In 1948, a small, struggling, semi-professional orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky began a novel project to commission new works from contemporary composers around the world.

The Commissioning Project grew far beyond anyone's expectations. In 1953, the orchestra received an unprecedented $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to commission 52 compositions a year for three years. The new works were to be performed in weekly concerts and recorded for sale by subscription. The international music world was astounded at both the recipient of the grant and the scope of the project.

The architect of this ambitious artistic venture was Louisville Mayor Charles Farnsley who had a deep love of cultural expressions of all kinds as well as boundless enthusiasm and an inexhaustible bank of new ideas. Farnsley professed to be guided by the philosophical principles of the Chinese sage Confucius. It was a Confucian idea that a city with high culture and happy citizens attracted wealth and power.

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