Since 1976, the Society has invited some of the country’s most noted ensembles to perform on its annual series of concerts. These have included the Jack Quartet, the International Contemporary Ensemble, the American Brass Quintet, and the Chamber Players of the League-ISCM, among many others. In 2003, the Society established its own ensemble-in-residence, the Washington Square Ensemble, which has since performed extensively and recorded for the series, and presented concerts alongside the series’ continuing roster of guest ensembles. Over the years, WSCMS has offered nearly 500 performances of carefully selected and rehearsed compositions by both established and upcoming composers; of these, roughly 200 have been world or New York Premieres. Established composers include Shulamit Ran, Morton Feldman, John Adams, Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Frank Zappa, Phillip Glass, Joan Tower, John Zorn, George Walker, and Charles Wuorinen, among hundreds more. Concerts themes have included: “A Salute to Milton Babbitt at 90” (April 3, 2006), and “A Celebration of the Voice,” in collaboration with the Brooklyn Conservatory New Music Collective (March 10, 2008). In 2014, the Fales Collection of New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library acquired the archive of the Society; this will be digitized and made readily available to scholars and music lovers seeking to review concert recordings and promotional information preserved throughout the Society’s history.
WSCMS was founded in 1976 by composer Brian Fennelly, a professor in the Department of Music of New York University’s Faculty of Arts and Science. Composer Louis Karchin, also an NYU professor, joined the directorship in 1980. Together, Mr. Fennelly and Mr. Karchin provided artistic leadership for the series from 1980 through 2015. Currently, Louis Karchin is the Society’s Artistic Director, and Friedrich Kern is its Executive Director. Over the years, the series has been regularly reviewed by the city’s major newspapers and magazines. Critics from the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Village Voice, the New Yorker and others have heralded its concerts, some as “best of season” events.