While studying composition at the Juilliard School, Paola Prestini was eager to create the kind of boundary-blurring, collaborative pieces that didn’t have a place on the noted conservatory’s curriculum. She therefore co-created her first non-profit, the interdisciplinary arts company VisionIntoArt (VIA), and ran it successfully for 15 year thereafter, all the while gradually making her inimitable mark on the world of classical music with her own creations.
In 2015 she folded VIA’s mission into National Sawdust, a brand-new performance space and music incubator in Brooklyn that she co-founded with tax attorney and arts lover Kevin Dolan. While managing National Sawdust’s many programs and its impressive performance slate as the organization’s artistic director, she has continued to compose works that have been performed around the world, including orchestral and choral works commissioned by some of the world’s premier classical music venues, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican Centre.
Paola spoke with Pier Carlo Talenti in April from her home in Brooklyn, several weeks after she’d returned from Minneapolis, where the pandemic lockdown had shut down rehearsals for the premiere of her first commissioned opera, “Edward Tulane.” Minnesota Opera has committed to premiering the work at a later date; San Diego Opera has made the same commitment for her opera “Aging Magician,” which was also slated to premiere in spring of 2020.
In this interview she discusses how hewing to her vision with integrity has guided her artistically and institutionally and how it continues to serve her through the current crisis, in which she and National Sawdust have to lead like never before.