Category: Headlines

Announcing Event Pages

For years, we’ve heard from new music folks all over the country about the need for a centralized new music events calendar. Over the last year, we’ve been working to address this need, and today we are excited to announce the full launch of event pages on our platform. These pages give artists the ability to create and promote their events and offer audiences the ability to discover upcoming events they are interested in attending. Showcasing the breadth of new music creation around the country in a way that promotes artists and develops audiences is the driving mission behind event pages.

An example of an event page.

An example of an event page.

How Do I List My Events?

Anyone on our site, regardless of whether or not they have received a grant award, can create an event page. To create an event page, log in (make sure to register first, if you haven’t already) and navigate to the My Events page. You can get there by hovering over your name in the right corner of the navigation bar above and selecting “Events” from the dropdown. Next, click “Create an Event!” This takes you to a form where you can add all relevant information about your event such as a description, an image, a location, a link to purchase tickets, as well as tag anyone else who is part of the event. Once you’ve filled out the form, you can preview and publish your event page.

Start listing your events.

What Happens After I List My Event?

Once your event page is published, it becomes visible on your profile and the profiles of the other users you’ve tagged as part of the event. Your event page also appears on the Browse Events page of our site. Here, anyone can explore event pages based on location and keywords. Upcoming events also appear in the “On Our Calendar” content stream on our Explore page.

We are also cooking up new and interesting ways to showcase events on our homepage by connecting them in streams with other content on our site, like NewMusicBox articles, projects, profiles, and media. We want to amplify your work, and featuring what you’re up to on our homepage is one way to do that. Keep on the lookout for some of these content streams on our homepage soon.

In addition to showcasing events on our site, we’re also actively promoting event pages through social media, email, and other means. A weekly events email list we piloted this past year in New York City was successful, and we’re working to expand these sorts of email lists to other cities around the country.

How Do I Find Events I’m Interested In?

To find an event, visit the Browse Events page of our site. Here, you can sort through both upcoming and past events, refining by location and keyword search to discover exactly what you’re looking for.

There is also a more passive way to discover events on our site through the “On Our Calendar” content stream on our Explore page. While logged out users get a quick overview of upcoming events around the country, if you’re logged in and have entered your location on your profile then you will see upcoming events near you.

Find an event to attend.

What’s Next?

We’re continuing to tweak and refine event pages to better serve your needs. If you encounter any bugs, have questions, or want to offer suggestions for event pages, feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected].

Get started creating events and discovering events on our platform today.

Remembering Halim El-Dabh (1921-2017): A Citizen of the “Fourth World”

I still remember the first time I heard recordings from The Columbia Princeton Electronic Music Center that were issued in the early 1960s on Columbia Masterworks, as major a label as it got back in those days. (In fact, the head A&R guy there, Goddard Lieberson, was so powerful that he had the nickname “God.”) But by the time I got my hands on these LPs, bought for a pittance in a second-hand shop in the early ’80s, their liner notes’ claim of this being the music of the future seemed somewhat quaint. There was, however, a track on one of those records that didn’t sound at all like either wishful thinking from the past or a never-arrived-at future; it was just plain weird, but in a wonderful way. It was Leiyla and the Poet by an Egyptian-born composer named Halim El-Dabh.

El-Dabh came to the United States on a Fulbright in 1950, studied with Ernst Krenek and Aaron Copland, and wrote scores for Martha Graham. He was subsequently invited to work in the electronic music studio at Columbia University by Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky, after having already pursued electronic music independently. (Over a decade earlier in Cairo, he had already experimented with manipulating sounds using wire recorders at least four years before Pierre Schaeffer “invented” musique concrète.) To my 1980s ears, the 1959 piece he created at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, Leiyla and the Poet sounded like a bizarre amalgam of psychedelic rock and the emerging global “world music” that was being created by traditional musicians from across the globe. But of course, Leiyla and the Poet predates all of those developments, too.

For decades that was the only piece of his I had ever heard, even though I treasured it. Then, at some point a little over a dozen years ago, Halim El-Dabh showed up briefly at the offices of the American Music Center to give us a copy of Denise A. Seachrist’s 2003 biography of him, The Musical World of Halim El-Dabh. After reading the book, I learned that in the late 1960s, El-Dabh accepted a tenured position at Kent State University in northeastern Ohio and, though he continued to travel around the world to teach and perform, it remained his home for the rest of his life. I had hoped to listen to more of his music, which is woefully underrepresented on commercial recordings (though there are some intriguing samples of it in a CD that accompanied the biography and on his website), and to eventually do a talk with him for NewMusicBox. But it never happened. On September 2, 2017, El-Dabh died at the age of 96, just a few months after attending the premiere of one of his recent compositions.

Back in June 2017, Tommy McCutchon, founder of the vital Unseen Worlds record label, conducted an extensive interview with Halim El-Dabh which might contain El-Dabh’s final in print reflections on his three-quarter-century involvement with musical traditions from around the world and finding ways to connect them together. In his preface to the interview, McCutchon stated that although the term “Fourth World” is now acknowledged as “the conceptual invention of American composer Jon Hassell, used to describe a particular style of ambient music he first popularized in the late seventies in collaboration with Brian Eno,” another example (which also predates it) is the “fully integrated cultural representation” in “the work of Egyptian-born composer, educator, electronic music pioneer, and ethnomusicologist Halim El-Dabh.”

‘Fourth World Music’ has since become a dominant sub-genre designation for any music that combines avant-garde electronic processing with a mélange of world music aesthetics. In it, familiar reference points intersect at an unlocatable place in the listener’s imagination, where the intellect is allowed to thrive. We can easily locate the Third World in popular culture, news, and travel, but the Fourth is the lesser-known beyond. It is not unlike four-dimensionality: we all know what 3D is, but the concept starts to get fuzzy when we talk about a fourth dimension.

For El-Dabh, however, this lesser-known beyond was where he and his music lived his whole life, and it was how he taught music to all people:

“I don’t like the idea of separation, and looking at it as something different. I don’t like that about Western music education. The way you start at school, the children have a natural rhythm. Teaching everything in 4/4 or 2/2 [meter]—I think there’s more to teach [than that]. I’ve met with a lot of elementary schools, and the kids have natural rhythms, a variety of natural rhythms. So, why should I hammer in them certain rhythms they’re really not used to? When you talk about Western music, that’s a huge tradition you’re talking about. The influence of Western music is huge. We just have to look at it in a variety of ways, and enhance in certain ways.”

Harmonies That Welcomed Imagination—Remembering John Abercrombie (1944-2017)

John Abercrombie set the template for me as far as how to play music with an open mind. His manner towards fellow musicians was one of total respect and equality. Through his playing and compositions, John embodied the essence of the truly great musicians that came before him.

While we all have spent/spend time practicing, John was more focused on using the process of playing as the main way to learn and get better. He loved it!  In his groups, he unselfishly provided an encouraging environment to grow and deepen as a musician / player.

Thomas Morgan, John Abercrombie and Joey Baron looking over a score during the recording session for the 2009 album Wait Till You See Her (Photo © Robert Lewis, courtesy ECM).

Thomas Morgan, John Abercrombie and Joey Baron looking over a score during the recording session for the 2009 album Wait Till You See Her (photo © Robert Lewis, courtesy ECM).

The special thing that stands out about John is his natural democratic manner as a player and writer. He could not help it—it’s just the way he was. John always welcomed his bandmates’ ideas and was a fearless team player. He had the whole package: energy, beauty, surprise, lyricism, soul, and swing.

The special thing that stands out about John is his natural democratic manner as a player and writer.

I never witnessed John having a “bad night.”

I remember he was a special guest on Jim Hall’s last gig (November 2013 at Lincoln Center’s Allen in New York.) Jim started the evening playing solo. John and I were backstage listening and John just started freaking out waving his hands up and down exclaiming, “Holy shit! That’s Jim Hall out there! He’s my hero! And he’s playing his ass off!!! What the hell am I supposed to do when I go out to play!!!!”

John made me feel that same way whenever I played with him.

An early ECM promotion photo of John Abercrombie (Photo © by Robert Masotti, courtesy ECM)

An early ECM Records’ promotion photo of John Abercrombie (Photo © by Robert Masotti, courtesy ECM).

In spite of the countless hardships that life as an artist in an oppressive society presents, John never gave up his commitment to making music the way he wanted. He wrote beautiful melodies and harmonies that welcomed imagination. What a gift!

I believe that when a person we love passes, despite the traumatic, deep sense of loss and sadness, we get to keep the best parts of that person forever through memories. I am forever grateful to have been part of John’s life and music. He was one of a kind. An incredible listener. A truly great artist. With tears on my face and a smile in my soul, I miss you John.

Drew Gress, Marc Copland, John Abercrombie and Joey Baron (photo © by Bart Babinski, courtesy ECM).

Drew Gress, Marc Copland, John Abercrombie and Joey Baron in 2013 (photo © by Bart Babinski, courtesy ECM).

Suspending Time and Figuring Out the Impossible—Remembering David Maslanka (1943-2017)

Generous. Kind. Humanitarian. Gentle. Mentor. Humble. Friend. Oh, and a composer. My first exposure to David Maslanka’s music was in the spring of 1986 at the University of Arizona when I led a performance of his 1981 wind ensemble composition A Child’s Garden of Dreams which had been commissioned by John and Marietta Paynter for the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Conducting this music was a monumental, life changing experience for me as a young college wind band conductor and it was a work I returned to many times over the next twenty-six years. (Interestingly, A Child’s Garden of Dreams was both the first and last piece of David’s that I programmed, the last being in November of 2012, my final concert and recording session at ISU.)

My first exposure to David Maslanka’s music was a monumental, life changing experience for me as a young college wind band conductor.

I vividly recall sitting with Gary Green listening to the premiere performance of David’s Symphony No. 2 during the 1987 CBDNA Convention in Evanston, Illinois, gripping the seat, spellbound. The performing group was the combined Symphonic Band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble of Northwestern University conducted by John Paynter. Mr. Paynter had David say “a few words” prior to the premiere performance and I remember how this quiet, introspective individual speaking from the heart about his music captured me.

I moved to Normal, Illinois in the fall of 1987, beginning a quarter of a century journey with the Illinois State University Wind Symphony. When I arrived, I found a small, disheveled, underdeveloped group of students. We set about building an ensemble in an environment that previously had no wind band offering in the fall semester. In the spring of 1989, I “heroically” programmed Child’s Garden, which was a HUGE undertaking and underscores my naïveté at the time. David was very receptive to phone conversations, helping me realize the nature of his composition. He also spent time talking with a particular student who was having extreme misgivings about origins and the deeper meaning of his music.

Gary Green commissioned a “major work” from David, premiering Symphony No. 3 at the University of Connecticut in the fall of 1991. I attended the final couple of rehearsals and the premiere in Storrs taking advantage of the opportunity to spend some quality time with David on a couple of occasions, growing closer to his music and this quiet, generous man who would become my dear friend.

In the spring of 1993, both David and Gary came to campus for the final rehearsals and a performance of Symphony No. 3. I remember the experience being a real struggle for everyone involved, not the least of which were David and Gary.

When David was asked to write a piece, he composed until the music was finished. There was not a magic number of measures, nor was there a duration goal. Gary asked for a “major work,” not necessarily expecting a piece of the size and scope of Maslanka’s Third Symphony. Jerry Junkin commissioned a small work, maybe ten minutes or so, and received Symphony No. 4!

Jerry Junkin commissioned a small work, maybe ten minutes or so, and received Symphony No. 4!

I attended the final rehearsal and premiere of the 4th in Austin, Texas and developed a stronger, more intense relationship with David. We programmed it at ISU in the fall of 1994. That final week of rehearsals with David was the seminal experience for me, making a connection that lasted two decades. Following the stunning conclusion of the symphony and multiple “curtain” calls, I recall that David and I stood in the adjacent room for what seemed like an eternity waiting for the ensemble and audience to emerge from the performance space. Students and audience members alike said they were just “too drained” to move.

David Maslanka and Stephen K. Steele (center left and right) with organist Karen Collier and timpanist Karen Cole following our first performance of Symphony No. 4 in November 1994.

David and I with organist Karen Collier and timpanist Karen Cole following our first performance of Symphony No. 4 in November 1994.

We commissioned Symphony No. 5, receiving the parts for the first three movements prior to winter break in 2000. The Wind Symphony had a limited number of reading rehearsals before leaving for their break and we planned an extended rehearsal period across the Martin Luther King weekend, just prior to the spring semester beginning. David came to campus for those January rehearsals and we worked our way diligently through the first three movements over a number of rehearsals. Finally, he asked about the fourth movement. The students had it but we hadn’t read it as the parts arrived during the winter break. After we “slashed” our way through the movement, the room was deathly quiet. David slowly looked up and said, “My God, what have I done?” He decided at that moment that he NEVER wanted to be present to hear his music sight read again!!!

By the time of that workshop weekend I felt that I knew David very well. When he visited campus he stayed in my home. David traveled with a rolled up exercise pad he used for a thirty minute yoga stretching each morning at 5:00 or 5:30. He frequently cooked for us. It was not unusual for him to take hour or longer walks. Like the yoga, that too was a period of meditation for him. David HAD to have the daily New York Times cross word puzzle, which he did in ink! David was a very easy houseguest and we had some wonderful chats, not always about the music. We had shared stories, music, philosophy, passionate opinions and laughter. NEVER in all that time had I heard him swear. Not even “damn,” or “hell.” In the course of that long weekend, during one particular read-through, I had a metronome amplified through speakers so the ensemble could hear it, in an effort to help the ensemble develop a unified and steady pulse. David walked up behind me as the ensemble was slashing away and said directly in my ear, “Turn that fucking thing off.” I got the point; I never used a metronome in the same manner again.

David HAD to have the daily New York Times cross word puzzle, which he did in ink!

Symphony No. 5 was important in many ways to the relationship between David, the Wind Symphony, and myself. David returned to campus for the premiere and to travel on tour, culminating at the University of North Texas, site of the 2001 CBDNA convention. David convinced me that the piece needed to be recorded and released through Albany Records. I resisted, not being a fan of the measure-by-measure recording process that had become standard practice by then. He put me in touch with Jeff Harrison in Massachusetts who talked me through the recording process that would produce a musical representation. Jeff loaded up his gear and met us in Dallas. We arranged the use of a west Dallas high school auditorium and recorded all the repertoire we planned to perform at CBDNA the next day; this became our first Albany release. That began a long relationship with Jeff Harrison, Susan Bush of Albany Records, David and myself, releasing more than twenty recordings through 2013. David produced each and every recording; painstakingly involved whether it was his music or not.

Stephen K. Steele and David Maslanka looking through one of his scores near a kitchen sink.

David and I looking through one of his scores at my home in Hudson, Illinois in November 2010.

David and I often talked of the “ripple effect.” He realized the importance of working with the conductors and ensemble members who were preparing and performing his works. From a small core of conductors and their students, a “ripple effect” has been occurring and will continue to build. He tried ever so diligently to be present for each and every conductor who invited him to be part of his or her experience.

A former student was asked to describe his experiences with David and said, “You just can’t explain someone’s soul.” David did that; exposed his soul, in his music, in his teaching, in his conversations with you. His music does that with audiences. He and his music communicate at a deeply intense and personal level. To David, the act of making music is pure meditation at its most basic level, music provides the most basic form of communication. If those whom he touched were willing to listen and do the things he suggested, they too would experience these things that seemed so unlikely and confusing to most. Time is suspended when playing and/or listening to David’s music. It never failed. Each and every time on the podium in concert, when turning the final page, I would always think “Really? Already?” David wrote music to satisfy what the music needs rather than the opposite. He frequently told me that he would be finished with a particular composition when the music said it was finished.

David and his music communicate at a deeply intense and personal level.

David’s music could be extremely difficult, but his expectation was that the musicians would figure out how to make it possible. I recall a trumpet teacher commenting that David didn’t know how to write for trumpet. My reply was that David didn’t know how to write for bad trumpet players. My experience was that for those individuals who were diligently prepared and paid attention to the music, they were better musicians as a result of the process. A tuba player brought an oxygen tank to a rehearsal of David’s Symphony No. 8 to assist him with the sustained B. If you know the piece, you know of what I am speaking. On the side of the cylinder was written “for use during Maslanka’s Symphony No. 8.” Many people have thought that they couldn’t possibly play David’s music with their groups. He would show them that they could. In rehearsals he would make very soft and gentle suggestions, most often regarding what was clearly indicated in the score and parts. He simply called it “paying attention.” I used David’s Collected Chorale Settings, 117 four-part chorales composed in the 18th-century style, to begin every rehearsal in order to set the “tone” and intonation as well as to assist with the notion of “paying attention” and laying the foundation of the ensemble “sound.” David scored these chorales from his daily work with the 371 Four-Part Chorales of J. S. Bach, using the original melodies and composing new alto, tenor and bass lines.

David at the piano in Missoula, Montana, in June 2008.

David at the piano in Missoula, Montana, in June 2008. David began each composition session playing and singing Bach chorales. He said the most important aspect of succeeding was to “show up.”

David’s music speaks, regardless of the technical proficiency of the individuals or the collective ensemble.

David’s music notation was always very specific. His work in rehearsals to gain the marked tempi and expressive marks made the music come to life. However, to David, it was not about the perfect performance, it was about the experience the musicians and audience could gain from it. David’s music speaks, regardless of the technical proficiency of the individuals or the collective ensemble. Once, during a rehearsal of the final movement of A Child’s Garden of Dreams, I looked at the principal flute who had tears streaming down her cheeks as she played the final flute solo which ends the piece. Yes, she cried during the concert as well.

David had an uncanny ability to connect with people. And I mean, immediately connect with people. He ALWAYS had time for people, whether during a residency, during a convention, on the phone, via email, whatever. It didn’t matter whether the person was a fellow composer, a conductor, a college student, a high school student, or an interested community member, ANYONE. ALWAYS. It was not unusual for David to have developing composers visit Missoula for a week or more of lessons and meditation.

David Maslanka (far right) and Stephen K. Steele (center) with students: taken at a steak house during the Symphony No. 5 tour and CBDNA performance in Denton, TX, February 2001

David and I with students: taken at a steak house during the Symphony No. 5 tour and CBDNA performance in Denton, Texas in February 2001.

David always used pencil writing his scores. Always. He told me it connected him more personally to the music. I believe that to be true.

David kept a relentless schedule of residencies. Typically, he travelled from November through May, spending time with conductors and ensembles that invited him to their campuses. He worked with community groups, high school bands, and university ensembles. He connected with students, conductors, and community members, causing the ripples to spread and grow.

David connected with students, conductors, and community members, causing the ripples to spread and grow.

The work we did with David on No. 5 led to more commissions. We commissioned, premiered and recorded symphonies 7, 8 and 9. Between 2001 and 2012, there were many other commissions, premieres and recording projects as well. He wrote many lovely concerti for wind instruments and wind ensemble, occasionally utilizing beautiful cello writing in the score. One of David’s favorite compositions was A Carl Sandburg Reader for baritone and soprano voice and wind ensemble. (David had a strong connection to both Abraham Lincoln and Carl Sandburg.)

During his residency for No. 9 we made plans to commission Symphony No. 10. David was adamant about needing to write 10. We decided to let a bit of time lapse following 9 before building plans for 10. Our goal was to premiere and record 10 in the spring of 2014, which I projected to be my retirement concert. Things came to a sudden and unexpected end when I left ISU in the spring of 2013. What to do with 10? David had a growing stack of sketches that “belong in 10.” During the spring of 2014 we came to an agreement with another conductor to lead the consortium supporting the completion of 10. The consortium got off to a rather slow beginning, picking up steam in the summer of 2016.

At almost the same time, a consortium for No. 11 filled its membership rapidly, putting 10 in jeopardy. David asked if I would complete the consortium for 10, to which I agreed. My goal was to reach forty members. I only achieved thirty, but David assured me that it didn’t matter, 10 was well on its way. We aimed for a September 2017 premiere with a Tucson professional ensemble. The premiere of No. 11 was to be in the spring of 2018 and he would get some space between them.

The residency travels between November 2016 and May 2017 were particularly grueling for David. He complained of constant fatigue and the inability to compose. When he was finally finished and returned home for the summer, his wife Alison was bedridden.  Very soon after that, David not only found that Alison was terminally ill but that he was in an advanced stage of colon cancer. Through all of this, Alison continued to urge him to complete 10 since it was through his composing that he lived. Alison passed away on July 3 and David passed away on August 6.

Alison and David Maslanka in late June 2017

Alison and David in late June 2017.

David left clear notes for an anticipated completion of his 10th symphony.

Before his death, David told me he was dedicating 10 to Alison. His scoring was complete for the first movement and most all of the second. He had crossed out the work on the third movement and replaced it with sketches. This was to be the centerpiece for Alison. The fourth movement is fully sketched but will require some interpretation. He left clear notes for an anticipated completion of the symphony. David’s son, Matthew, owner of Maslanka Press, who knows his father’s sketches and composing well, is convinced at this point that he will be able to successfully complete the score. We hope for a March 2018 premiere. Nearly all the membership of the No. 11 consortium is opting to join with the No. 10 membership. All commission fees will become the seed money for the Maslanka Foundation.

My wife Andrea and I, along with many of our friends and colleagues, will travel to Missoula for a September 3 memorial honoring Alison and David. I am a better person having known David. The world is a better place having David’s music. May the ripples continue.

Alison and David Maslanka dancing outside in June 2008, somewhere in Wyoming

Alison and David traveled to middle America to attend our 2008 wedding. Andrea and I took them home from Hudson, IL, sharing our honeymoon, somewhere in Wyoming, June 2008.

Victor Pesavento
ISU Alum
Freelance musician in Los Angeles
Golden State Pops Orchestra Music Director

(The following text has been reprinted from his Facebook page with permission.)I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Maslanka on two or three occasions while in the Wind Symphony at Illinois State University, always on a “professional” level. I never had the chance to hang out with him after rehearsals or any other informal situations so I can’t speak about him in that regard. However, as a clinician, he struck me as a very warm, caring man. He was always encouraging of the group and I always loved listening to his stories about what the inspirations were for his compositions.

My first experience with David’s music (that is, outside of Rollo Takes a Walk during a summer music camp) was with Symphony No. 4. We performed this monumental work only a year after its composition. I remember weeks of grueling rehearsals in which Dr. Steele systematically tore apart the ensemble and then slowly put it back together piece by piece, 16th note by 16th note. There were many tears shed and I’m sure some blood also along the way.

There were many tears shed and I’m sure some blood also along the way.

The symphony was technically beyond most of us in the group, but away we sequestered ourselves in the dungeon-esque practice rooms of the Cook Hall castle. At any given hour of any given day you would find at least one member of the clarinet section toiling away at one-quarter speed some hellish passage that would probably be equally difficult even if written for a piano. I remember hours spent on two bars here or two bars there, each more impossibly difficult than the prior, just to be able to lock seamlessly into the “grid” when I got into rehearsal with everyone else.

Among the pains were of course the pleasures. Anyone who knows the piece will recall the first 29 bars as an a capella horn solo in the key of G with the ensemble entering on a beautiful G major chord as the horn completes the opening thematic statement. I will never forget the day that the horn soloist (Kent) decided to transpose his opening solo by a half step, making for a wonderfully awful sounding surprise when the band entered (still in G) in bar 30.

As we neared the end of the cycle, after all the hours spent in the practice rooms and in ensemble rehearsal, after all the metronome batteries had died, the week of the concert was here. The first rehearsal with Dr. Maslanka came and we were all very excited to perform for him this piece on which we had worked so hard. In Cook Hall room 212, during that rehearsal, the ISU Wind Symphony gave what might have been the best performance in my entire tenure in the ensemble. I say “might have been,” but more on that in a bit. This rehearsal “performance” was nothing short of spectacular. The group was so focused that you could reach out and feel the energy and life force in the room. We finished the piece and all looked around at each other with huge grins on our faces. All those hours in the practice rooms had paid off and we were now seeing the results. The only down side…did we just peak? Surely we couldn’t re-create that same level of symbiotic energy later in the week for the concert. This had to have been the pinnacle of our labors.

After all the metronome batteries had died, the week of the concert was here.

The next couple of rehearsals we didn’t really hit the technical side of the music too hard. Instead, Dr. Maslanka took us on a wonderful ride of imagery and symbolism. This trumpet lick here signifies this and that impossibly difficult run in the saxes signifies that. Hearing his stories about how President Lincoln’s funeral train fit into the music was truly enlightening. At this point, there weren’t any scales left to practice; no more notes to learn. This week was when we learned the music.

Armed with our hard earned technical proficiency and with this new musical insight from the composer (and thankfully a bit of tapering on the endurance of the chops), we arrived at concert day. The concert opened with a fantastic Alfred Reed piece for wind ensemble and pipe organ and as we finished I remember thinking, “Holy shit, that was #$%^ing unbelievable.” We followed the Reed with pieces by Grainger and Weinberger, both of which were accompanied by the pipe organ. Finally the time came for the Symphony.

Payoff time.

I always get more nervous listening to a colleague play a difficult solo than when I myself am playing a solo. In this case, I can’t even count on one hand the rare times Kent had chipped a note in rehearsals; he was automatic (even sight transposing a half step out.

I learned that day what it meant to be a true professional.

Twenty-nine bars of unaccompanied horn solo to begin a symphony. Weeks and weeks of rehearsals. The group was feeling confident, especially after how great the concert was going so far that evening. All it would take would be one chipped note, one missed partial on a lip slur from the horn solo to break everyone’s concentration. No pressure, right? I would like to say that Kent played the solo as well as any other time he played it in the countess rehearsals leading up to that moment. He didn’t. He played it better. With the spotlights on and with hundreds of audience members waiting with anticipation, he played with the most musicality and passion that I had ever heard. I smiled a huge grin and breathed a heavy sigh of relief when that magical G major chord sounded in bar 30.

During a thirty minute piece, you usually have no choice but to let your mind wander a bit while counting rests. I don’t remember losing focus for even a beat. It felt as if the ensemble was breathing and playing all as one unit, as if we were just puppets whose strings were being manipulated by some outside being. There were missed notes. There were rhythms that weren’t quite locked in. The difference this time was that were weren’t playing the notes or rhythms. We were playing the music. I remember tearing up a little bit during the clarinet extended technique section mimicking crying babies. Maybe because of the music, maybe because I knew all the hard work that everyone put in was paying off greater than we could have ever imagined. As we neared the end of the piece and the “Old One Hundredth” anthem started sounding, I could sense the horns to my left (Kent, Brandon, Eric and Marc) starting to let loose a bit more, everything seemed so easy. We were playing the loudest I’d ever experienced in that section but yet it felt effortless.

As Dr. Steele gave us the final release of the piece (an ending, I contend, that rivals any Mahler symphony), I remember taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, “Well, that wasn’t too taxing, I could probably play that whole show again tonight.” I was quickly brought back to reality when my knees buckled and I almost fell back into my chair as the section was summoned to stand for a bow.

I mentioned earlier that I thought that there was no way that we could have performed better than our first reading for Dr. Maslanka. I was right. We were nowhere near as technically sound as we were that rehearsal, but none of that mattered. The difference in musicality was immeasurable. Everyone in the room felt it. I can’t think of another concert I’ve performed in or attended that elicited this level of emotion from an audience. Looking out of the audience, there were a number of people crying, overcome by the journey that Dr. Maslanka’s music had just taken them on. The wave of emotion wasn’t just reserved for the audience, either.

Of course, it’s always said that you get out of something what you put into it and I think that may be why all of us involved in this performance look back on it with such fondness. We worked our asses off for months on this music and then when Dr. Maslanka showed up and shared himself with us, we became emotionally invested as well.

This is the single greatest performance I’ve been involved with.

To this day, this is the single greatest performance I’ve been involved with. Not because it was technically perfect, or because the group was so talented that we could play this incredibly difficult music like it was whole notes…but because of the exact opposite. Because we earned it. As a group. And Dr. Maslanka was the whole reason. His music, his being, his guidance and most of all, his passion for making music and for working with groups like ours.

To Dr. Maslanka, may you rest in peace. Thank you for giving me and my colleagues a memory that we will carry with us our entire lives.

David Maslanka and Stephen K. Steele with the ISU Wind Symphony horn section: taken during the recording sessions of A Child’s Garden of Dreams, November 2012

David and I with the ISU Wind Symphony horn section: taken during the recording sessions of A Child’s Garden of Dreams, in November 2012.

Emily Nunemaker
ISU Alum
West Carroll High School Band Director
Mount Carroll, Illinois

(The following text has been reprinted from her Facebook page with permission.)So in this mourning process that I’m sure all the ISU kids are experiencing, I’m listening and remembering. I’m on a road trip alone and had to pull over while listening to the 2nd Symphony. I forgot how visceral the middle movement is, how dark and ominous and impending. It shook me absolutely to my core.

I remembered my very first impression of this music. I remembered wandering lost, looking for my first wind symphony rehearsal and being shown how to find the room by an older musician. I remember opening my folder to the first two cycles worth of music and eyeballing some Hindemith and being like, “okay, that seems fine” and then pulling up Symphony No. 2 by a man I’d never heard of, David Maslanka, and at first glance (and every subsequent glace) thinking “Oh shit, I’m in the wrong place. I don’t belong here. I can’t do this.”

I nearly left, as a wet behind-the-ears freshman I thought surely there was some mistake because I couldn’t possibly be expected to play this. But something made me stay and work harder than I ever had in my life to earn the right to play it and to do so among the most superb musicians I had ever encountered and for the most intense, terrifying, and utterly brilliant conductor I had ever encountered, Stephen Steele. Now I was a solid reader but I failed miserably at my first stab and spent more time working that monster than the 4th and the Mass combined. (Maybe I was more Maslanka ready the next few times?)

But the payoff, oh the payoff.

I wanted to be worthy of being in that section, worthy of playing that piece.

If you don’t know the E-flat solo in movement 1, then you can’t possibly imagine my awe to hear Mandy Fey Carota put so much passion into every swell of every note. Listening now I’m in tears remembering how she and Christine Hoover Tuck were my first true clarinet idols and it was No. 2 that did it. I wanted to be worthy of being in that section, worthy of playing that piece. Now listening I remember the 3rd movement ripping through me tearing me limb from limb and then putting me back together better than I was before.

That is Maslanka’s music to me, destroying everything I think I know about myself and returning me to myself better than I was before.

Members of the ISU Wind Symphony

Members of the ISU Wind Symphony during a rehearsal with David, in November 2010.

A Fearless and Kind Leader—Remembering Geri Allen (1957-2017)

The vast number of people in this world that the great Geri Allen has influenced is undeniable. She has been an outstanding musician, mother, educator, mentor, and role model to many—including myself.

I owe a lot to Ms. Allen. Her music was extremely influential on me, including her albums such as The Life of a Song, as well as her playing on Betty Carter’s albums Feed the Fire and Droppin’ Things, Ornette Coleman’s Sound Museum: Hidden Man, and Charlie Haden’s Montreal Tapes with Paul Motian. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to play with her on several occasions, as well as to teach alongside her at the NJPAC All-Female Residency, which she directed.

Her musicality never ceased to astound me. With her deep connection with the present musical moment, she had the ability to pull you into that space along with her.

Geri Allen (Photo by Gabriel Rodes)

Geri Allen (Photo by Gabriel Rodes)

In 2014 I was lucky enough to teach at the first NJPAC residency, and also to play for six of her seven-night residency performances at The Stone in New York City during the same week. We would meet every morning at 8:30 a.m. for a faculty meeting, then teach until 5 or 6 p.m. Geri would drive us straight to The Stone, and we’d play until 11 p.m. or so. Then she would give some of us rides home, or wait with those who had already had rides, just to make sure they would be okay getting home.

Towards the end of the week I asked her how she did it, juggling everything—teaching, family, and performing—all while seemingly calm, un-phased, giving the students her all, as well as the music. She laughed and said that she had been through childbirth three times and that “this ain’t nothing.”

With all the talk about gender inequality in jazz, the suggestions of band quotas or blind auditions always seems to come up. But without more emphasis on earlier development and mentorship in the earlier stages, these quotas or blind auditions may not solve everything. Geri focused on that mentorship and directed the NJPAC Residency for female students. This camp is like no other, and I’ve seen so many gifted and talented young women grow by participating in it. She brought in high-caliber musicians, speakers, and educators, both male and female. In addition to the music itself, the program would also encompass a broader range of issues—conversations not just on musicianship, but also discussions about very important and often overlooked issues of career sustainability, personal goals, aspirations, and obstacles encountered due to gender bias. Also addressed was the reality of being a touring female musician and how that affects the other parts of your non-musical life. A lot of these personal realities can determine a woman’s career sustainability within the jazz scene.

The NJPAC Residency for female students is a camp like no other, and I’ve seen so many gifted and talented young women grow by participating in it.

I felt that through this residency Geri really helped to bring all these women together, ultimately creating a support network and community hailing from different generations. It was an empowering and inspiring experience I was lucky to be a part of.

Earlier on in my career I did not want to discuss my experiences as a female within a male-dominated scene, in fear that discussing any of these hardships I had faced would be seen as complaining and it would invalidate the work I had put into my music.

This changed throughout the years when I began to teach more female students and especially when I was put in situations like this residency under the direction of Allen. There was the realization that it’s not only okay to discuss these experiences, but it’s important to address these issues and to have a support network for the next generation of female musicians. She demonstrated how to teach with kindness while also encouraging students to push and challenge themselves.

I remember during conversations with her that she would ask me what I was working on and what my goals were. She would mention programs for grants, fellowships, etc., but never that I “should” apply. Instead she would instead ask in an empowering manner, “Is this something that interests you and something you’d like to pursue?”

Geri Allen was the kind of person who made you believe you were special and capable of anything.

A huge inspiration to all and an indisputably remarkable musician and person, she was the kind of person who made you believe you were special and capable of anything. It makes me happy to see all these beautiful photos and hear these stories about her strong and selfless character from people much closer to her than I was.

I hope the best for all of her family and friends during this difficult time. As a female instrumentalist working on jazz, I can’t help feeling like we’ve lost our fearless leader, but I feel incredibly lucky to have known this beautiful spirit. Her legacy will live on.

Pictured (from left to right): Maria Elena Gratereaux, Geri Allen,Terri Lynne Carrington, Linda Oh, Ingrid Jensen, and Cecilia Venel. (Photo by Gabriel Rodes)

Pictured (from left to right): Maria Elena Gratereaux, Geri Allen,Terri Lynne Carrington, Linda Oh, Ingrid Jensen, and Cecilia Venel. (Photo by Gabriel Rodes)

Future of Publishing and Music Education Debated plus Awards Announced at MPA Annual Meeting

As in previous years, the annual get together of members of the Music Publishers Association of the United States at the Redbury Hotel in New York City combined a luncheon, legal and copyright updates, lively panel discussions, and an award ceremony, and concluded with a cocktail hour featuring live jazz performed by the John Murchison Trio.

After opening remarks by MPA President Sean Patrick Flahaven of The Musical Co., entertainment, media, copyright and trademark lawyer Corey Field provided the members with a legal update on matters relating to music publishing and copyright. According to Field, there has been a great deal of legislation in the past twelve months related to the interests of music publishers, perhaps the most significant being the August 4, 2016 ruling mandated full work licensing which is still being challenged by ASCAP and BMI since fractional licensing, which has been the standard practice prior to this ruling makes it easier to distribute revenue collected for works that are created by collaborators who are not necessarily members of the same PRO. Field sees this ruling as part of a trend toward greater consolidation in licensing. Yet despite this trend, Field also pointed out that there is now a fourth performing rights organization in the United States (in addition to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) named GMR (Global Music Rights). Though GMR boasts representing a mere .006% of the current music marketplace and only 70 members, those members include Bruce Springsteen and Don Henley as well as the estates of Prince and Ira Gershwin.

MPA annual meeting attendees looking at monitor display showing all the legal cases relevant to publishers from the past 12 months.

Corey Field’s powerpoint included a list of all the legal cases from teh past 12 months that had an impact on music pubilshers. There was lots of small print.

Record and music publishing industry veteran Jay R. Morgenstern, who is currently the Executive Vice President/General Manager of Warner Chappell Music Inc. was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Although he was not able to attend, four of his six grandchildren came to the podium to accept the award on his behalf. Immediately following that, the Paul Revere Awards for Graphic Excellence were announced by Brittain Ashford, Administrative Director for the Music Publishers Association. Two scores by Daniel Dorff and two scores by the Argentinian composer Albert Ginastera, whose centenary was celebrated last year, fetched first prize honors, and other publications so honored were scores of works by Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, and Mark Patterson. Among scores receiving second or third prizes for their engraving and overall appearance were works by Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, Paul Moravec, Scott Wollschleger, two compositions by Hannah Lash, and a solo viola sonata that John Harbison composed in his early 20s. As in last year’s awards, there is no longer an award category for “Publications for Electronic Distribution” since at this point publishers can submit digital scores for consideration in any of the other categories.  A complete list of winning publications in the 13 different award categories appears below.

Full Scores
1st Prize – Daniel Dorff: Summer Solstice (Theodore Presser Company)
2nd Prize – Claude Vivier: Liebesgedichte (Boosey & Hawkes)
3rd Prize – Peter J. Wilhousky: Battle Hymn of the Republic (Carl Fischer, LLC)

Chamber Ensembles (scores and parts)
1st Prize – Charles Ives: String Quartet No. 2 (Peermusic Classical)
2nd Prize – Hannah Lash: How to Remember Seeds (Schott Music Corporation)
3rd Prize – Scott Wollschleger: Brontal Symmetry (Schott Music Corporation)

Choral Music
1st Prize – Mark Patterson: Stand with the Brave (Carl Fischer, LLC)
2nd Prize – Benjamin Wegner: He Leadeth Me (ECS Publishing Group)
3rd Prize – Paul Moravec: Mass in D (Subito Music Corporation)

Keyboard Music
1st Prize – Alberto Ginastera: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Boosey & Hawkes)
2nd Prize (tie) –
Jacques Ibert: Histories (Alfred Music)
F. Chopin: Scherzos, opp. 30, 31, 29, 54 (Alfred Music)
3rd Prize – Hannah Lash: Ludus (Schott Music Corporation)

Guitar Music
1st Prize – Chinese Music for Guitar (Hal Leonard)
2nd Prize – The Young Beginner Guitar Method, Christmas Book 3 (The FJH Music Co. Inc.)

Piano-Vocal Music
1st Prize – Alberto Ginastera: Bomarzo, vocal score from the opera (Boosey & Hawkes)
2nd Prize – The Essential Collection for the Church Soloist, Vol. II (Hope Publishing Co.)
3rd Prize – Aaron Jay Kernis: Two Songs: “Love” and “Spirit” (G. Schirmer/Associated Music Publishers)

Solos with Accompaniment
1st Prize – Daniel Dorff: Serenade for flute and harp (Theodore Presser Company)
2nd Prize – Morton Lauridsen: O Magnum Mysterium for violin and piano (Peermusic Classical)
3rd Prize – Edward Knight: Nevertheless, She Persisted for French horn and piano (Subito Music Corporation)

Solos without Accompaniment
1st Prize – Elliott Carter: Retracings V for solo trombone (Boosey & Hawkes)
2nd Prize – John H. Beck: Encounters for solo timpani (Kendor Music)
3rd Prize – John Harbison: Sonata for Viola Alone (1961) (Gems Music Publications)

Collated Music (Band, Orchestra, or Large Ensemble, Score & Parts)
1st Prize – W. A. Mozart: “Voi Che Sapete” arranged for string orchestra by John Caponegro (Kendor Music)
2nd Prize – Erik Morales: Keepers of the Fire for concert band (The FJH Music Co. Inc.)
3rd Prize – Maurice Jarre: Lawrence of Arabia arranged for concert band by Alfred Reed (Keiser Southern Music)

Cover Design Featuring Photography
1st Prize – Benjamin Whitcomb: Bass Fingerings (Wingert-Jones Publications)
2nd Prize – Michael Daugherty: Bay of Pigs (Hendon Music/Boosey & Hawkes)

Cover Design Featuring Graphic Elements
1st Prize – Frank Battisti: The Conductor’s Challenge (Meredith Music Publications)
2nd Prize (tie) –
John Carter: Jazz Miniatures (ECS Publishing Group)
José Hernández: Canta, Mariachi, Canta! (Hal Leonard)
3rd Prize – Darren Fellows: New Studies for Trumpet (Kendor Music)

Design in Folios: Popular Music
1st Prize – Pearl Jam Anthology, Complete Scores (Hal Leonard)
2nd Prize – Led Zeppelin: The Complete Studio Recordings (Alfred Music)
3rd Prize – My First Gershwin Song Book (Hal Leonard)

Design in Folios: Concert & Educational Music
1st Prize – Endre Granat: The Heifetz Scale Book (Keiser Southern Music)
2nd Prize – Mickey’s Found Sounds (Hal Leonard)

Sheet music scores arranged on a table.

As in previous years, Paul Revere nominated scores were on display.

The engraving judges were Katharina Hoezenecker, Librarian for the Berlin Philharmonic, and Tony Rickard, Music Library Manager for Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Graphics judges were, as per last year, Mallory Grigg, Art Director at Alloy Entertainment and Nim Ben-Reuven, a freelance designer and graphics editor working primarily in print.

Following the Paul Revere Awards, there were screenings of the 2017 MPA & National Music Council Scholarship Finalists for copyright awareness videos. (You can see last year’s honorees here.)

Jason Varga, Ann Gregg, Jim Frankel, Marcia Neel, and Mendy Varga

Jason Varga, Ann Gregg, Jim Frankel, Marcia Neel, and Mendy Varga

Then Mendy Varga from Kendor Music moderated a discussion about the future of music in public education for which she was joined by Jim Frankel, Ann Gregg, Marcia Neel, and Jason Varga. Marcia Neel spoke about how engaged students in the Southwest are learning mariachi music, claiming that, if we want to keep students interested, “we need to look beyond the traditional trinity of band, choir, and orchestra.” Although panelist Jim Frankel is the head of digital education for the Music Sales Group, he pointed out that the transition from print sheet music to scores displayed on digital monitors is not happening in schools: “There isn’t enough budget for that and there won’t be twenty years from now.” He also acknowledged that “print is awesome in the music classroom.”

Then EAMDC/Schott Promotion Manager Chris Watford, Ian McLoughlin, manager for instrumental product sales and product development at J.W. Pepper, and self-published composer Dennis Tobenski, who runs an online distribution platform for other self publishers called New Music Shelf, participated in a discussion about how the digital realm has transformed the music publishing marketplace. American Composers Alliance Director Gina Genova was also scheduled to participate in this panel but was unable to attend though thankfully she provided detailed answers to all the questions that were distributed to the panel in advance. (Ed note: I served as the moderator for this one.)

New Music USA Announces Nine New Additions to the Impact Fund Cohort

New Music USA has announced nine organizations selected to join the NYC New Music Impact Fund. The Impact Fund cohort consists of 33 New York City-based ensembles, presenters, and venues tackling challenges facing the city’s new music community today, creating a vibrant public identity for the sector, building connections and collaborations, and finding innovative solutions to the need for increased performance and rehearsal space.


The new cohort members were selected by the following panelists:

  • Courteney Casey, Senior Director of Artistic Planning National Sawdust; Managing Director VisionIntoArt
  • Charles Jarden, General Director American Opera Projects
  • Gina Izzo, flutist, Co-Founder RighteousGIRLS, Manager Public Programs Chamber Music America
  • Mari Kimura, violinist, composer
  • Nathalie Joachim, flutist, composer, Flutronix, Eighth Blackbird
  • Robert Reddy, composer, saxophonist

The Impact Fund represents the first major effort to aggregate and amplify the voice of the New York new music community online. The fund launched in 2016 through a $495,000 grant from The Scherman Foundation’s Axel and Katherine Rosin Fund. Now in its second year, the program distributes general operating and residency grants to smaller new music ensembles, venues, and presenters (many of which are artist-led) and uses New Music USA’s web platform to create a home for the community and market their work in new and creative ways. Sign up to have a listing of the cohort’s upcoming events sent to your inbox each week and stay in the know about what they are up to.


Composer Advocacy Notebook: Staying Focused on Next

Last month I visited the Netherlands’ second city, Rotterdam, to attend Classical:NEXT for the first time.  Five years ago, when I was first approached about attending this new international forum combining conference sessions, concerts, and exhibition rooms, I was skeptical, bordering on dismissive. I doubted that any convening with such a name could be inclusive enough to embrace the pluralism of 21st-century new music, which is—after all—the music that lures me to travel around the world.

It’s no secret that I don’t feel comfortable with the term “classical music.” First, there’s the inexplicable anachronism. (E.g. Why is a term for an 18th-century aesthetic being used for music from other times? And wait a minute, what does this music have to do with Ancient Greece or Rome?) Then there’s the not very subtle racism of assumed cultural specificity related to the name. (Without a qualifier, like “North Indian classical music” or “Chinese classical music,” it is assumed that music described as “classical” is exclusively from the Western world.) Even worse is the term “contemporary classical” which is simultaneously oxymoronic and an unbridled display of hubris. (No recent music has yet stood the test of time and no one can predict what ultimately will.) Because of this combination of confusion and seeming obliviousness, I believe that the use of the word “classical” to describe a millennia’s arbitrarily grouped together collection of extraordinary music, particularly the stuff being created right now, discourages many people from experiencing it.

Classical:NEXT has the potential to be the most viable international gathering place for open-minded music-focused people, despite its name.

However, after three days of transformative concert experiences and spirited discussions, both during official sessions and through casual conversations with the numerous high profile music professionals from around the world who showed up, I’m willing to eat crow on this one. I’ll say unequivocally that the 2017 edition of Classical:NEXT (c:N) was the most vital music get-together I’ve participated in in the last 12 months, quite possibly even longer. And, more importantly, I think c:N has the potential to be the most viable international gathering place for open-minded music-focused people, despite its name. In fact, so much of what I experienced there—in terms of sounds heard live, as well as people I connected with (plus all the recordings I brought back home)—was not only mostly newly created music, but music that falls outside the rubric of what many folks might consider “classical music.” Ultimately, the capitalized NEXT is the more important word in this event’s name.

(Before I attempt to give a brief summary of my mere 72 hours in Rotterdam, which is where c:N has been taking place annually for the last four of its five years, I should acknowledge that the reason I was there was because I had been asked to moderate one of the panels, so my conference fee and 2/3rds of my hotel stay were covered. All I had to work out was one night in a hotel and getting there.[1] )

A completely packed foyer for the opening reception of Classical:NEXT

A completely packed foyer for the opening reception of Classical:NEXT

As soon as I retrieved my conference badge and walked inside the foyer of De Doelen, the huge complex of concert halls and meeting rooms where c:N was held, I was greeted by familiar faces from all over the globe. Folks I originally met at the ISCM World (New) Music Days and the IAMIC Conference, as well as people closer to home who attend the Chamber Music America conference. I navigated my way through an extremely crowded room, balancing trying to remember who everybody was who clearly knew who I was, catching up with them as best I could under the circumstances, and introducing them to each other. But soon we were quickly ushered in to Juriaanse Zaal, a medium-sized concert hall, to hear a performance by Chineke! Orchestra which, as per their website, was “established in 2015 to provide career opportunities to young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians in the UK and Europe.” Although their performance was impeccable, I must confess that when they opened the program with Edward Elgar’s three-movement Serenade for String Orchestra, composed in 1892, I began to revisit my fear that this gathering was not for me. But they quickly made amends when vocalist Nicole Jordan joined them on stage to perform two passages from Sarah Kirkland Snider’s indie rock-infused Unremembered, a work by a female American composer written in the past five years. The audience was ecstatic. Too bad Sarah couldn’t be there to witness that. Even more euphoric was the audience reception for the work with which they chose to end the program, a frenetic quasi post-minimalist Double Concerto by Belize-born, London-based composer Errolyn Wallen who thankfully was there to experience it. After that, the reception continued—more introductions, more conversations, and a valiant fight against jetlag which I ultimately lost a couple of hours later. Many of the conversations centered around Chineke’s strange program—so great that two of the three works they performed were by living composers and both were women, but why did they play Elgar? And why did they open with it? Strangely, musing back on it a month later, it seems an apt metaphor for what this whole gathering was about. Elgar epitomizes what people think classical music is. The Serenade is a beautiful piece and they played it tremendously, but they can do so much more than that, and they went on to prove it. It began with “classical,” but it was ultimately about NEXT.

The Chineke! Orchestra take a bow after the opening concert of Classical:NEXT (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland)

The Chineke! Orchestra take a bow after the opening concert of Classical:NEXT (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland)

I woke up the next morning feeling completely refreshed and oblivious to the fact that the clocks were set six hours earlier than they had been in New York. (Note to self: the best way to combat jetlag is to be insanely tired when you go to sleep the night before.) Unlike just about every other music conference I’ve attended in my life, c:N does not begin as early in the morning as possible. The exhibition hall doesn’t open its doors until 9:30 a.m. and panel sessions don’t commence until 10.  While it reduces the amount of time available for connecting with other attendees, do you really want to connect with anyone before your third cup of coffee? And speaking of that third cup and beyond, coffee was free and available to anyone wandering around in the exhibition area, as were stroopwafels (my favorite Dutch sweet snack) and other sugar-laden edibles.

Panels throughout c:N took place on De Doelen’s upper floors and, in order to get to them, attendees needed to ride escalators up that were situated in such a way that it ensured passage through all of the exhibition displays that were spread out on several floors. Planners of conferences such as the League of American Orchestras, OPERA America, Chorus America et al—whose exhibitors have sometimes complained about low traffic to their booths—should follow c:N’s example here.

Classical:NEXT attendees wandering through the expo area. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Classical:NEXT attendees wandering through the expo area. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

While the layout makes it take longer to get where you ultimately think you want to go, it allows you to discover a bunch of stuff you might not have known about—in my case (as a result of myriad treks up and down) some highlights include recordings of Latvian and Swiss jazz, Korean multi-instrumentalist Park Jiha (more on her later), unaccompanied choral music by Austrian composer Beat Furrer sung by the Helsinki Chamber Choir, the Grieg piano concerto on period instruments (yes, I learned a few new things about older music, too), as well as, later the following evening, Scottish gin!

As it turned out, the first panel session I attended was not nearly as interesting as the stuff I discovered on my way up there. The organizers of c:N led an orientation session for new attendees to help them learn how to network with each other comfortably. Since I was a new attendee I thought I should show up, but since I’ve been attending music industry gatherings all over the world for decades at this point, I was probably not the target audience for their sage advice, though I did manage to meet and exchange business cards with Gabriël Oostvogel, who as the (albeit outgoing, as I later learned) director of De Doelen is one of the most powerful impresarios in the Netherlands. I also didn’t hear anything I hadn’t heard many times before in a session on the death of music journalism called “Professional Commentary on Music is Dying Out, Do We Care?” led by Shirley Apthorp, a Cape Town, South Africa-born, Berlin-based journalist who has written for publications throughout Europe and North America as well as Europe. But again, I probably wasn’t the target audience. (It’s hard to see the web as a negative force after spending 18 years online with NewMusicBox.)  I was, however, very intrigued with the multimedia performances by Carmina Slovenica I heard described during a session about choral music initiatives that I caught the tail end of.

Lunchtime in the Expo Area of Classical:NEXT. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Lunchtime in the Expo Area of Classical:NEXT. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

After a standing lunch provided free of charge in the exhibition area, which allowed more time for interactions between the attendees, there were three back-to-back sessions that I was asked to participate in. First was a networking session for Music Export Centers organized by Music Estonia’s director Virgo Sillamaa. I was only able to stay for the first 15 minutes but nevertheless, as the only American participating, it was somewhat awkward to address concerns about visas and international collaborations in the current political environment.  Luckily I had to rush off to moderate a session about how the digital environment has changed the artist-agent/manager paradigm, both for the better and the uncertain.  Joining me on the podium were: Stephen Lumsden, who has more than 35 years of experience as an artist manager and is currently the managing director of the U.K.-based Intermusica; Sune Hjerrild, a Denmark-based tenor who, to end the “agent monopoly” and give more power to individual artists, spearheads an online platform called Truelinked; and Australian percussionist Kaylie Melville, who has built a successful career for herself as a soloist and chamber musician completely DIY. It was often an extremely heated discussion, especially in the Q&A period when a presenter acknowledged that he won’t book a musician, no matter how talented, if he thinks it will not be an audience draw.  But it all came to a crashing halt after the allotted 45 minutes since we all had to go on to the next thing.  For me, the next thing was a networking session for members of the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC) led by IAMIC president Kostas Moschos, who also runs IEMA (the Greek Music Information and Documentation Centre). It was great to re-connect with these folks, some of whom I’ve known since I first started participating in IAMIC back in 2000. (And, as further fodder to my assertion that c:N might be the most viable international gathering place for open-minded music-focused people, there were more IAMIC members here than at the 2017 IAMIC Conference in Cyprus this past weekend, which I sadly was also not able to attend.)

After a quick meal at a Vietnamese noodle shop down the road, I returned to De Doelen to catch most of the evening’s showcases. Once again, for an event called Classical:NEXT, the emphasis was firmly on next. I walked back in during the tail end of a performance of a quartet blending Balkan Gypsy and tango elements led by Buenos Aires-born pianist Gerardo Jerez Le Cam, who has lived in France since 1992. Combining two instruments that are culturally specific, the Roma cimbalom and the Argentinian bandoneon, with two that more easily cross cultural boundaries, the piano and violin, the Jerez Le Cam Quartet made music that sounded simultaneously familiar and completely new and also hard to describe as “classical.” Next up were Zwerm, a Belgian electric guitar quartet which is no stranger to contemporary American repertoire. (They’ve recorded Larry Polansky’s The World’s Longest Melody for New World Records, as well as a disc of 12 one-page pieces by Earle Brown, Alvin Curran, Nick Didkovsky, Daniel Goode, Christian Wolff, and others.) But they devoted their c:N showcase exclusively to music from the English renaissance, though it sounded nothing like early music. My favorite was probably their performance of In Nomine by John Taverner (as opposed to John Tavener) which they rendered exclusively through effects boxes. Again, more NEXT than classical. But the highlight of my evening was an improvisatory quartet led by Park Jiha that seamlessly combined traditional Korean and Western instruments. She sang and performed on piri, saenghwang, and yanggeum amidst cross-cultural improvisations by New Zealand vibraphonist John Bell, Korean tenor saxophonist KimOki (a.k.a. YoungHoon Kim) whose combination of global mindedness and mellow tone recalls Yusef Lateef, and percussionist Kang Tekhyun, who is equally comfortable performing gnawa music and reggae. It was truly mind blowing. But don’t just take my word for it, track down the quartet’s debut album Communion (at least here or here) which, as I’d mentioned, I was lucky enough to pick up in the exhibition hall earlier in the day. There were other showcases off-site that lasted well into the night, but that was enough for me for one day.

Park Jiha's mind-blowing quartet captured live in performance, (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Park Jiha’s mind-blowing quartet captured live in performance, (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

I began Friday morning having breakfast in the hotel I had just checked out of with music consultant and consummate blogger Andy Doe, whose byline will hopefully reappear on these pages before too long. Then it was more coffee and conversations in the exhibition area, as well as grilled cheese and vegemite sandwiches cooked up fresh at the Australian booth, before heading up to a session about fostering collaborations in Latin America led by Brazilian experimental composer Thiago Cury (who also runs Águaforte, which recently became an associate member of ISCM). The most valuable takeaway was a piece of advice for musicians wanting to organize concerts in South America: make sure that you are paid in dollars or Euros rather than local currency (given the instability of many of these currencies). I’ve previously commented on the ironies of making more musical connections with Latin Americans in Europe than at home in North America, but those ironies are laden with a greater degree of disappointment nowadays.

If you book a gig in Latin America, make sure that you are paid in dollars or Euros rather than local currency.

The highlight of my afternoon was an informal conversation that led to a lengthy discussion with information technologist Simon Chambers, who developed the website for the Australian Music Center and is currently engaged in an extensive research project about music industry professionals from around the world. He’s got a lot of provocative ideas and I’m eager to learn more from his research. I managed to catch the tail end of a session about the role of music publishers in the 21st century, but I didn’t walk away with any enlightening tidbits.[2] Discussions with folks attending the c:N publishing session, which were largely complaints about declining standards in performance materials, derailed my attending a session after that called From Trump to Brexit: Classical Music in a Post-Truth World. All I can say is, Lordy, I hope there are tapes. Before heading out for dim sum with colleagues from the Canadian Music Centre, I was lured by the folks from the Scottish Music Centre into trying two different gins made by Scotland’s Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery.

Rotterdam Philharmonic, conducted by Bas Wiegers, performing in De Doelen's Grote Zaal. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

The Rotterdam Philharmonic did lovers of new American music proud. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Though I was already extremely impressed with how new music dominated the performances I had attended thus far, there was probably no greater investment than that of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, whose concert that evening consisted of only two works, both by living American composers. First, Michael Gordon’s The Unchanging Sea, for which the orchestra, under the direction of Bas Wiegers, was joined by pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama—though it would be inaccurate to describe Gordon’s relentless musical arc as a piano concerto.  A film by Gordon’s frequent collaborator Bill Morrison (Decasia, Gotham, etc.) was also projected during the performance, though to call Gordon’s music a film score also doesn’t adequately convey the symbiosis that Gordon and Morrison achieve in their collaborations. After a brief intermission, the orchestra performed John Luther Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Become Ocean, a similarly intense, slowly developing, single movement of music. I had never previously heard The Unchanging Sea and hope to again soon, but after attending the New York premiere of Become Ocean and hearing the recording several times, it’s like standard repertoire to me. But it was still transformative to hear both of these pieces live back-to-back in such committed performances in the fine acoustics of De Doelen’s Grote Zaal. I was overjoyed, though a British artist manager who happened to be sitting next to me, was not happy at all.

“I thought it would never end,” he opined while most of the audience was giving the orchestra a standing ovation. “There was nothing going on at all. I like things that develop, like Beethoven.”

Trying to find an in any way I could, I asked him if he’d been to the Rothko room at the Tate Modern, one of my favorite spaces in London, suggesting that the music we heard might be the sonic equivalent, and to which he replied, “I hate those paintings; I’m not even sure if they’re art.”

I write all of this not to disparage either the music that was performed or the man who didn’t like it. We otherwise had a delightful conversation; he even told me he enjoyed the session I had moderated the day before. But I do write this because part of what convenings like Classical:NEXT must continue to do is work toward convincing folks who love “classical” music that what comes NEXT is also something worthy of their love.

What convenings like Classical:NEXT must continue to do is work toward convincing folks who love “classical” music that what comes NEXT is also something worthy of their love.

While that concert and the conversations I had at the reception afterwards with Michael Gordon, Louis Andriessen and his wife, violinist Monica Germino, and many others should have provided me with enough inspiration to end my day and head back to my hotel for some sleep, I decided I would barrel on to some of the late night c:N showcases at a club called The Worm. I heard the last third of the set by Breath + Hammer, the duo of clarinetist David Krakauer (who is no stranger to these pages) and pianist Kathleen Tagg who together play improvisatory music inspired by klezmer. Tagg, who frequently sticks her fingers inside the piano to alter the timbre of the strings (often making it sound like a cimbalom), is the perfect foil for Krakauer’s virtuosic pyrotechnics—it is a wonderful rapprochement of traditionalism and experimentation.

Breath + Hammer (pianist Kathleen Tagg, left, and clarinetist David Krakauer) performing at The Worm. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Breath + Hammer (pianist Kathleen Tagg, left, and clarinetist David Krakauer) brought klezmer into the 21st century at The Worm. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Then came American-born Netherlands-based flutist/composer Ned McGowan, who performed his entire set on contrabass flute, albeit with some technological wizardry that at one point allowed him to play a contrabass flute sextet by himself. Again, it seemed to be all new music all the time at Classical:NEXT, and even more than that, all new American music.

Ned McGowan and his amazing contrabass flute. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

Ned McGowan and his amazing contrabass flute. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

On the final day, most of the exhibits had already been taken down by the time I arrived back at De Doelen. It was only 9:30 a.m., but thankfully there was still coffee and stroopwafels. John Davis, the director of the Australian Music Centre, led an Asian-Pacific Rim networking meeting which seemed to attract most of the people who were still there. Fun fact: this year a total of 23 Australians were registered for c:N which seemed like quite a lot until I learned that 30 had registered for it in 2016. For comparison, only 33 people showed up from the United States, which included the Sphinx Organization’s president and artistic director Afa Dworkin, Nicholas Alexander Brown from the Library of Congress, composer and radio host Seth Boustead, Charlton Lee and Kathryn Bates of the Del Sol String Quartet, composer/pianist Andrew Shapiro, Paul Tai from New World Records, composer and New Amsterdam Records co-founder Judd Greenstein, Sean Hickey from Naxos who is also a composer, and Karen Ames from the Berkeley-based audio manufacturer Meyer Sound. It was interesting to observe which countries had a strong presence at c:N and which ones didn’t. Classical:NEXT evolved, in part, out of classical music sector professionals’ frustrations with MIDEM, the annual international music trade fair which used to attract a huge contingent from just about everywhere who showed up to promote their nations’ music. I encountered people from at least 25 different countries at c:N. I’ve already acknowledged in this attempt at a brief overview of c:N; folks from Denmark, Greece, Estonia, England and Scotland (which behaved like separate countries there), as well as Brazil, Canada, and South Korea. I also reconnected with colleagues from Lithuania and made new contacts with people representing the music scene in Chile and Armenia. Still, it was mostly Europeans. This, of course, is par for the course if the event always takes place in Europe, and it probably will remain that way for the foreseeable future. It’s already an enormously complex undertaking for its organizers, Piranha Arts, who are based a mere 380 miles away in Berlin.[3]

It seemed to be all new music all the time at Classical:NEXT, and even more than that, all new American music.

But there was still plenty of internationalism on display at the closing event of 2017. Classical:NEXT’s annual Innovation Award went to Buskaid Soweto String Academy of Performance and Teaching in South Africa, beating out competition from Greece (the Molyvos International Music Festival) and Germany (the PODIUM Festival Esslingen), though as c:N’s Director Jennifer Dautermann pointed out, all of the nominated organizations are worthy of our accolades. The final showcase, featuring a fabulous guitar trio from Colombia called Trip Trip Trip, was, again, exclusively new music—all by Colombian composers whose music I had never heard before.

The guitar Trip Trip Trip (Guillermo Bocanegra, Camilo Giraldo Ange, and César Quevedo Barrrero) in performance (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

The Colombian guitar trio Trip Trip Trip (Guillermo Bocanegra, Camilo Giraldo Ángel, and César Quevedo Barrrero) ended Classical:NEXT on an upbeat note. (Photo by Eric van Nieuwland.)

There is so much music still to discover thanks to all the recordings I brought back with me. I actual harbored some worries that my carry-on suitcase exceeded the weight allotment, but all was fine. Now to find the time to listen to it all!

1. I flew on one of the cheapest possible routes, which was also a rather counterintuitive one: via Turkish Air from New York City to Amsterdam via Istanbul. The 9 1/2-hour layover at Ataturk Airport on route to Schiphol following a 10-hour JFK-Istanbul flight was not ideal, nor was the merely 3-hour layover from 3:30-6:30 a.m. on the return, but the price was hard to beat. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the speed of the train ride from Schiphol to Rotterdam’s Central Station, which turned out to be just a few blocks away from my hotel as well as the site of c:N. Though it’s roughly 37 miles, the train ride was more than twice as fast as my interminable daily subway commute between my home and office, which are just 14 miles apart and both on the island of Manhattan! In fact, after departing JFK on Tuesday afternoon and finally arriving in Amsterdam by one of the longest routes possible slightly after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, I got on a Rotterdam-bound train and managed—thanks to the quickness of the ride—to check into the hotel, quickly shower and change clothes, and still have seven minutes to spare before the opening event began. [scroll back up]

2. Maybe there’ll be some this Friday when I chair a panel about how the digital environment has changed the marketplace at the annual meeting of the Music Publishers Association of the United States. [scroll back up]

3. I’d like to give an appreciative shout-out to c:N’s director Jennifer Dautermann, their director of communications Paul Bräuer, project manager Jana Schneider, and, in particular, their general manager Fabienne Krause who invited me to moderate the talk there which enabled me to attend. [scroll back up]

The Man With Qualities: Remembering My Friend, Daniel Brewbaker (1951-2017)

I feel as though I knew Daniel Brewbaker (1951-2017) long before I actually met him.  Our good friend Doreen Rao would say, over and over again, “You must meet Daniel.”  Or she would occasionally start talking about him as though I already knew him. To say that he had achieved a certain kind of legendary status in my mind before we even met is no exaggeration.  Now, after his untimely death, while it is still too fresh for me to contemplate, I’m trying to remember everything I can about our friendship.

Disclaimer: I only knew Daniel for 15 years. He lived in New York, in Napa Valley, at Yaddo, at Wurlitzer. He traveled and sometimes lived in his hometown of Elgin, Illinois, where he spent his final few years. I’m sure there were others who knew him better, longer, in different ways. We shared a close community of friends from our Choral Music Experience (CME) and Boosey & Hawkes worlds, and I had the privilege of copyediting much of his published choral music.  But I do believe that we shared special bonds—as composers, as Boosey & Hawkes and CME composers, as Midwesterners, as sons, and as, well, just as guys.

When the time finally came for us to meet, I began to understand. This was a rare man indeed. We met in 2002 at the CME Choral Teacher Training Institute, held that year at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. By then, I had heard other stories about Daniel from New Yorkers who knew him and his music.  When I asked conductor Francisco Nuñez about Daniel, he just smiled and said, “Daniel……you don’t know Daniel? You have to meet him.”

It was a late night in Maynooth after a whole day of teaching and singing. A group of us had found an empty room in a dormitory with a few bottles of wine and this man, my age, with what my children immediately dubbed a “perpetually astonished” look, was in the front of the room, reciting Pushkin poetry in Russian from memory.  Oh my.  At various times I heard him recite dozens of poems for memory: Yeats, Cummings, Sandburg, Pushkin. I think he was always no more than a few seconds from breaking into poetry. Maybe a millisecond.

All week we had been studying and rehearsing Daniel’s Irish Cantata, Out of the Mist, Above the Real. The music was penetratingly beautiful and seemed to be steeped in its Irishness.  But Daniel was from Elgin, Illinois.  He was educated at the University of Illinois and The Juilliard School in New York. I later found that he had gone on a pilgrimage in Ireland while the piece was in its conception phase. This piece became a romantic soundtrack for my daughter Lindsay and her husband Chris Lees, as it wove its way from the Dublin CME performance to their proposal and their wedding day.

Daniel was passionate about, well, everything.

Daniel was passionate about, well, everything.  When he liked a poem, he memorized it. He fell in love, poem by poem.  But that’s the way he was about most things. Every time I asked him what he was reading, he would say The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. I would answer that he had read it before. And his response was always the same: “But Lee, it is so wonderful!” If he loved a cup of coffee, then he adopted that coffee shop as his own, and Mike as his own personal barista. If he had a great glass of Prosecco, it was always going to be Prosecco. He enjoyed—friends, music, dinners, celebrations, ceremony, performances—like no one else I’ve ever met.  He was loyal to his friends, and it took a lot to turn him away.  He was a man who lived in perpetual astonishment or, one might say, in italics.

When I asked Daniel to write a choral piece for my New Classic Singers, I apologized for the inadequate fee. He answered that this was his “coming home to Illinois piece,” setting Carl Sandburg poems and dedicating the work to his Illinois family and friends. We agreed on a length of four to five minutes for the piece; I was so excited that he would be writing for our group.  Eventually, the piece stretched to a four-movement, twenty-minute piece.  Fortunately, knowing this was probable, I had saved room on our program for something longer. Daniel often complained about being perpetually behind in his writing (like many composers). We agreed that if he held to the proposed length of his music, he’d never be behind.  But that wasn’t Daniel.

Because Daniel lived FULLY. Not excessively, but fully. I think he fully enjoyed every meal we ate together, whether it was a modest meal of take-out chicken in his kitchen or mine or an expensive meal in an Italian restaurant. Each bottle of wine, each glass of Scotch, every bowl of nuts was the best.  And he always took the time to remark about how wonderful it was. He was the most gracious guest and host. He came to my mother’s Passover seder twice, with each trip up to Milwaukee and back to Chicago filled with the eager anticipation and then the avid memory of the occasion, the conversation, the food.

Daniel Brewbaker and Lidia Bastianich holding glasses of red wine at a dinner table.

Among Daniel Brewbaker’s dearest friends was the celebrated and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. Here they are sharing red wine and a meal at Bastianich’s New York restaurant Felidia.

Like most composers, he loved listening to performances of his music and loved the people who performed it. But he also loved the world of being a musician, whether it was in New York, Napa Valley, Elgin, Chicago, or anywhere else. I can still hear his imitations of musicians he had known—especially his teachers Roger Sessions, Elliott Carter, and Gordon Binkerd. All the imitations had a similar accent, but they were performed with glee and captured essential wisdoms he had gleaned on his path. What he loved about living in Manhattan was how close he was to great art, culture, and music. And to people.  It seemed Daniel knew everyone in the New York music world.

Daniel loved the world of being a musician, whether it was in New York, Napa Valley, Elgin, Chicago, or anywhere else.

Daniel was a devoted son.  We talked often about our relationships with our mothers—since we were born only three days apart and had mothers of a similar age.  As his mother, Ruth, grew increasingly infirm and he was torn between his New York life and his Elgin mother, we talked often about the choices he faced. As an only son, he was keenly aware that her world revolved around him and he did his best to be there for her in her declining years.  As she lay dying in their Elgin home, he asked me to come say Kaddish for his mother. For Daniel, a born Midwestern Lutheran and an avowed Buddhist, there was no limit to the accumulation of the spiritual wisdoms he loved.

He never failed to tell me how lucky I was in my life, especially my dear children, whom he loved. He was in love with many people—other composers, teachers, women—and freely expressed that love. And he was well-loved by his childhood friends from Elgin, who proudly revered him as their native son composer.

I could go on (more than I already have).  He was a dear friend. He was a gifted and talented composer, with the lyrical inspiration and the well-honed craft to back it up. I admire and love his music. His music had an ardent, unforced lyricism, and extravagant harmonic language.  He even loved counterpoint in an age which often doesn’t. He was a voracious lover of life, in all its facets. He was not the most practical person I’ve ever met (!), but he lived with grace, style, and appetites for the beauty of life and its joys. One was never at a loss for conversation when he was around.  One had the feeling that every dinner, every concert, every party was the event of a lifetime for our friend Daniel.

Daniel even loved counterpoint in an age which often doesn’t.

In a world which might value achievement more than soul, quantity more than quality, and prose more than poetry, Daniel was those things for me and I think anyone who met him. Celebrities were drawn to Daniel, and he to them. I think all of us knew how special he was.  He was, truly, The Man With Qualities. At the end of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote says, “I hope to add some measure of grace to the world.”  I think for Daniel, it was adding some measure of poetry to the world.  He certainly added it to mine.

Lee Kesselman, Robin Kesselman (holding a doublebass) and Daniel Brewbaker.

Daniel (right) with me (left) and my son Robin Kesselman (Principal bass, Houston Symphony) in Elgin, IL December 2015

5 Female Composers Among 9 Winners of 2017 BMI Student Composer Awards

It’s been only a month since the announcement of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music for which all three finalists were women. Today, the BMI Foundation (BMIF), in collaboration with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), has also made history with their announcement of the nine young classical composers, ages 14 to 28, who have been named winners of the 65th annual BMI Student Composer Awards. For the first time in the awards’ 65 year history, a majority of the winners (5 of the 9) are female composers. In addition, Lara Poe, is the first woman ever to win the William Schuman Prize (awarded since 1992 for most outstanding score) and Sydney Wang, winner of the Carlos Surinach Prize (awarded since 1999 to the youngest winner of the competition), is only the second woman to be so honored. (Gabrielle Nina Haigh was awarded the Surinach Prize in both 2007 and 2009.)

Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, who serves as Chair of the Student Composer Awards, BMI President and CEO and BMIF Honorary Chair Mike O’Neill, and Deirdre Chadwick, BMI’s Executive Director of Classical Music as well as BMIF President, presented the awards at a private ceremony held on May 16, 2017 at Three Sixty° in New York City. The 2017 award winning composers and their works are:

Katherine Balch (b. 1991):
Vidi l’angelo nel marmo for soprano and double bass

Aiyana Tedi Braun (b. 1997):
Uncommon Threads for clarinet, cello and piano

Aaron Cecchini-Butler (b. 1992):
Wayward Pine: sanctum / sawdust / ember / pitch for string quartet,
objects and electronics

Daniel James Miller (b. 1989):
Plumage for chamber orchestra

Lara Poe (b. 1993):
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Matthew Schultheis (b. 1997):
Suibokuga for flute (doubling piccolo and alto flute), clarinet in A, viola,
and percussion

Annika K. Socolofsky (b. 1990):
One Wish, Your Honey Lips for flute quartet (four C flutes)

Sydney Wang (b. 2002):
Tales from the Sea (A Symphony in Four Movements) for full orchestra

Justin Zeitlinger (b. 2000):
…dal nulla… for full orchestra

2017 BMI Student Composer Award Winners

The 9 winners of the 2017 BMI Student Composer Awards. Top row (from left to right): Lara Poe, Katherine Balch, Justin Zeitlinger, Daniel James Miller;
bottom row (from left to right): Aiyana Tedi Braun, Sydney Wang, Aaron Cecchini-Butler, Matthew Schultheis, and Annika K. Socolofsky

The celebratory evening included a PUBLIQuartet performance of Justin Zeitlinger’s Miniatures for Two Violins, a work that received a BMI Student Composer Award last year. (Zeitlinger, who was also last year’s Surinach honoree, and Miller are the only 2017 awardees who have previously received the BMI Student Composer Award, both in 2016. The maximum number of times a composer can receive the award is now three; early in the awards’ history there were two four-time winners: David Ward Steinman–in 1954, 1954, 1959, and 1960–and Charles Wuorinen in 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1963.)

The BMI Student Composer Awards recognize superior musical compositional ability with annual educational scholarships totaling $20,000. In 2017, nearly 700 online applications were submitted to the competition from students throughout the Western Hemisphere, and all works were judged anonymously. The adjudication process for the BMI Student Composer Awards involves two separate panels, both of which are comprised of BMI affiliated composers. Alexandra du Bois, Jeremy Gill, Shawn Jaeger, and David Schober served as the preliminary panelists this year. Steven Mackey, Cindy McTee, James Primosch, and Roger Reynolds served on the final jury. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is the permanent Chair of the competition.