Collaborations & Commissions

Musical Match-Making

With innovation and collaboration at the heart of our programs, “musical match-making” has become one of our specialties. World Cafe Live incubates new ideas. We’ve commissioned and produced more than a dozen world premiere compositions, often crossing musical boundaries in adventurous ways. Our music is fresh, socially engaged, and responsive to our social and political landscape.

We love to work with local partners and think outside the box. While many of our core education programs are geared towards schools and students, these unique Collaborations & Commissions allow us to connect with the larger community.

We’re pushing the boundaries of what accessible music-making can look like for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. We’re always open to new ideas and partnerships, so get in touch!


Notable Collaborations

World Cafe Live presents a number of curated concerts annually, showcasing boundary-crossing artist collaborations, new commissions, and world premieres. Check out some of those collaborations and commissions originally presented by LiveConnections, the nonprofit in residence at World Cafe Live before we merged in 2019.

Kinan Azmeh + Aizuri Quartet

May 31, 2018

Listen & Watch: Concert Clip

In May 2018, Grammy-winning Syrian-born clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the acclaimed Aizuri Quartet came together for a concert spanning classical, jazz and Arabic musical languages. The collaboration drew on the artists’ inventive and thought-provoking approaches to music-making. The concert featured works by Armenian priest Komitas Vartaped and contemporary composers Lembit Beecher and Yevgeniy Sharlat; the world premiere of a suite of micro-commissions by Pauchi Sasaki, Michi Wiancko, Wang Lu and Can Bilir; and a new arrangement of Kinan Azmeh’s “The Fence, the Rooftop and the Distant Sea” for clarinet and string quartet.

Harlem Quartet + Arturo Stable

February 24, 2017

Listen & Watch: “El Fénix Negro” by Arturo Stable

We presented Harlem Quartet in collaboration with Latin jazz percussionist Arturo Stable in February 2017. Committed to advancing diversity in classical music, Harlem Quartet specializes in varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers as well as classical mainstays. For this concert, we commissioned Stable to write new music for the Quartet based on the rhythms and sounds that drew from traditions from his native Cuba. “El Fénix Negro” premiered at  World Cafe Live. The program also featured works by Mozart and Cuban composer Guido Gavilán.

Daedalus Quartet + John Patittuci

April 18, 2017

Listen & Watch: “Paintings in the Now” by John Patitucci

For this program, we commissioned John Patitucci to write a new piece for himself and the Daedalus Quartet. “Paintings in the Now” fuses jazz and classical music, balancing fluidity and form. In his composing, John channels Miles Davis’ instructions to Wayne Shorter: “Make sure you put a window in the music”—creating spaces for improvisation within the structure. “Paintings in the Now” premiered at World Cafe Live in April 2017. 

Elizabeth Zharoff + Xavier Foley

June 2, 2017

Listen & Watch: Full Concert

Collaborating around their love of video games and their serious classical chops, we presented two emerging composers and recent grads of the Curtis Institute of Music. Soprano Elizabeth Zharoff, in addition to performing opera, is an award-winning game audio designer and composes music for film and TV. Double bassist Xavier Foley shares his love of video game music in his own compositions and performances. We commissioned pieces “Requiem,” “Excalibur” and “Temple Run” to draw on video game themes and narratives, premiered as part of a lively and eclectic program spanning new music, art songs, opera and classical bass. They were joined by pianist Michelle Cann, also a Curtis alum, along with Fourte, a student string quartet from All-City Orchestra.

Kinan Abou-afach + Ensemble39

April 8, 2016

Listen & Watch: “Fiction” by Kinan Abou-afach

In April 2016, we commissioned Kinan Abou-afach to write a new work reflecting on his home country of Syria. The resulting work for string quintet, “Fiction,” incorporates pre-recorded sounds of glass breaking, gun shots, street noises, as well as original poetry by Kinan’s father who lives in Syria. It bridges Western classical and traditional Arab music, and conveys both the trauma of war and a deep yearning for peace. “Fiction” premiered at World Cafe Live, performed by Ensemble39. The commission is part of our “New Sound of Philadelphia” project, commissioning Philadelphia-based composers to write boundary-crossing new music for local ensembles.

Jakub Ciupinski + Sybarite5

December 1, 2016

Listen & Watch: “Three Canons” by Jakub Ciupinski

We presented “rock star” string quintet Sybarite5 in a unique collaboration with “hacked” theremin composer and performer Jakub Ciupinski. We commissioned this artist collaboration, featuring the world premiere of Jakub Ciupinski’s “Three Canons” for string quintet and double “hacked” theremins. Drawing on electronica, rock and classical music, the work disrupts conventional musical structures, allowing the strings to groove and the theremin to be the expressive soloist. “These aren’t your typical collaborations. LiveConnections creates synergy between … unlikely bedfellows” (Philly Mag Ticket

Uri Caine + PRISM Quartet

April 16, 2015

Listen & Watch: “Book of Days” by Uri Caine with PRISM Quartet

As part of the “New Sound of Philadelphia” project, we commissioned Philadelphia-born composer and pianist Uri Caine to write a new work blending jazz and classical music for PRISM Quartet. Our “New Sound of Philadelphia” project commissions Philadelphia-based composers to write boundary-crossing new music for local ensembles. The resulting suite, “The Book of Days,” was premiered by Uri Caine & PRISM at World Cafe Live in April 2015.

Kinan Abou-afach + Jason Vieaux + Takht Ensemble from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

May 7, 2015

Listen & Watch: “Sand, Land and Falling Metal” by Kinan Abou-afach

As part of our ongoing mission to build community through collaborative music-making, we commissioned Kinan Abou-afach, originally from Syria and now residing in Philadelphia, to write a new work blending Middle Eastern and classical music styles. “Sand, Land and Falling Metal” premiered at World Cafe Live, performed by Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and the Takht Ensemble from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.

Andrew Lipke + Aizuri Quartet

November 6, 2014

Listen & Watch: “My Love” by Andrew Lipke with the Aizuri Quartet

We commissioned Philadelphia composer/performer Andrew Lipke to write a new work blending rock and classical music for the Aizuri Quartet, currently string-quartet-in-residence at the Curtis Institute of Music, as part of the “New Sound of Philadelphia” project, The resulting suite for string quartet, guitar and vocals, “My Love,” was premiered by Andrew Lipke and the Aizuri Quartet at World Cafe Live in November 2014.

David Ludwig + Jason Vieaux + Hanna Khoury + Hafez El Ali Kotain

June 7, 2013

Listen & Watch: “Kantigas” by David Ludwig

In June 2013, we presented the world premiere of David Ludwig’s “Kantigas,” a suite for violin, guitar and percussion based on songs from the Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) tradition. The work was commissioned as part of our “Crossing Strings” project, a groundbreaking collaboration bridging Arabic and Western music traditions. The performance features Jason Vieaux on classical guitar, Hanna Khoury on Arabic violin and Hafez El Ali Kotain on percussion.