbai, India

Neeta Helms, Classical Movements (USA)

Since 1992, Neeta has created a unique vision of for-profit performing arts support - through creating dynamic new kinds of concert tours (and excursions into cultural diplomacy) emphasizing local engagement in 145 countries for hundreds of groups like the Minnesota Orchestra, often in difficult conditions – and commissioning over 80 works for groups including the Seattle, National and Baltimore Symphonies and for her Ihlombe! South Africa, Serenade! D.C. and Prague Summer Nights Opera Festivals, by composers of 30 nationalities, two-thirds being women and composers of color.

Reason for nomination: For developing a model that includes creating impactful tours focused on exchange with local communities, running festivals, and commissioning more than 80 new works. The field has much to learn from her; a lot of what she does is, according to conventional classical music wisdom, not possible


Nevis Ensemble

Nevis Ensemble (UK)

Nevis Ensemble is an orchestra that performs entirely away from traditional concert venues: in the street, in homeless shelters, prisons, schools and a multitude of other community settings. The project has already achieved much in its short life, including tours of the Hebrides, a concert at the top of Ben Nevis and establishing relationships with Scottish charities and community groups.

Reason for nomination: Nothing on this scale or with this ambition, or with such a clear set of community objectives combined with a rigorous approach to quality, has been attempted in Scotland and above all, the uncompromising level of performance and focus on breadth of repertoire makes the group stand out.


Orchestra of the Music Makers. Photo by Brandon Koh

Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) (Singapore)

OMM is a unique phenomenon in Singapore, that of an ensemble formed and managed at the grassroots level by volunteer musicians, both non-professional and professional, who together achieve exceptional standards of performance and leadership in orchestral repertoire. There has hitherto never been such a bottom-up movement of social engagement through the shared love of classical music. The inspiration of OMM had been compared with Venezuela’s La Sistema which created the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, but it is unique for Southeast Asia and possibly East Asia as a whole.

Reason for nomination: The self-sustaining model of the OMM is likely to represent a future for orchestral music-making, one that can transcend and possibly outlive the traditional patronage model that runs the risk of becoming a financial strain on community resources. It may be the way forward for sustainable orchestras in developing communities.


Armin Seebass showing Partones' substitute material for ebony

Partones - Sustainable sound, Alternative materials for instrument building (Finland)

Many musical instruments traditionally require materials that are now endangered or unsustainable, like ebony, ivory, rosewood, or pernambuco (for bows for stringed instruments) for example. In our era of climate crisis and the decrease of biodiversity, we can no longer afford to ignore the ecological sustainability of instruments. We need alternatives to replace the traditional materials in instrument building. Partones is taking ground-breaking steps forward in this field, designing their materials according to certain three-dimensional structures in the anatomy of wood which can also be applied to materials of animalia in order to achieve durability, workability and acoustical equality of the paragons. The structures that are not present in other composites allow the designers to create a variety of materials according to their differing structure.

Reason for nomination: For addressing an urgent problem and representing the future direction of instrument building.



Récupscène (France)

A real ecological and economical innovation, Récupscène offers theatres and companies the possibility to buy used set elements, lights, audio or video equipment. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” as applied to the world of entertainment!

Reason for nomination: The Récupscène website has a sustainable development dimension, so that rather than storing – and forgetting – theatre and opera set elements, it allows others to take advantage of it. It is entirely dedicated to the world of entertainment and a nomination hopes to inspire others to do the same.


Sun & Sea (Marina). Photo by Andrej Vasilenko

Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Lapelytė, Sun & Sea (Marina) (Lithuania)

Sun & Sea (Marina) is the result of three young artists coming together. It addresses the need for the current opera scene to renew itself from the conventional in ways that resonate with the contemporary world and its pressing issues. As the winner of the 2019 Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Biennale, this subtle, yet powerful project urges one to realise the importance of the ecological emergency.

Reason for nomination: This subtle, yet powerful project urges one to realise the importance of the ecological emergency.


Sara Caneva

Sara Caneva (Italy)

Sara Caneva is an emerging composer with original ideas. She tries to change the traditional habit of listening to music by creating multisensory works and modifying the perception, not only from an aural point of view. Her pieces involve all the senses and are related to sound installation and land-art. Her works pursue an independent project researching impact of visual cues on the listening perception, and they are open to different cultural and social subjects.

Reason for nomination: The originality and freshness of her music and the relationship with her activity as a conductor. Self-describing herself as “a composer inside a conductor”, her podium experience crosses her composing mind, leading to a special blend and care for the gestures that produce sound.


Sebastián Jatz Rawicz. Photo by Catalina Menares

Sebastián Jatz Rawicz, Arsomnis (Chile)

Sebastián Jatz is generating new audiences in non-traditional spaces, attracting lovers of other artistic disciplines, as well as those who have never been to a concert. His great creative project "Arsomnis" has distinct paths of action: to premier capital works of the repertoire and his own works and to return musical memory to neighbourhoods and communities. In his projects, music is not a fleeting experience - it leaves physical, material traces.

Reason for nomination: By thinking out of the box, Sebastián Jatz is building a new path for classical music that is open to the public and not only to connoisseurs. He has an unparalleled extensive network of varied artistic partners and no other person builds up their projects from the territory, their colleagues, the physical space, from what exists and not from an abstract idea.


Beijing Music Festival

Shuang Zou (Northern China)

The Beijing Music Festival, founded in 1998, has been keen to innovate and introduce new perspectives as China’s position in the world has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. Shuang Zou’s recent projects have transformed the landscape of Beijing and beyond. Shuang Zou is a risk-taker, she is bold and daring. The making of any festival must include elements of surprise, and these she has delivered. In 2018, she co-created an immersive Orfeo that combines Monteverdi with new technology. Legends are recreated in fresh, new ways.

Reason for nomination: For opening new vistas not only in China, but throughout Asia.


Splendor Amsterdam. Photo by Peter Lodder.

Splendor Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Splendor is run by a group of 50 musicians and the venue is a second home for them and their public. The 50 core musicians invested €1000 and play at least once a year for the Splendor members. In exchange, the building is theirs – 365 days a year – to create, explore and produce wherever their imagination takes them. The musicians and invested audience members/donors achieve and experience together, both are invested financially in the project and the concerts. It is a true collective and addresses the need for both audiences and musicians to feel included.

Reason for nomination: For showing great ability to survive and thrive (financially and politically) in desperate times. The musicians never cease to pursue their own passions and dreams about music making, while involving audiences to make them part of their inspiring world.


Fragrant Village Music Festival

Sze Ka Yan, Fragrant Village Music Festival (Hong Kong)

The festival’s venue and music selection helped break down barriers, not just between classical and popular music of Hong Kong’s three territories, but also between social and economic classes, providing a common ground for HK people. Sze could never have predicted the need for the intended inclusive spirit with anti-government protests erupting at the time of the festival. The weekend ended by greeting the sunset with Indian tabla and Tibetan singing bowls in arguably the calmest moment HK had seen in weeks.

Reason for nomination: For transcending many Hong Kong biases, especially concerning real estate and the government’s long-time monopoly on the arts. It is the first festival that did not include a government venue, which meant they remained open during the protests despite a mass transit shutdown and citywide government closings.


The Centre For The Less Good Idea. Photo by Stella Oliver

The Centre For The Less Good Idea (South Africa)

TThe Centre is a physical and immaterial space to pursue incidental discoveries made in the process of producing experimental, collaborative and cross-disciplinary arts projects. It is a space to follow impulses, connections and revelations, where artists come together over two seasons every year and curators bring together combinations of text, performance, image and dance.

Reason for nomination: With funding being scarce, South Africa lacks spaces and platforms to create new art/music/theatre works, which are vital for the scene to grow, stay active and remain relevant. Ideally, other hubs would be encouraged to begin their own versions. While similar spaces are regularly hired for performances of this nature, not enough hold long term intentions.


The Symphony Orchestra Simulator. Photo by Jukka Pätynen

The Symphony Orchestra Simulator for Concert Hall Acoustics Research (Finland)

At the core of classical music is a pleasant live music concert experience. We all know, however, that this does not always happen in the modern concert halls – because of the poor acoustics. The research conducted by Tapio Lokki’s team at the Aalto University School of Science broadens our understanding of the importance of concert hall acoustics, showing that acoustics play a significant role in how strongly music is experienced. The method combines psychological phenomena with concert hall acoustics and, above all, may help in the future to design halls that convey the orchestra’s performance of the music to the audience in the best possible way.

Reason for nomination: The symphony orchestra simulator (the loudspeaker orchestra + anechoic symphony orchestra recordings) merged with sensory evaluation methods, originally developed in food and wine industries, is a new and unique method developed by Tapio Lokki’s team.


U: Photo by Lê Quan Ninh

U: (Estonia)

Ensemble U: has never shied away from extreme aspects in their creations and has welcomed risks. One could even deem U: a bit crazy, as they do not back away from works just because they seem complex. The main mission of U: is to perform classics of contemporary Estonian music and the music of grand masters, of which a great deal has yet to be performed in Estonia. The contemporary music landscape in Estonia has been significantly influenced by the innovative and fearless experimenter U:, which explores the limits of modern music and prefers to perform more demanding pieces without a conductor.

Reason for nomination: This nomination helps to recognise the most original and innovative chamber ensemble in Estonia, which should be acknowledged for their leading role in Estonian contemporary music, as well as for its remarkable programs of new music.