Guerilla Composers Guild

Modern classical music is not only alive, it is thriving in the Bay Area. Evidence of that bold statement can be corroborated in the first of our two discussions with the San Francisco-based Guerrilla Composers Guild (GCG).

Founded by Nick Benavides and Danny Clay, the non-profit GCG brings performers and composers together in what we see as a very unique, supportive environment that is mutually (and musically) beneficial to both types of artists.

For performers who are seeking new material, they can work directly with the composers. For composers, it is a chance to hone their oeuvres based on feedback from the actual performers.

We spend a good deal of time with Nick this week and with fellow composer Michael Kropf. Also joining us is Tori Hauk and Jessie Nucho, who together perform as the the flute duo “Siroku.”

“We don’t have any artistic agenda, we don’t want to tell people what to do. If they want to express a certain thing with two flutes, we want to help them achieve that vision to the fullest, whatever that vision is.”

— Nick Benavides, Administrator of the Guerrilla Composers Guild

In workshops produced by GCG, composers and performers get together and iterate on the creative process. Michael Kropf notes that in a piece he wrote for two guitars, he worked with the duo known as One Great City.

“I brought in random sketches and learned, for these musicians, what sounds good on a guitar,” he commented. “These are things you wouldn’t necessarily think about but the workshops help you to accomplish it.”

Nick Benavides adds that he encourages composers to come to the workshops without setting pen to staff paper. It’s better to approach working with and gathering feedback from the performers first, before the writer becomes emotionally attached to an idea or concept.

“(Performers) are instrumentalist who are human beings who want to perform your music. Let’s make it an enjoyable experience for everybody,” he says.

The guild’s philosophy and approach seem to be working. To date, the organization has comissioned and premiered over 35 new pieces from over 30 composers.

Most pieces are performed at the Center for New Music in San Francisco and the next event for GCG at the center will take place in October. We have it on our calendar, and suggest you do the same.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in hearing (rather than reading about) the Guerrilla Composers Guild, check out their channel at

Alexandra Iranfar and Timothy Sherren perform as One Great City and debuted “A Small Picture of a Large Place” by composer Michael Kropf. (Photo by Matthew Wasburn)