The mission of the New England Philharmonic (NEP), a volunteer orchestra, is to perform the music of living composers in concert with traditional repertoire.
The New England Philharmonic’s (NEP) commitment to new music was evident from its inception in 1976, then called the Mystic Valley Chamber Orchestra. Just a few years later the expansion from a string chamber orchestra to a full orchestra under the direction of Charles Ellis (1977 – 1980), adding winds, brass and percussion, allowed the ensemble to explore a vast new repertoire. However it wasn’t until the appointment of Music Director Ronald Feldman (1983 – 1988), a BSO cellist, that several landmark programs were introduced, elevating the newly named New England Philharmonic to an entirely new stage – the Composer-in-Residence and the Call for Scores program in 1985, and the Orchestra-in-Residency program the following year (Framingham State College 1986 -1997, Simmons College 1997 - 2014). In 1994, with Jeffrey Rink as Music Director, NEP’s Young Artist Competition began. The inauguration of all of these programs attracted further recognition for NEP’s unique programming mission in the form of one of the first grants awarded by the newly established Aaron Copland Fund for Music, as well as support from the Virgil Thomson Foundation.
NEP’s third Music Director, Jeffrey Rink (1988 – 1997), advocated for the ensemble’s increased visibility and status by booking prestigious venues such as the newly renovated Sanders Theatre at Harvard and NEC’s Jordan Hall. Under his direction, NEP would win its first three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming in 1991, 1992, and 1996.
As the millennium was drawing to a close, NEP embarked on yet another important journey that would propel them into the 21st century, when Richard Pittman was appointed NEP’s fourth and current Music Director. Highlights of Mr. Pittman’s tenure have included Boston as well as world premieres at nearly every performance, including a new work commissioned by NEP every season, along with presentations of works by musical masters from Haydn and Beethoven to Mahler, Stravinsky and Elliott Carter. In 2012 the Boston Globe named NEP’s Britten War Requiem as one of the 10 best Classical Music Performances of the year. In 2013, the orchestra was awarded its 9th ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming and named Gunther Schuller its Composer Laureate.
Among the alumni of the Composer-in-Residence program: Robert Kyr (1985 – 1989); Richard Cornell (1989 – 1994, 2000 – 2002); Marjorie Merryman (1994 – 1997); Michael Gandolfi (1997 – 2000); Andy Vores (2002 – 2005); Peter Child (2005 – 2011). David Rakowski has been NEP’s Composer-in-Residence since 2011.