Composers Now Team Bios

Tania León, Artistic Director

Tania León is highly regarded as a composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations. She is a recipient of the 2022 Kennedy Center Honors, along with fellow honorees George Clooney, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, and U2. Her orchestral work Stride, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Appearances as guest conductor include Philharmonic Orchestra of Marseille, Gewandhausorchester, Orquesta Sinfonica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuba. 

Recent premieres include works for Los Angeles Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Grossman Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Jennifer Koh's project, Alone Together. Appearances as guest conductor include Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, Gewandhausorchester, Orquesta Sinfónica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuba, among others. Upcoming commissions feature works for the NewMusic USA Amplifying Voices Program, the League of American Orchestras, The Musical Fund Society in Philadelphia to celebrate their 200th anniversary, and Claire Chase, flute, and The Crossing Choir with text by Rita Dove. 

A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the American Composers Orchestra's Sonidos de las Américas Festivals, and was New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic. 

Honors include the New York Governor's Lifetime Achievement, awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the ASCAP Victor Herbert Award, among others. She also received a proclamation for Composers Now by New York City Mayor, and the MadWoman Festival Award in Music (Spain). León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, SUNY Purchase College and The Curtis Institute, and served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A CUNY Professor Emerita, she was awarded a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship.

Chitra Arunasalam, finance

Chitra Arunasalam uses her training in finance to enrich society by enabling the arts and fighting for social justice. She has over twenty years of experience in the non-profit sector, mostly putting her skills to work in arts organizations. Most recently, she served as the Finance Director for New Music USA (formerly Meet the Composer) for ten years. Chitra played a pivotal role in the merger of Meet the Composer and the American Music Center to form New Music USA. In her other life, she is a visual artist and an intuitive healer.

Simon M. Brown, technical direction

Simon M. Brown is a pioneer in musical realism, a practice that recreates the world's sounds to make intentional music. By studying physical models, he has been able to write works that audiences can interpret as both music and specific sounds. Recent examples are "correspondence," for amplified pencil and paper, "liquid liquid," which uses a string quartet and loop pedals to create the illusion of water, and "get around," a study in the sound of race cars. His "daydream" series is an exploration in the relationship of soundscapes to intentional music. Previous teachers include Tania León, Morton Subotnick, Andy Bonnacci, and Jason Eckhardt. Simon hails from some imaginary equidistant point between New York City and western Massachusetts. He loves making handmade pasta and listening to records. He owns a lot of records with flour stuck in the grooves.

Kim Chan, development manager

Kim Chan has worked extensively in New York City and Washington, D.C. as a fundraiser, marketer, curator, organizer, producer, and presenter of poetry, music, theater, dance, arts education, literature. She is a board member for the MAP Fund, Mid-Atlantic Arts, Ping Chong + Company and Pick-Up Performance Co(s). She has also served on the New York Dance and Performance "Bessies" Award Committee, on the boards for Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), Guillermo Gómez-Peña's La Pocha Nostra, and Dance Place, on the advisory board at GALA Hispanic Theatre, and as a National Dance Project Hub Site. Her work as a producer and curator has investigated issues of cross-border relationships, free expression, LGBTQ rights, and racism with artists and organizations such as Souleymane Koly, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Savion Glover, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Toni Blackman, Pomo Afro Homos, AfroCuba de Matanzas, the Nuyorican Poets, Washington Performing Arts, and GALA Hispanic Theatre. As Vice-President, Programs at APAP, she worked on the start-up of the international festivals Globalfest and Under the Radar and produced the annual APAP conference. Prior to joining the Composers Now team, she lead external affairs and social impact at National Sawdust, the music incubator in Brooklyn, and produced the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature for the free expression organization, PEN America. Chan is also one of the volunteers with Make Us Visible NJ who helped organize advocacy efforts that made New Jersey the second state in the country to pass legislation requiring Asian American Pacific Island Studies be taught in K-12 school curriculums as a long-term approach to counter anti-Asian racism.

Isaiah Cuesta, stage management

Isaiah Cuesta is a pianist and poet based in Bronx, NY. He attended the City College of New York where he found a love for musical theater, writing, and psychology. He pursued a major in Popular Music Studies and Psychology with the desire to move forward with a degree in Music Therapy. During his college career, he was the musical director for the productions of Ruined (2019) and The Fantasticks (2020). Currently, Isaiah is cultivating his skills as a writer, diving into the world of poetry and spoken word. He hopes to grow his skills as a pianist and poet with the dream of touching the hearts of people far and wide. 

Marcello Di Russo: technology, administration & development associate

Marcello Di Russo is an Italian composer, educator, and administrator based in Brooklyn, New York. A music lover since his teenage years, Marcello earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts - Music option from LaGuardia CC, a B.Mus in Composition with a minor in Music Recording Technology from the Brooklyn College-Conservatory of Music, and he is currently pursuing an M.A. in Arts Administration at Baruch College. Since 2018, he has been the president and an active member of the Brooklyn Composers Collective. 

Outside the music world, Marcello has an ongoing career as a basketball coach after spending over 10 years coaching youth and professional basketball teams in Italy.

Béatriz Hernández, production & Presenter Partners liaison

Having had experience internationally and across genres, Béatriz Hernández is an award-winning TV, Film and Music Producer, who has collaborated extensively with Celia Cruz, Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. Additionally, her other projects include the following GRAMMY award-winning and nominated recordings: Chico O'Farrill: Heart of a LegendPaquito D'Rivera Presents: Las Hermanas MárquezPaquito D'Rivera Tropicana Nights, Celia Cruz La Negra Tiene TumbaoChico O'Farrill: Heart of a Legend. As a producer, Ms. Hernández oversaw, researched and developed the concert and documentary Tribute to Paquito D'Rivera: 50 YearsEl GranFellové: A Documentary, Jazz at Lincoln Center: Afro-Cuban Fiesta. As a consultant, she produced concerts for delegates for the Spanish Ministry of Cultural Affairs as part of the cultural celebrations of the General Assembly of the United Nation.

She has produced concerts at the United Nations General Conference with the flamenco artist Enrique Morente, Vicente Amigo and Cuarteto Simon Bolivar. Recently she has produced and managed American Songbook: Raúl Esparza at Lincoln Center, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and the Opéra de Lausanne.

She has had extensive and diverse experience as a human rights activist, in Geneva, Switzerland for the ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross) and other NGOs in the United Nations.

Ms. Hernandez has a Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College (CUNY) with a Thomas Hunter Special Honors Degree in Political Science, Latin American Affairs, Anthropology and Humanities. 

David Hernandez, social media

David Hernandez is a guitarist, composer, and arranger born in Brooklyn, New York. He began playing guitar at the age of 14 and was a self-taught musician until he attended the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, majoring in music composition. In the conservatory, he studied under Polina Nazaykinskaya, Morton Subotnick, and Dalit Warshaw. He currently plays in a band called "Wince", composes and arranges for chamber ensembles, and writes scores for short films around the country.

Taya Higgs, technical direction

Growing up in Westchester County, NY, Taya Higgs was constantly surrounded by music. Early in life, she developed a deep attachment to movies and the music that went along with them. Throughout high school, Taya was involved in many different music ensembles and programs as a percussionist. During her undergrad years at Stony Brook University, Taya fell in love with sound design, composing, and audio mixing for film. She also fell in love with vocal arranging and production after joining the Stony Brook Pipettes, the all-female a capella group on campus.

Now, Taya is pursuing an MFA degree in Sonic Arts at CUNY Brooklyn College where has been able to work on student projects as an engineer, a sound designer, and a composer. She hopes to continue growing and is excited to meet a larger community of composers through Composers Now.

Andrew Porter, stage management

Andrew Porter is an African-American composer, pianist and saxophonist born and based in Brooklyn, NY. He attended City College before transferring to Brooklyn College in 2017. Studying Music Composition under his beloved mentor Polina Nazaykinskaya he would graduate with a B.Mus in Music Composition in 2020. During his college career, he developed an interest in the world of theatre, composing, musical directing, and assisting for a number of productions throughout the CUNY system, including Blood Weeding (2017), A Cat, A Man, A Laundromat (2018), The Moors (2020), & most recently the devised play @muse_me (2021).

He is currently Sound Designer for a production of The Glass Menagerie at The Glove Theatre in Gloversville, NY.