Francisco J. Núñez
Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow and Musical America’s 2018 Educator of the Year, is a composer, conductor, visionary, leading figure in music education, and the artistic director/founder of the Young People’s Chorus of New York (YPC), renowned worldwide for its diversity and artistic excellence. Since its founding, Mr. Núñez has created an awareness of the ability of children to rise to unforeseen heights of artistry. Each year over 1,600 children ages 7 to 18 benefit musically, academically, and socially through their participation in YPC’s after-school and in-school programs.
Mr. Núñez also leads the University Glee Club of New York City, its fifth conductor since the all-men’s chorus was established in 1894, was the director of choral activities at New York University from 2003 to 2010, and is sought after not only as a guest conductor by professional orchestras, chamber ensembles, and choirs in North America and Europe, but also as a master teacher and advisor for choral workshops, demonstrations, and festivals worldwide. Since its U.S. debut at the Prudential Center in 2015, Mr. Núñez has been the principal conductor of American Young Voices, a phenomenon born in the U.K. over 20 years ago, which has been bringing thousands of children together to sing in some of the world’s largest arenas.
Through the years, Mr. Núñez has extended and invigorated the repertoire for young voices by commissioning over 100 pieces of music from many of today’s most distinguished established and emerging composers, the majority through YPC’s groundbreaking Transient Glory and Radio Radiance commissioning series, greatly contributing to the ever-evolving fabric of music in the 21st century. As a composer himself, Mr. Núñez wrote his first choral work, Misa Pequeña, at age 15, winning early acclaim for seamlessly fusing a wide gamut of cultures and musical idioms. Today, he composes countless compositions and arrangements in all musical formats and styles, from classical to pop, commissioned from him by choirs, orchestras, and solo instrumentalists.
Francisco Núñez’s early years contributed to his passion for providing children with a path to fulfilling their life’s potential. He grew up in close-knit Dominican family in New York City’s Washington Heights. As a piano prodigy, he spent his time away from school at home practicing piano. Through his musical talent, he met other children with the same interests in music but from different cultural and economic environments. He learned from them, and they learned from him. After he graduated from NYU as a piano performance major, he formed the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, bringing children from under-served neighborhoods together with children from more privileged circumstances. With music as the equalizer, the diversity in the group resulted in new vocal colors and a confident urban style, creating not only a vibrant new choral sound, but also an avenue for children to succeed.
Mr. Núñez has created the Núñez Initiative for Social Change Through the Choral Arts, to bring together leaders in various fields to develop a strategy to promote social advocacy for children to choral conductors and music teachers across the nation. As children’s advocate, he is often invited to give keynote speeches to major organizations around the world as a leading authority on the role of music in achieving equality and diversity in today’s society.
At YPC Mr. Núñez established a College Bound program for all of YPC’s after-school choristers, which provides workshops, subject tutoring, and other support to enable all YPC graduates to go on to higher education. Mr. Núñez is a representative of the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts, which examines pathways to graduation in the arts.
To advance and expand the instructional methods that have been so successful with YPC choristers, Mr. Núñez established a conducting fellowship program, which provides young conductors with the unique opportunity to work hands on with all YPC choral divisions under the mentorship of Mr. Núñez and YPC’s Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez.
Among Mr. Núñez’s many other awards and honors are an ASCAP Victor Herbert Award, the New York Choral Society’s Choral Excellence Award, and Bang on a Can’s Visionary Award. Hispanic Business magazine named him one of 100 Most Influential Hispanics, ABC-TV named him as a “Person of the Week, and Fox News profiled him “for “changing young lives with music.” Musical America Worldwide named him among 30 “Influencers” for his contributions to the music industry, NYU Steinhardt honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award; and he holds an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Ithaca College.