Also being celebrated at the annual awards gala is Francisco Núñez, the founder and artistic director of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and a composer/conductor. Núñez will receive the foundation’s Life in Music Award.
“Natalie Merchant has lent her name and voice to the causes of environmental protection, domestic violence, racism, arts education and more, and Francisco Núñez has enriched the lives of thousands of children of every cultural and economic background with innovative music education,” Paul Williams, president of the ASCAP Foundation, said in a statement. “Their passion and commitment to philanthropy are sterling examples of how the creative community can step forward to improve the human condition. They ‘walk the walk’ and are inspirations for all of us.”
Merchant became famous as the singer of 10,000 Maniacs in the 1980s before going solo in 1995. Last year, Nonesuch released a 10-CD box set of her solo recordings. The charitable organizations she’s supported include Greenpeace, Tibet House, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Doctors Without Borders and the Southern Center for Human Rights. She’s served on the New York Council for the Arts and currently is an artist in residence with the Hudson Valley’s Commission on Economic Opportunity.
Past recipients of the ASCAP Foundation Champion Award include Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, John Mellencamp, Ne-Yo and Judy Collins.
Núñez, who founded the Young People’s Chorus of New York City in 1988, has been cited by the New York Times for elevating the art of children’s choruses “by commissioning a steady stream of works from composers who usually write for adults.” His previous awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, ASCAP’s Victor Herbert Award and Musical America’s 2018 Educator of the Year. He composes and arranges in different formats and genres for choirs and orchestras as well as solo instruments; in addition to the award, the ASCAP Foundation has put him to work on an original song cycle.
Previous recipients of Núñez’s award include Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash, Jesse Winchester and jazz luminaries Maria Schneider and Horace Silver.