Digital Discovery Festival 2020

A Festival to bring National Sawdust artists and audiences together, and to fight the vulnerability performing artists are feeling during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Many in our communities are finding it difficult to navigate the new normal we find ourselves in. For our musicians this means finding ways to continue to grow and evolve their craft while at the same time dealing with the loss of income that has resulted from the spread of coronavirus and the realities of quarantine. Our audience members, our friends, and our families are trying to find ways to connect and to cope during a time of incredible uncertainty for many.

This pressing need for connection and creativity is why National Sawdust is launching the Digital Discovery Festival thanks to a private, restricted grant. The Festival is a weekly program of live performances, interviews, and artist development designed to bring audiences together with artists, continue artist development during quarantine, and compensate artists in the hope that we can help each other build community while physically distancing.

The Festival will respond to the need of artists during this time by paying $1000 per person for each 30-minute performance, and gifting relevant audio-visual equipment and livestream training to each participant. National Sawdust will commission 20 emerging composers to write short compositions for $3000 each, to be premiered in concert this fall.

If you're able to help support our artists, and to help National Sawdust get compensation to artists and composers, please consider a donation by clicking the button below. New Music USA is helping us identify artists most in need via their Solidarity Fund and with the Compositions portion of the Digital Discovery Festival.

Support National Sawdust Today!

Upcoming Performances

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Performances are free, but we would love to keep in touch. We will provide artist lineups, updates on scheduling, and resources to accompany the performances. We will NOT share your information with anyone else.

The Digital Discovery Festival Program

The Digital Discovery Festival will bring together three elements - Masterclasses, Discoveries, and Compositions. These will be added to our Live@ digital stage programming, which presents National Sawdust archival material according to weekly themes connected to the music and musicians stories. Live performances will be streamed on the digital stage, hosted here at as well as via Facebook Live.

Meet Our Hosts

Paola Prestini

Paola Prestini is a Composer, and the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of National Sawdust. She co-hosts the Friday Masterclass series.

Helga Davis

Helga Davis is a Vocalist & Performance Artist, and NYPR Host of HELGA podcast. She hosts our weekly Discovery series and co-hosts the Friday Masterclasses.


Every Friday at 3PM Eastern

Masterclasses are live performances that present established artists performing and discussing their experience during this difficult period and a vision for what might lie ahead. Paola Prestini and Helga Davis will moderate these weekly shows, to be livestreamed on the Live@ website and via Facebook Live.


Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 8PM Eastern

Discoveries are 30-minute live performances that will showcase emerging artists in performance and in conversation with vocalist and host Helga Davis. These shows will be livestreamed on the Live@ website and via Facebook Live.


On May 15th, National Sawdust will launch a competition to include 20 commissions by emerging composers. A panel of composers will help select the artists, who will compose for members of the NS Ensemble and other ensembles, and will receive mentorship from the renowned musicians. Their works will be premiered in the Fall at National Sawdust.

Copyright 2020 National Sawdust