December 1, 2015
By John Fleming
Found and Artistic Director, Young People's Chorus of New York City
In 2011 it was made more or less official: Francisco J. Núñez is a genius. Well, at least Núñez, founding artistic director of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, was a recipient of one of the $500,000 fellowships known as "genius awards" given out by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. "I don't really feel like a genius," Núñez said at the time. "But I definitely feel a little taller."
Núñez, a conductor, composer, and pianist who grew up in the Washing Heights neighborhood of New York City, founded the Young People's Chorus in 1988 "to provide children of all ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds with a safe haven for personal and artistic growth." Almost 1,400 children ages 7 to 18 participate in the chorus's in-school and after-school programs every year. And they sing some impressive repertoire. Through the years YPC has commissioned more than 80 works, most as part of its Transient Glory program. Among the composers are John Corigliano, Paquito D'Rivera, Meredith Monk, Michael Gordon, Terry Riley, and Bora Yoon, all featured in Transient Glory III, the third YPC recording from the program, released in November on the Cantaloupe Music label.
YPC has made countless high-profile appearances, from singing Yes, Virginia, There's a Santa Claus on a float in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to winding up a service with Pope Francis at Ground Zero with Let There Be Peace on Earth. In October, performing Two Mountain Songs by Gabriela Lena Frank, it was the first American choir in 54 years to win first prize in the Let the People Sing amateur choir competition, held in Munich, Germany.
Núñez, also conductor of the University Glee Club of New York City, has been called "the Horowitz of the choral world" by composer David del Tredici. He has a commercial side, too, having prepared a new SATB arrangement of I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke for the Coca-Cola Co. on its 125th anniversary.