The mission of The New Music Circle is to contribute to the cultural life of Metropolitan St. Louis by sponsoring presentations of concerts, multi-media, and other cultural events, with emphasis on contemporary music; to provide by means of these presentations, additional professional opportunities for musical and associated talent; to enhance thereby the attractiveness of Metropolitan St. Louis as a place of residence and livelihood for the members of these professions; and to stimulate interest in new musical and associated activities.
St. Louis is home to one of North America’s most successful presenters of avant-garde music, The New Music Circle. Founded in 1959, NMC is the longest-established organization of its kind, introducing local audiences to the world’s most adventurous and accomplished composers and performers, and providing a respected venue for local creative musicians.
The New Music Circle is not itself a performing group. It is dedicated primarily to the promotion of adventure in the arts through the presentation of new and exciting music to area audiences. NMC sponsors an annual season of concerts, bringing to St. Louis a diverse host of musicians from around the globe who otherwise would not appear here. These artists often present master classes at local universities to give students and the public more in-depth exposure to the concepts and techniques behind the music. In addition NMC fosters local creativity through performances by ensembles of musical innovators, giving them an opportunity to perform their most adventurous work before an attentive and sophisticated audience. These homegrown affairs may involve collaborations with artists working in other forms such as film, video, dance, and theater. Despite its name, NMC does not limit itself to explorations exclusively of a musical nature: NMC has presented multimedia performances in environments ranging from corporate lobbies to the natural world, and from an aural, visual, and tactile walkthrough installation in a shuttered shoe factory over 40 years ago to audience-participatory “Spring into Summer” events in Forest Park. Additionally, the popular “Circle/Cinema” series at the St. Louis Art Museum screens silent films with contemporary live musical accompaniment provided by NMC.
The New Music Circle is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Each season is programmed by a committee of local professional musicians and sophisticated enthusiasts. Under this artistic direction, NMC has gained a worldwide reputation for maintaining the highest musical standards, irrespective of the appeal of individual musical styles. Support from The Regional Arts Commission, The Missouri Arts Council, and The Arts and Education Council helps to make the music accessible to all, keeping ticket prices affordable.
In its long history NMC has commissioned works from William Schuman (for the dedication of the Gateway Arch) and Luciano Berio (for the opening of the renovated Union Station) and has brought, to St. Louis many now-renowned artists, often early in their careers, including John Cage, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Morton Subotnick, The Kronos Quartet, Joan La Barbara, Elvin Jones, Michael Colgrass, and John Zorn. Over the years the focus has diverged from the traditional paradigm of composed pieces interpreted by expert instrumentalists to the emergence of composer/performers so technically facile and creatively agile that improvisation is the lifeblood of their musical expression. Their explorations often include extended instrumental techniques, new instruments, and ever-expanding electronic possibilities.
Today musicians from around the world shower NMC with proposals to play in St. Louis. With a five-decade tradition of excellence and few similar concert series in the entire country, New Music Circle is a unique cultural asset to the metropolitan area, placing St. Louis prominently on the musical map as a coveted venue for creative musicians to showcase their work for an appreciative audience.