The Center was originally funded by a $100,000 matching grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1966. From the start, the Center sparked the composition of new works expressly for the ensemble, and brought professional realizations of both local and international repertoires to the University community as well as to tour audiences throughout the state of Iowa and beyond. 

With the success of the Center, the same foundation granted $456,000 (again to be matched by the University) for an interdisciplinary Center for New Performing Arts (1969-1975). Since that time, the Center for New Music has been continuously funded by the University through the School of Music. 

Over virtually the entire span of its existence, the Center has enjoyed the guidance of its founding members, Richard Hervig and William Hibbard. Its brilliant success is indeed a tribute to their imagination, wisdom and devotion. With Hervig's retirement and Hibbard's death, the administrative direction of the Center was passed to D. Martin Jenni, a long-standing composer-participant of the organization, and then in 1991 to David K. Gompper. 

A large part of the Center's mission has been to bring new music to a wide and diverse public, for many of whom the Center occasions a first encounter with new music, in schools and colleges as well as at town forums and in farming communities. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts made it possible, in 1973, for the Center to present new works from Iowa at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Shortly thereafter, Center personnel participated in the production of a CRI recording of New Music from The University of Iowa, including several works that had been composed for the ensemble. 

The Center has directed much of its energy to the production of the work of composers in residence at Iowa (as staff, students and guests), many of whom have since become leading figures in American music. It also has to its credit the first world or American performances of major works such as: Traces by Luciano Berio and Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death (1969) by George Crumb, Couleurs de la Cité Céleste (1973) by Olivier Messiaen and Triple Duo (1983) by Elliott Carter. 

Many visiting artists have enriched the musical offerings of the School of Music since the inception of the Center. A sampling includes the composers George Crumb (1969), Larry Austin (1971), Alcides Lanza (1972), Charles Wuorinen (1972, 1974), Morton Feldman (1973), Salvatore Martirano (1973), Jaap Spek (1976), Gunther Schuller (1980), Lukas Foss (1982), Louise Talma (1982), Kenneth Gaburo (1983), John Ronsheim (1985), Libby Larson (1986), Ralph Jackson (1986), William Albright (1992, 1995 & 1996), Bernard Rands (1993), Bright Sheng (1994), Noel Zahler (1997), Theodore Antoniou (1998), Jeremy Dale Roberts (1999), Charles Dodge (1999), Bernhard Lang (1999), Beat Furrer (1999), Shulamit Ran (2000), Robert H.P. Platz (2005). 

Performers include Janet Steele (1970), David Burge (1973), David Tudor (1973), Paul Zukofsky (1976), Harvey Sollberger (1978), Robert Hagopian (1981), Steven Schick (1983, 1985, 1988), Garrick Ohlsson (1988) and Jeff Lyman (1994 & 1999). 

In November of 1998, the ensemble from the Center for New Music (which included both faculty and students) mounted an East Coast tour, and performed at UI, Yale, Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, Harvard and Connecticut College. The latter was part of a larger festival of music comprising an SCI Region I conference and a series of concerts and lectures honoring Pierre Boulez. 

The Center has released five CDs since the early 90s. The earliest CD dates from 1991 (Music & Arts Program), and is a 25-year retrospective that includes works by Hervig, Hibbard, Ziolek, Paredes, Eckert and La Barbara. The second CD, entitled 20th century American Music (Capstone-CPS8762), includes music of the New York tour mentioned above. Albany Records released our third disc, entitled Into the Future: the Center for New Music at 40 in August 2007 (Berners, Dangerfield, Dahn, Eckert, Fritts and Gompper). The fourth recording, released in 2007, features the compositions by D. Martin Jenni. Our most recent disc, featuring contemporary works written for solo strings and large ensemble (Dale-Roberts, Donatoni, Gompper, Hu and Nez), was released by Albany Records in the spring of 2009.