Thursday, March 14, 2013

Emerging Composers Featured in College's 16th Festival of New Music

The Florida State University College of Music 16th Biennial Festival of New Music
(January 31 - February 2, 2013)

The biennial competitive composition festival, now it its sixteenth iteration, drew submissions from throughout the United States and abroad, and featured the work of the Festival’s featured guest artist, Zhou Long, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer prize in music for the opera Madame White Snake (2011).

Entries for the Festival included works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, and wind ensemble, as well as electroacoustic submissions. Over the course of the summer semester, the College of Music composition faculty, who also served as judges for the Festival submissions, selected 37 compositions from the nearly 400 entries.

Composers whose works were selected were invited to attend the Festival to hear their works performed by FSU faculty, students, and ensembles. Over the course of the weekend, six concerts (four chamber concerts, one electroacoustic concert, and one symphonic/orchestral concert) were presented – free and open to the public – to showcase the works of the chosen composers.

Composer Robert D. Morris, on faculty at the Eastman School of Music since 1980, heard his piece Vynes performed on the opening concert by FSU faculty members Eva Amsler (flute) and Read Gainsford (piano). Dr. Morris later sent the following note: "I have always enjoyed participating in or attending the FSU New Music Festival. It provides a great cross-section of what current composers (young and older) are up to, performed by excellent and experienced performers from the faculty and student body of the College of Music, expertly administrated and executed."

Zhou Long, Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, served as the Festival’s featured composer. Dr. Zhou hosted a free screening of his prizewinning opera, Madame White Snake, attended Festival performances, and conducted masterclasses for the College’s composition students. His residency was provided by the Wiley and Lucilla Housewright Eminent Scholar Chair in Music.

“The masterclass with Dr. Zhou was definitely a highlight,” confessed Jamie Whitmarsh, a composition student at the College of Music. “His relaxed demeanor and astute observations benefited all who attended. I had further chances to interact with Dr. Zhou by performing his music during the Festival, both as a conductor for Cloud Earth during the opening concert, and on Taigu Rhyme as a member of the percussion section with the University Symphony Orchestra. Being able to interface with the composer on these pieces was an invaluable experience.”

With regard to the rest of the Festival, Whitmarsh was equally appreciative. “I was continually impressed by the caliber of music that I was experiencing, and have met several composers who were recently at the same point in their career that I am in mine. As a student composer, I think it was an encouraging and useful experience, and have met several composers with whom I will keep in touch. Overall, the Festival was a fantastic experience for me, and I look forward to the next!”