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New Life For New Music Works

altThe estate of the late Cecil Carnes revitalizes performing arts and music program

Phil Collins didn’t expect his project to have legs. But New Music Works has been a runaway success thanks in no small part to Cecil Carnes, who donated her estate to the music and performing arts organization upon her death in 2011.

“I never thought of New Music Works as having staying power beyond what I was able to put into it,” Collins says.

Founded in 1979 by five composers, including artistic director Collins (who’s served in that position since 1982), New Music Works organizes concert series and is “dedicated to presenting music of our time in concert,” according to their website.

Carnes offered her estate to New Music Works back in 1997, at a musical function.

“She used to own the Lemon Yellow Farm, and she would host these ‘avant-garden’ parties,” Collins says. “In 1997, she was hosting [late Bay Area composer] Lou Harrison’s birthday party, and she offered us her estate.”

Collins maintains that the donation of close to $28,000 came as a complete surprise.

“It was out of the blue, because she wasn’t a regular donor,” Collins says. He pauses thoughtfully and adds, “I would see her sometimes, and give her a hug.”

Collins has high hopes for the future of New Music Works, with the caveat of community support weighing heavily into his optimism.

“Hopefully we can begin to reach out to broader segments of the population,” he says. “The whole genre of classical music has changed so much, and people are always surprised by the genres we pull in—jazz, rock ‘n’ roll.”

Carne’s generous donation of close to $28,000 is representative of a trend that Collins hopes will continue.

“Branching out to more people is fundamental to our existence,” Collins says. “We need to be reaching people who we don’t normally reach.”

Collins says that New Music Works intends to use Carne’s donation to build up the organization’s infrastructure. More “avant-garden parties” rife with chamber music ensembles are likely to follow.
 

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