Present Music to Receive $10,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for “CELLO CELLO” Concerts to be Performed on January 31 and February 1

Milwaukee, Wis. – Present Music is pleased to announce it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a Challenge America award of $10,000. This grant will support the “CELLO CELLO” Concerts planned for this Wednesday (1/31) and Thursday (2/1) night at 7:30 pm at the Jan Serr Studio, 2155 N Prospect Avenue, sixth floor. These concerts will feature two world premieres, three guest artists, and the unusual combination of four fantastic cellists. Tickets are still available at

In total, the NEA will award 257 Challenge America awards totaling $2,570,000 that were announced as part of its first round of fiscal year 2024 grants.

“The NEA is delighted to announce this grant to Present Music which is helping contribute to the strength and well-being of the arts sector and local community,” said National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “We are pleased to be able to support this community and help create an environment where all people have the opportunity to live artful lives.”

For this week’s “CELLO CELLO” concerts, Pamela Z, a performer/composer known for her work with solo voice and electronic processing, will be premiering a multi-media work, entitled “Raise” for this concert. It was written specifically for multi-Grammy award-winning cellist Nick Photinos and three additional cellists, and is a stirring tribute to the people who raised us— parents, mentors, and friends. People who brought us up and made us who we are.

Pamela Z will also be performing a solo set of her imaginative and omnivorous works. It will include: Quatre Couches is a sonic trifle, tiramisu, or mille-feuille – juxtaposing four contrasting layers and toying with them – mixing them and moving them around on the plate until they all melt away; Badagada one of her early digital delay pieces, the syllables “ba-da-ga-da-ga-da-ga-da-ga” are layered in multiple delay lines to form a harmonic, rhythmic accompaniment to a melody sung in English; Syrinx, named for the avian vocal organ, a birdsong is pitch-shifted and consequently stretched until its individual notes are slow enough and low enough to be accurately produced by a human voice and Other Rooms constructed from samples of the speaking voice of Paul David Young taken from an interview Pamela Z recorded as part of the process of making her performance work, Memory Trace.

Paul Wiancko, a “composer to watch” according to the Washington Post who was recently appointed cellist of the internationally celebrated Kronos Quartet, will be premiering his latest composition, a sextet commissioned by Present Music. Paul will join in, playing some of his dazzling and delicate chamber pieces including; American Haiku, Closed Universe, and When the Night.

The concert will finish with the performers asking the audience to participate in the classic performance art piece, the Hooting and Drinking Machine. It will then segue into a post-concert casual meet and greet with audience and artists.

Present Music is grateful to the National Endowment of the Arts for this challenge award, and to Jan Serr, John Shannon and Guardian Fine Art Services for being the presenting sponsors for CELLO CELLO. Paul Wiancko was commissioned by Present Music with funds from Jan Serr and John Shannon. The Pamela Z commission was awarded to Nicholas Photinos and Pamela Z by the Fromm Foundation.

Since its founding 1982, Present Music’s mission has been to commission and perform new concert music, bringing over 100 new works to life. Ensembles range from a core group of seven musicians to an ensemble of 20 or more. Present Music has had the privilege of working closely with many of the nation’s top composers, including John Adams, Henry Brant, David Lang, Caroline Shaw, Ingram Marshall, Missy Mazzoli, Bright Sheng, Roberto Sierra and Michael Torke.

The not-for-profit organization has a long and impressive track record for identifying outstanding talent early in the artists’ careers. Present Music’s discography includes world premiere recordings on the Argo, Albany, Aoede, Northeastern, Naxos and Innova labels. The group is led by Co-Artistic Directors violinist/composer Eric Segnitz and conductor David Bloom. Present Music was founded by conductor Kevin Stalheim, who was Artistic Director for the first 37 years of the ensemble’s existence until 2019.

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit

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