Recently named the first ever Composer in Residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mason Bates has a passion for bringing classical music to new audiences in imaginative ways. Whether through institutional partnerships such as his residency with the Chicago Symphony, special events with orchestras such as the San Francisco or Pittsburgh Symphonies, or through his classical/DJ project Mercury Soul, his approach combines an eclectic stylistic appetite, an eye for production and stagecraft, and a DJ's zeal for local outreach and promotion.


Exciting and diverse programs, featuring classical composers as well as artists outside the field, lie at the core of all curating projects.  With composer Anna Clyne, Bates has programmed composers from across the stylistic spectrum on the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series.  From Magnus Lindberg to the electronica duo Mouse on Mars, from minimalist David Lang to maximalist George Friedrich Haas, the programs balance heart and mind.   Mouse on Mars performing on MusicNOW Bates also curated concerts for the Pittsburgh Symphony in multiple venues; hosted several After Hours events at the SF Symphony; and launched the New World Symphony’s club programs with Mercury Soul. See right sidebar for programs. Hubbard Street dance performing at MusicNOW in a work by Anna Clyne


Bates’ home base between Silicon Valley and San Francisco has highly influenced his development of “information outreach” through technology.  The Chicago Symphony's MusicNOW program book has been transformed into an immersive combination of video, projections, and lighting, taking the audience into composers’ studios and minds to hear about the music from them directly. Immersive lighting & installations at Mercury Soul at Chicago's Metro The fluid production is seamlessly integrated into the concert at dead moments (such as set changes) and does not intrude on the performances themselves, and “mobile notes” have recently been introduced so that listeners can learn more about the program on various devices.  Isolated stage setups in pools of dramatic lighting allow for a continuous concert flow. The program book is a given a 21st Century update


Creative outreach goes way beyond school visits, with an emphasis on creating bustling social platforms that bring people to the music in substantive ways.  A key demographic at Bates’ events are the adventurous musical explorers from the “indie” worlds: electronica, indie rock, and modern art.  At the CSO, Bates and Clyne have created powerful local partnerships with DJ collectives such as illmeasures and Freakeasy, bringing their talents to pre- or post-parties and widening the CSO’s platform.  From the SFS After Hours events to the Pittsburgh Symphony to the New World Symphony’s Pulse Series, Bates engages with a variety of departments to build diverse audiences. social platform POST after a Chicago Symphony concert This extends into the cyber realm, where has worked closely with Google and YouTube (on the YouTube Symphony projects), Cisco (at their Partners Summit), and Digital Obscura to bring the deep experience of classical music to online viewers.  

Bates performing with Las Vegas Youth Symphony at Cisco Partners Summit


Working in clubs under the name DJ Masonic, Bates has developed a post-classical rave that has integrated classical music and electronica to packed crowds in collaborations with clubs and orchestras around the country. The project returned last season to San Francisco’s Ruby Skye in front of eight hundred attendees and also visited SF’s DNA Lounge, and it most recently appeared on the Kennedy Center’s KC Jukebox series. Mercury Soul inhabits commercial clubs and extraordinary spaces, embedding sets of classical music into a fluid evening of DJing and immersive stagecraft. Sold-out performances from San Francisco’s famed Mezzanine club to Miami’s New World Symphony have brought a new vision of the listening experience to widespread audiences, and the project has been invited by the Chicago Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony for events at local clubs. The project is represented by Opus 3 Artist and can be explored more fully at

Mercury Soul custom designs each show to the diverse ensembles and spaces it inhabits. In addition to its events in San Francisco and Miami, Mercury Soul sold out the Static club for a show with the Pittsburgh Symphony and created a warehouse party with the Chicago Symphony.