Since its inception in 1977, NOVA Chamber Music Series has taken a leading role in the arts community of Utah, providing a venue for Utah artists and audiences to explore the vast chamber music repertoire. Founded by former Utah Symphony clarinetist Russell Harlow, NOVA's first decade featured many esteemed local musicians including violist William Primrose, Utah Symphony concertmasters William Preucil and Andrés Cárdenes, and numerous collaborations with composer Ramiro Cortés. NOVA’s first commission was the Cortés Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in 1981.
In 1986, Utah Symphony violinist Barbara Scowcroft was appointed Artistic Director. In her 18 seasons as Artistic Director, the series regularly featured violinist and Utah Symphony Music Director Joseph Silverstein, mezzo-soprano Lani Poulson, and Utah Symphony Concertmaster Ralph Matson. During the 2002 Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiad, Ms. Scowcroft invited members of the Utah Youth Symphony and the International Youth Orchestra to perform alongside members of the Utah Symphony. Commissions during her tenure featured works by William Hill (Sonata for Marimba and Strings, 2000), and the University of Utah’s John Costa (Chrysanthemum, 1997). In 1999, NOVA received the Governor's Award in the Arts for its contribution to the cultural life of Utah.
Corbin Johnston, Utah Symphony Associate Principal Bassist, was named Artistic Director in 2004. His tenure was distinguished by a broad range of projects further connecting NOVA to the local community and to audiences farther afield. In 2007, NOVA took a leading role in organizing Music for the End of Time: Olivier Messiaen in Utah, a collaboration with numerous arts organizations of Salt Lake City commemorating Messiaen’s historic 1972 visit to Utah. 2007 also marked the establishment of a string quartet residency featuring the Fry Street Quartet, resident artists at the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University. NOVA’s 30th anniversary season began with a commission from University of Utah’s Morris Rosenzweig and the series’ first commercial recording. In addition, the season expanded from five to six concerts, with occasional repeat performances at BYU and Snow College. The NOVA Music Project, an educational concert series for children, was introduced in 2005.
In 2009, Utah Symphony Pianist Jason Hardink was appointed Artistic Director. Under his leadership, the series deepened relationships with Utah composers while broadening NOVA’s profile nationally through commissions and recordings of works by composers Curtis Curtis-Smith, Jason Eckardt, and Michael Ellison. Over the following decade, NOVA would feature collaborations with Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer, soprano Celena Shafer, and the PLAN-B Theatre Company. The NOVA Gallery Series, performed in the intimacy of local art galleries and expanding NOVA’s presence to new neighborhoods in Salt Lake City and Park City, was added to NOVA’s schedule in 2013.
In 2017, NOVA celebrated its 40th anniversary with a subscription series featuring a world premiere on each concert— six newly-commissioned works in all. The Fry Street String Quartet returned to the NOVA Gallery Series performing the full cycle of Bartók’s string quartets. Most ambitiously, NOVA presented American Visionary: The Music of Michael Hersch, a three-day festival devoted to evening-length works by the American composer, including a fully-staged production of his opera, On the Threshold of Winter.
NOVA announced in 2017 that, in response to continued growth and audience support, it would be restructuring its management model to achieve three goals: further increase the diversity of its programming, expand audience outreach initiatives to reach marginalized and underrepresented communities within the region, and maintain NOVA’s identity as an artist-run organization. As part of this restructuring, NOVA leadership and artists will select a new Music Director each year to curate the season programming. On November 15, 2017, Utah Symphony Concertmaster Madeline Adkins was selected as the first Guest Music Director under this new model.
In October 2018, NOVA Chamber Music Series launched its 41st Season, curated by Adkins. The eight concerts feature classical chamber music from a diverse range of composers— including nine women— representing 10 countries on three continents. As future Music Directors bring their own unique perspectives and experience to the NOVA Chamber Music Series in the coming years, audiences and the community are sure to benefit form an even broader and more diverse range of music.