Amanda Weber Wins 10th Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest

Amanda Weber HeadshotThe Twin Cities Women’s Choir is pleased to announce Amanda Weber is the winner of the 10th Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest. Recognized by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music as a conductor "of exceptional promise and achievement," Amanda Weber is passionate about uniting music, art and community through her work as a conductor, teacher, performer, artist and social activist. TCWC will debut her original composition, Voices of Hope, at its Divas & Desserts concerts, May 4-6, 2017.

In response to the Emerging Female Composer award, Amanda wrote the following:

In the past year, I have had the joy of being surrounded by many strong women, both in my work at the University of Minnesota, serving as Assistant Conductor for the Women's Chorus, and at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, where I conduct a women's prison choir called - not coincidentally - the Voices of Hope. The weekly practice of leading women in song has led me to think more critically about what it means to be women singing. From this place of vulnerability and reflection, I turned to one of my female mentors, Rev. Karen Brau, who is the senior pastor at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC. She has an incredible gift with words, and so I sent her this email to provoke some thoughts:

September 8, 2016

I've been thinking a lot lately on what it means to use your body as a musical instrument. Women claiming their own strength and power to deliver messages of hope... we've risen from a past that has told us we were lesser, and we're still rising. How do we embrace our own gifts and unite them with others (with diverse others)?  And are we being called to a choral future that is about more than beauty?  Maybe choral music can also stir up and awaken and challenge. Music continues to be one of the only things that successfully brings together any kind of person to engage in a creative process that can heal the musician and the listener!

From these disjunct thoughts, Pastor Karen wrote an extraordinary text. The music flowed from there, beginning with a call to gather - first by one voice, with others joining. The piano refrain which returns throughout is hopeful, comforting. Yet there are moments of sorrow and darkness, which cannot be ignored. The ending returns to the call of the opening; it is insistent that our voices be heard.

This concept of our voices being heard has taken on new meaning as I make music with the prison population. The Voices of Hope at Shakopee tell an incredible story, but their voices are confined within the prison. They rely, therefore, on sisters - like the Twin Cities Women's Choir - to serve as a megaphone, projecting their message of resilience and hope. We need each other, and music can be a very powerful tool as we seek to build community and practice restorative justice. 

I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest and thrilled to work with yet another group of wonderful women. Thank you TCWC for your commitment to choral music over the past 20 years and for serving as voices of hope for many years to come.

More about Amanda Weber:

Weber is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Conducting at the University of Minnesota, where she studies with Kathy Saltzman Romey and Matthew Mehaffey and serves as the conductor for Campus Singers Maroon and assistant conductor to the University Women’s Chorus.  She has been active as a church musician from a very young age, most recently working as organist and choir director at Trinity Lutheran Congregation in Minneapolis, MN.  Both her work with students at the University and congregants at Trinity challenge Weber to engage in meaningful music-making with significantly multicultural populations. 

In October 2015, Weber founded the Voices of Hope, a women’s prison choir at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee.  One year later, she was invited to share this story as a speaker at the TEDx Minneapolis Salon; her work has also been featured in articles by the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten Network.  Weber’s interest in using music as a tool for social justice grew through her work at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC, where she founded Bethany’s Women of Praise, a choir for homeless women.  Weber led this group from 2008-2011 and received recognition from Chorus America, the American Choral Director’s Association, Yale University, and Al Jazeera English. 

Outside of school, Weber is active as a conductor, singer, and pianist.  Recent conducting highlights include performances of Bach Cantata 106, Copland’s In the Beginning, and a premiere arrangement of Henry Brant’s Flight Over a Global Map.  She has assisted in preparing works such as Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, and Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden

Weber is a graduate of the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music, where she received a Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting with Marguerite Brooks and Jeffrey Douma.  She has studied with many guest conductors including Masaaki Suzuki, Simon Carrington, Stefan Parkman, and David Hill, and has participated in conducting masterclasses in Florida, Paris, Sweden, and Switzerland.  Weber received a BA in Music and Art at Luther College.  She continues to create art in her free time, and was most recently commissioned to paint three murals in Washington, DC.

More about the Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest:

The annual Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest supports the Twin Cities' Women's Choir's mission to "sing, perform and affirm the voices of women." Along with other compositions commissioned through special funds, this award contributes to an ever-growing body of choral work for women’s choirs.