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The ETHEL +Factor Award honors outstanding individuals who excel in collaborating, connecting, and sharing artistic and life experience, and whose singular vision recognizes and catalyzes creativity in others. The award celebrates people who add value, significance, and meaning to the world by the very way they define and live their lives.

ETHEL and ETHEL’s Foundation for the Arts is honored to list the +Factor Award recipients to date.

Limor Tomer


John Schaefer


Joseph V. Melillo


Rachel Chanoff


Cece Wasserman


Michael Gordon


David Lang


Julia Wolfe


Elmore DeMott


Gina Gibney




Born in Israel, Ms. Tomer moved to the United States at age 13. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Juilliard School and studied for her doctorate in aesthetics at New York University. For 10 years she was a professional classical pianist in solo and orchestral performances throughout the United States and Europe.

Tomer transitioned from performance to arts management, where she worked closely with Harvey Lichtenstein at BAM on projects ranging from BAM Rose Cinemas to launching and programming the BAMCafe.  Following her tenure at BAM, she became Executive Producer for Music at WNYC radio, where she produced such award-winning programs as “24:33,” a John Cage celebration; “A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood,” about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and launched the Peabody-award winning web-based new music station Q2 (recently renamed New Sounds). Tomer served as Adjunct Curator for Performance at the Whitney Museum from 2005-11, where she created the performing arts department and curated performance shows including “Christian Marclay: Festival, a collaboration with David Kiehl,” “Steve Reich@ the Whitney”  and “Meredith Monk Music @ the Whitney.”

She joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art as General Manager of Concerts and Lectures in July 2011, where she launched MetLiveArts, the world’s largest museum-based performance series, which features >90 classical and contemporary performances ranging from dance, theater, music, sound installations, performance art and hybrids from around the world, many of which are commissions, site specific or premieres.

Tomer was invited to serve as Performance Curator for the inaugural 2016 and 2017 June Events at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (Athens, Greece) where she presented dance and music performances in multiple venues around the SNFCC campus.  She serves as a member of the National Curatorial Council of The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Sarasota, FL.


John Schaefer is the host and producer of WNYC’s long-running new music show New Sounds (“The #1 radio show for the Global Village” – Billboard), founded in 1982, and its innovative Soundcheck podcast, which has featured live performances and interviews with a variety of guests since 2002.  He created the New Sounds Live concert series in1986, which features new works, commissioned pieces, and a special series devoted to live music for silent films.  Done largely at Brookfield Place and Merkin Concert Hall in NY, the series continues to this day.

Schaefer has written extensively about music, including the book New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music (Harper & Row, NY, 1987; Virgin Books, London, 1990); the Cambridge Companion to Singing: World Music (Cambridge University Press, U.K., 2000); and the TV program Bravo Profile: Bobby McFerrin (Bravo Television, 2003).  He has also written about horse racing (Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology, Vintage, NY 2006), hosted panels for the World Science Festival, and has been a regular panelist on the BBC’s soccer-based program Sports World.


Joseph V. Melillo, BAM’s executive producer since 1999, was responsible for BAM’s artistic direction, overseeing programming in all its performance spaces: the Howard Gilman Opera House, Harvey Theater, BAM Fisher and Rose Cinemas. He previously served as BAM’s producing director and founding director of the Next Wave Festival, which debuted in 1983. In June 2019, Joe concludes his 35 year tenure at BAM. Melillo has fostered the work of emerging and established artists, and forged numerous international partnerships. Awards include the Chevalier and Officier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), OBE (Great Britain), Knight of the Royal Order of the Polar Star (Sweden), and Knight of the National Order of Québec (Canada). Melillo is a lecturer at colleges and universities nationally and internationally. In March 2019, Joseph was appointed International Artistic Advisor for Columbia Artists.


Rachel Chanoff has been working in performing arts and film for 35 years and is the founder and director of THE OFFICE performing arts + film, her New York City-based programming, consulting, and production company. She is the Curator of Performing Arts and Film for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), Director of Programming of the CenterSeries at the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance at Williams College, Consultant to the Feature Film and Theater Programs for the Sundance Institute and to the RAWI screenwriters lab in Jordan, Curator of The New York Jewish Film Festival and The Margaret Mead Film Festival, and the Artistic Director of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, New York’s longest running free outdoor performing arts festival. Rachel is proud to serve on the board of the 52nd Street Project and Working Films. She is also a long time participant in the Theater Development Fund’s Open Doors program, which introduces underserved high school students to the theater.


Cece (Cecille) Wasserman is President of The Cheswatyr Foundation,which supports contemporary music, commissions and community engagement projects.

The Cheswatyr/ETHEL friendship began in 2009 with the premiere of RADIO bY Oswaldo Golijov at the opening of WNYC’s Green Space, a Cheswatyr commission and ETHEL performance. More recently, Cheswatyr supported BLUE DRESS, a concert of women composers at National Sawdust.

Over the years Cheswatyr’s funds have supported many diverse projects locally, nationally and internationally, including an opera and music education projects in Havana, Cuba; Lunalab, a mentoring program for young women composers and Rhythm on Rikers, a drumming program for prisoners.

Among the institutions  where Cece has worked are New York Public Library, American Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall.

Present and past associations include Composers Now, Miller Theatre at Columbia University Advisory Board; New Music Connect Steering Committee; Firebirds at the Metropolitan Museum,  Concert Artist Guild and Brooklyn Philharmonic.

Born and educated in Boston, MA, she has three daughters, Emily, Stefanie and Wendy Wasserman and 1 granddaughter, Josie Schiffer. Cece is also a published poet.


Over the past 30 years, Michael Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles and major orchestral commissions to works conceived specifically for the recording studio and kaleidoscopic works for groups of identical instruments.

This season, in addition to a new concert-length work, Road Trip for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, composed with David Lang and Julia Wolfe for Bang on a Can’s 30th Anniversary, Gordon sees premieres of his music in the US and abroad: a new arrangement of his opera Acquanetta, presented by the Prototype Festival in New York City; a new orchestral work for the Miami City Ballet, choreographed by Brian Brooks; and the German premiere of his piano concerto, The Unchanging Sea, performed by the MDR Symphony in Berlin with pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama.

Gordon’s recent works have included Big Space, commissioned and presented by the BBC Proms; a concert-length work for choir, Anonymous Man, commissioned and premiered by The Crossing, and three new works for orchestra — Natural History, written for the 100th Anniversary of the United States’ National Parks and premiered at Crater Lake in Oregon; Observations on Air, a concerto for bassoon for soloist Peter Whelan, commissioned by the British ensemble The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; and The Unchanging Sea, a piano concerto for Tomoko Mukaiyama with a new film by Bill Morrison.


David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. Lang’s simple song #3, written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film Youth, received many honors in 2016, including Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others.

Lang’s the little match girl passion won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen and Lang’s own rewriting of the libretto to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the recording of the piece was awarded a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang has also been the recipient of the Rome Prize, Le Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year.

Recent premieres include his opera the loser, which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and for which Lang served as composer, librettist and stage director, the public domain for 1000 singers at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, his chamber opera anatomy theater at Los Angeles Opera and at the Prototype Festival in New York, and the concerto man made for the ensemble So Percussion and a consortium of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  In addition to his work as a composer, Lang is Artist in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music.


Julia Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. She draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them.

Her Pulitzer prize-winning work, Anthracite Fields, a concert-length oratorio for chorus and instruments, draws on oral histories, interviews, speeches, and more to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region. Mark Swed of the LA Times wrote Anthracite Fields “captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost…but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost. The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.”

Recent projects include her evening-length Steel Hammer for the Bang on a Can All-Stars and singers which toured in an expanded theatrical form with director Anne Bogart and her SITI Company. Wolfe’s body concerto riSE and fLY — commissioned by the BBC and performed recently by the Cincinnati Symphony — features rapid-fire body slaps and street percussion. In 2019, the New York Philharmonic premieres her large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus, Fire in my mouth, continuing her interest in American labor history with the subject of women in New York’s garment industry at the turn of the century.

Wolfe has written a major body of work for strings, from quartets to full orchestra. Her quartets, as described by The New Yorker, “combine the violent forward drive of rock music with an aura of minimalist serenity [using] the four instruments as a big guitar, whipping psychedelic states of mind into frenzied and ecstatic climaxes.” Wolfe’s Cruel Sister for string orchestra, inspired by a traditional English ballad, was commissioned by the Munich Chamber Orchestra and received its U.S. premiere at the Spoleto Festival. Fuelfor string orchestra is a collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. She has collaborated with theater artist Anna Deveare Smith, choreographer Susan Marshall, designers Jeff Sugg and Jim Findlay, and director François Girard, among others. Her music has been heard at presitigious venues throughout the world and has been recorded on Cantaloupe Music, Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca.

Wolfe was a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and was a recipient of the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in Music. She is also a professor of music composition at the NYU Steinhardt School.


Passionate about encouraging people to connect with art and nature, Elmore DeMott is a photographer with award-winning work in private and corporate art collections, galleries and museums. Flowers and mighty pine forests – her signature subjects – are featured in publications, presentations and arts collaborations. Her Camera Journey takes Elmore throughout her home state of Alabama and beyond.

An avid arts supporter who describes the arts as being fundamental to all lives, Elmore was the founding

president of ClefWorks, an Alabama arts organization, created to promote the education and enjoyment of chamber music through innovative programming. Elmore is a founding member of the internationally acclaimed JACK Quartet and the newly formed New York-based Collaborate Arts Ensemble.

Passion for the wonders of Mother Nature inspired Elmore to begin her “Flowers for Mom” series, comprised of daily flower photos, since August 2016, to honor her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey. Maria

Shriver recognized her as an Architect of Change for this series. Her photography continues to serve as a backdrop for unique collaborative performances such as one with the San Francisco based Del Sol String Quartet. This summer at the DAP Dance Festival in Italy, her work will premiere as part of a ballet by Norwegian dancer and choreographer, Thomas Johansen. Elmore is the artist-in-residence for this summer’s Photography Festival in Pierrevert, France and is excited about other upcoming speaking engagements and exhibits to share her work.

In addition to compelling images, Elmore considers her finest creations to be her two daughters and the life she has built with her husband, Miles DeMott, a writer with whom she collaborates from time to time.


Gina Gibney is a choreographer, director, and entrepreneur. She founded Gibney Dance in 1991 as a performing and social action dance company, and today the organization has rapidly emerged as a cultural leader that operates through three fields of action: Company, Community and Center.  Her choreographic work is featured in the repertory of the organization’s resident dance ensemble, Gibney Dance Company, now alongside work by leading contemporary colleagues.

Gibney is a recent recipient of Dance/USA’s Ernie Award, the Case Western Reserve Distinguished Alumni Award, BAX Arts & Artists in Progress Award, and Out100’s list of influential members of the LGBT community. Gibney is a frequent panelist and speaker on topics of dance, entrepreneurship, and arts-community partnerships, and she serves on several cultural boards and advisory groups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from Case Western Reserve University where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.