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The Cedar Cultural Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the ninth round of the Cedar Commissions, our flagship commissioning program for emerging Minnesota-based composers and musicians made possible by a grant from the Jerome Foundation. To date, the Commissions have supported the creation of new music by 50+ local artists across genres.

Images of Anat Spiegel, Dua Saleh, Freaque, Ilan Blanck, Rebecca Nichloson,  and  Tensae Fayise, the 2019-2020 Cedar Commissions Artists

The 2019-20 round of artists was selected by a committee of Minnesota-based musicians and music industry professionals. The 6 commissioned artists, Anat Spiegel, Dua Saleh, Freaque, Ilan Blanck, Rebecca Nichloson, and Tensae Fayise will each receive $3,500 plus $1,000 for performance costs to compose at least 30 minutes of new musical work to debut at The Cedar in February 2020.

Read more about the artists and their projects Below:

Anat Spiegel Press Photo

Anat Spiegel

Hymns of Light and Darkness is an exploration of vocalist and composer Anat Spiegel's personal and national history. Comprised of various works by female authors, this song cycle will reflect on the Holocaust as its core theme: from mundane everyday occurrences to the dreamlike absurdities of war. Accompanied by strings and carried by Spiegel's unmistakable voice, Hymns of Light and Darkness will seek to illuminate the unmarked path of trauma through time and generations.

Dua Saleh Press Photo

Dua Saleh

Dua Saleh’s piece Strings and Heart Beats will be an immersive Afrodiasporic experience that incorporates the use of auditory sensations from three hemispheres, finding a global reach through different diasporic sounds. Staying true to Dua’s identity as a Sudanese refugee, the main emphasis of the piece will be placed on using East African drum patterns and the Pentatonic Scale, while also highlighting the diverse range of sounds of Black music throughout the world. Dua requires the use of the pronouns they/them/theirs or he/him/his from audiences.

Freaque Press Photo

Freaque (Gabriel Roderick)

Anger is taking the world by storm. With solutions for combating Climate Change still going unanswered, and endless war, violence, and displacement spreading ceaselessly, it's hard to know what to do with the anger that's bursting at the seams. Freaque is creating a set of swamp grooves and decomposing words called Fury that validates that anger. He will tell stories of how he paired hope with anger after a spinal cord injury that left him completely out of control of his body, his chronic pain, and his physical healing, and show how those stories can be translated into a wave of broader collective action. Anger is a tool for change, we've just never been taught how to use it.

Ilan Blanck Press Photo

Ilan Blanck

Guitarist and composer Ilan Blanck will be composing and performing La Primera Ver Que Me Siento Seguro, a song cycle exploring the experiences of his great-grandparents; growing up in Eastern Europe, surviving the Holocaust as refugees in Siberia, and finally, beginning a new life in Mexico City. Written in English, Spanish, and Yiddish, and scored for almost a dozen musicians, the piece will be an exploration of his family’s history in its own languages. Each song will document a time and a place experienced by Oszer and Lea, ultimately ending in Minneapolis, 2019.

Rebecca Nichloson Press Photo

Rebecca Nichloson

Mara, A Musical Journey Into the Woods is a collection of new songs written and performed by singer-songwriter, playwright, poet, and fiction writer Rebecca Nichloson, inspired by her two-act play, Mara, Queen of the World. The play tells the story of a slave girl in 1830s Alabama who is led into the forest by a luminous green light and given a magical quilt that she must use to overcome a dark, powerful force. Rebecca will explore her African-American and Nigerian heritage with a focus on poetic lyricism, genre-eclecticism, transformation, and healing, using both a contemporary and historical lens. 

Tensae Fayise Press Photo

Tensae Fayise

Raised in rural Minnesota by a family of East African refugees, factory workers and farmers, Tensae inherits oral art forms that tell the stories of her ancestral mountains and those who still tend to them. Inspired by traditional Ethiopian azmaris, as well as jazz, soul and roots music in the U.S, Fayise weaves together various musical genres while composing on her krar. In Ye Terrarou Tenfash, Tensae will present a collection of songs as archival memory, centering lessons from her mother and elders as an experiment in intergenerational healing.


The Cedar Commissions is a flagship program for local emerging artists made possible with a grant from the Jerome Foundation. Since the program began in 2011, the Commissions have showcased new work by over 50 Minnesotan emerging composers and musicians, including Dessa, Aby Wolf, Adam Levy, Maria Isa, Joe Horton, Joey Van Phillips, Gao Hong, Dameun Strange, and many more. Artists receive mentorship and financial support to create 30+ minutes of brand new music.

Goals of The Cedar Commissions:

  • Facilitate the creation of innovative new work by Minnesota-based emerging artists/composers. The Cedar Commissions provide artists an opportunity to push the boundaries of their work through thoughtful and intentional next steps.

  • Provide audiences a platform to discover new music. The Cedar Commissions offers an exciting opportunity to reach, serve, and engage new communities with unique music and performance they have never seen before.

  • Increase artist exposure. By presenting The Cedar Commissions annually, The Cedar is building an audience for emerging artists. Our press coverage has also grown steadily, helping to raise awareness about the work to the wider public.

  • Foster and develop artists’ work and creativity. The Cedar Commissions provides artists with the resources, opportunities, and flexibility to explore new creative pathways and collaborations, cultivating and improving the artists’ skills and talent.

The Cedar Commissions are supported by a grant from the Jerome Foundation.

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