The Pasadena Symphony’s commitment to the future of classical music is on display with its annual Composers Showcase, featuring works by both emerging and established contemporary composers at each concert. Meet our composers…these superstars are shaping the future of classical music.


Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist and educator. A recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, her works are frequently performed around the world. She interweaves classical with elements of vernacular music, improvisation and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of contemporary American sound. Her works have been described by the Washington Post as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life.” Highlights of her growing body of work include Five Slave Songs (2018), Records from a Vanishing City (2016), Caught by the Wind (2016), and Banner (2014), written to mark the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner.


A composer with a gift for incorporating many influences and styles, Nkeiru Okoye is well known for her opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom, the orchestral work, Voices Shouting Out, which she composed as an artistic response to 9/11 and her piano suite, African Sketches. Profiled in Routledge’s African American Music: An Introduction textbook, Dr. Okoye is also the inaugural recipient of the Florence Price Award for Composition. In March 2020, the State of Michigan issued a proclamation acknowledging Dr. Okoye’s “extraordinary contributions” to the history of Detroit for Black Bottom, a symphonic experience commissioned in celebration of the centennial season of Orchestra Hall.


Gabriella Smith’s music is described as “high-voltage and wildly imaginative” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages” (Musical America). Her music has been performed throughout the U.S. and internationally by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Roomful of Teeth, Eighth Blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Nashville Symphony and PRISM Quartet among others. In 2016, Smith served as the Nashville Symphony’s inaugural Composer Lab & Workshop Fellow. She is a recipient of a BMI Student Composer Award (2018), the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award (2014) and three ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, among others.


Included in the Washington Post‘s list of the 35 most significant women composers in history, identity has always been at the center of composer/pianist Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. With a background of Peruvian, Chinese, Lithuanian and Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Winner of a Latin Grammy and nominated for Grammys as both composer and pianist, Gabriela also holds a Guggenheim Fellowship and a USA Artist Fellowship, given each year to fifty of the country’s finest artists. Her music has been described as “crafted with unself-conscious mastery” by the Washington Post. Frank is regularly commissioned by luminaries such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, among many others.


Emmy Award-winning and Grammy® nominated Adam Schoenberg has twice been named among the top 10 most performed living composers by orchestras in the United States. His works have received performances and premieres at the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Hollywood Bowl. Schoenberg received two 2018 Grammy® Award-nominations, including Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Picture Studies. He has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Fort Worth Symphony and won several awards, including ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his orchestral work Finding Rothko. Schoenberg is currently a professor at Occidental College, where he runs the composition and film scoring programs.



Brett Banducci is a composer, violist and educator residing in Los Angeles. Brett is the 2016 recipient of the Andrew Imbrie Music Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A frequent performer with the Pasadena Symphony, Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony,  Hollywood Chamber Orchestra and the Hollywood Studio Symphony, he has played on countless records, films, and television scores— including recent albums by Madonna and Barbra Streisand. His compositions have been performed and premiered at Brooklyn’s MATA Festival Interval New Music Series, the Aspen Music Festival and the Los Angeles-based Hear Now Festival, among others.