Contempo was founded in the fall of 1964 by renowned composer and conductor Ralph Shapey, who continued to direct the ensemble until his retirement in 1993. Shapey was succeeded by Stephen Mosko, who held the position of Music Director from 1994 to 1998. Seeking to more closely integrate its artistic vision with its educational mission, Contempo underwent a major restructuring by the Department of Music in 1998. Over the next four seasons, conductors Cliff Colnot, Barbara Schubert, and Carmen Helena Tellez served consecutively as Resident Conductors, with the award-winning Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird joining Contempo as Artists-in-Residence in 1998 and 2000. In 2002 Shulamit Ran was appointed Contempo’s Artistic Director, and in 2004—the ensemble’s 40th season—the group forged a bold new artistic path that included new downtown venues and audiences, a broadened notion of new music including jazz and other genres, and a change of name. The Contempo of this era defines itself as a new music collective—“collective” in the sense of emerging out of the joint efforts of its conductor, artistic director, resident ensembles, guest performers, and composers.

Ran retired in 2015 and was succeeded by Marta Ptaszyńska, who will serve as Artistic Director through June 2018, bringing a fresh and incisive continental vision to the group. Central to Contempo is an international cohort of doctoral candidates at the University of Chicago, who have been a defining feature of the group since its inception. The active engagement of young composers, working with faculty and performers during the drafting stages, participating in the rehearsal process, and hearing their work realized by a world-class ensemble, greatly enhances the living art of composition that Contempo works to promote.

(Text by Martha Feldman, Mabel Greene Myers Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College).

Resident and Visiting Ensembles

CCCC invites internationally acclaimed ensembles to engage directly with students and give public performances of new works. Recent resident and visiting ensembles include Third Coast Percussion, Talea Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Imani Winds, and Spektral Quartet.



CCCC champions the performance of contemporary music through a dynamic mix of programming by graduate student-, faculty-, and visiting guest composers. Each season, the Center brings contemporary music to the forefront of musical life on campus and throughout the city.



CCCC will support the recording of music created as part of its programs and residencies, making it possible to disseminate new works by a variety of composers and ensembles, from senior luminaries in the field of new music to exceptional junior composers and performers.

Founder and Director

Augusta Read Thomas

Advisory Board

Seth Brodsky
Anthony Cheung
Jennifer Iverson
Amy Iwano
Travis Jackson
Sam Pluta
Marta Ptaszyńska
Barbara Schubert


Reba Cafarelli

About CCCC's creative team »


The Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition is supported in part by generous gifts from Kay Bucksbaum and Gay Stanek.


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