ACDA Genesis Prize-winning “Holding Our Breath” by October Project’s Julie Flanders and composer Carlos Cordero to be performed at Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall

With each breath, we get to choose the way we live. Will we choose love? Or harm? Care or apathy? Rather than harm, we choose harmony. Music is a powerful way to foster higher forms of awareness and to help resolve dissonance.”

     -  Julie Flanders, Poet/Lyricist

“During such a challenging time for all, and even now when we are learning not to take for granted the moments where we can breathe next to each other, art is there to carry us through.”

      -  Carlos Cordero, Composer



In a powerful evening of music celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the groundbreaking Sphinx

Organization, whose mission to promote diversity in the arts has created a deep and lasting change in the world of classical music, “Holding Our Breath,” written by October Project’s Julie Flanders and Austin-based composer Carlos Cordero, will be performed at The Kennedy Center by the acclaimed EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble with members of the Washington Chorus conducted by Dr. Eugene Rogers, Artistic Director of the Washington Chorus, in a joint performance with the Sphinx Symphony on January 31st. 


“Holding Our Breath” winner of the American Choral Directors Genesis Prize, was commissioned by the ACDA during the direst days of the COVID-19 lockdown as a work reflective of the times, using the lens of breath to address the virus, racism and global uncertainty we continue to face.


It was first performed online in 2021 by Conspirare (Craig Hella Johnson, conducting), in a co-presentation with October Project Music, a genre-defying creative collaborative that produces recordings and events.


“We could not imagine a more perfect ensemble than Conspirare, whose name means literally “to breathe together,” to be the first to sing this piece,” says October Project Music vocalist/producer Marina Belica. Adds Founding Artistic Director of Conspirare Johnson, “I was honored to play a role in the birthing of this beautiful expression of empathy and I am delighted that many more listeners will be able to experience “Holding Our Breath” when it is performed by EXIGENCE. Carlos and Julie capture in music feelings many of us resonate with right now.”


“Holding Our Breath” will be performed again by the National Youth Choir conducted by André Thomas and Anton Armstrong at Carnegie Hall on March 6. The prize-winning poet and composer Flanders & Cordero will also debut a new commission, “We are Waves,” for the Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia (Dominick DiOrio, Artistic Director) with the Commonwealth Youth Choir at the Temple Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia on March 4, featuring guest composer-conductors Rollo Dilworth and Alysia Lee.


In addition to choral performances of “Holding Our Breath,” Joel Thompson’s moving “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” and “Glory” by John Legend and Common, the Sphinx Symphony, comprised of top Black and Latinx professionals from around the country, will perform a program including works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Carlos Simon, Artist in Residence at the Kennedy Center.



Please refer to the information below for specifics on these upcoming performances.


Tuesday, January 31 at 8pm


  • “Holding Our Breath"
  • The Kennedy Center
  • 2700 F St., NW, Washington, D.C.
  • The Sphinx Symphony & EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble
  • Conducted by Tito Munoz and Eugene Rogers


The Sphinx Symphony with the EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble will present “Holding Our Breath,” Julie Flanders’ prize-winning piece with Venezuelan composer Carlos Cordero, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  EXIGENCE will be joined by members of The Washington Chorus and conducted by Eugene Rogers, Artistic Director of The Washington Chorus.


"Holding our Breath” won the American Choral Director Association Genesis Prize, a commission created by the ACDA to encourage the creation of a new choral work reflective of the times.


Saturday, March 4 at 2pm, 5pm


  • “We Are Waves"
  • Temple Performing Arts Center
  • 1837 N Broad St. Philadelphia, PA
  • Conducted by Dominick DiOrio with guest conductors Rollo Dilworth & Alysia Lee


Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia (Dominick DiOrio, artistic director) & Commonwealth Youth choirs (Frank van Atta & Elizabeth Parker, co-artistic directors) join forces for a joint collaborative concert experience, We Are Waves. Featuring guest composer-conductors Rollo Dilworth & Alysia Lee, plus a brand-new commissioned work with original music by Carlos Cordero and an original poem by Julie Flanders.





Monday, March 6 at 8pm


  • “Holding Our Breath”
  • Carnegie Hall
  • 881 7th Ave, New York, NY
  • National Youth Choir - Festival at Carnegie Hall
  • Conducted by Anton Armstrong & Andre Thomas








Winners of the 2021 Anthem & Telly Award for their “Virtual Choir of Joy,” October Project writer Julie Flanders, composer/producer Emil Adler, and vocalist Marina Belica are internationally acclaimed recording artists, producers, and musical activists who collaborate in the creation of musical recordings and events. Their earlier work with SONY/Epic followed by a succession of highly acclaimed independent recordings on their own October Project label have generated millions of listeners across the world. They continue to innovate the landscape of independent music.


• Contact email: [email protected]

• Press kit available for download:

• Website:

• The Ghost of Childhood website:

• YouTube: @OctoberProjectMusic

• Facebook: @October Project




Carlos Cordero is an award-winning composer and recent University of Houston Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy of Rome. His most recent achievements include winning the: International Choral Composition Competition Japan 2018, Inversion Ensemble’s Emerging Composer Competition, Vox Populi Winner in I International Choral Composition Competition Alberto Grau, The Uncommon Music Festival Choral Composition Competition, and the 2017Chorus Austin Young Composer’s Competition; as well as the world premiere of This Sky in the 28th Béla Bartok Choral Competition. Cordero enjoys writing music mainly for the voice, having completed a 3-act operetta called: Un Cuento de Luces y Sombras(A tale of Light and Shadows). His pieces have been performed internationally, including, Europe, North and South America.

Originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela, Carlos is currently residing in Austin, Texas after finishing his Master of Music in Composition at the University of Houston, Moores School of Music, with Dr. David White as his professor.





The Sphinx Organization is a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Focused on increasing representation of Black and Latinx artists in classical music and recognizing excellence, Sphinx programs serve beginner students to seasoned classical music professionals, as well as cultural entrepreneurs and administrators.

Based in Detroit, Michigan, but with nationwide reach, Sphinx envisions a day where the classical music field looks like our communities: where every young person has the opportunity to express themselves and learn classical music; where audiences reflect the people we see on our streets; and where leadership—on stage and off—includes all deserving voices.











Our mission is to transform the lives of young people through the power of making music together …one song at a time.

Headquartered in Germantown, Commonwealth Youthchoirs (CY) is a nonprofit choral music education program whose mission is to transform young lives through the power of making music together …one song at a time.  Founded in 2001, CY is a thriving music community of three programs, Keystone State Boychoir (KSB) , Pennsylvania Girlchoir (PG), and Find Your Instrument (FYI) that empowers more than 600 young people from across Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia region to find their voice – to express themselves boldly, and to strive for excellence – in rehearsal, on the stage and as a member of the community. Every week since its founding in 2001, young people between the ages of 7-18, spanning 123 schools and 95 zip codes, come together to make music and share life experiences with highly skilled and experienced music educators. More than half of our singers would not have had the opportunity for a music education in their significantly under-resourced public schools and we are proud of a 100% graduation rate for all those who have stayed in CY through their 12th grade year. CY has sung for Popes, Presidents, and Nobel Prize winners, both at home and across the globe, having performed on all seven continents!








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