A small group of composition and performance students from Shenandoah Conservatory embarked on the third New Music in New York Global Experiential Learning (GEL) trip from Monday, March 14, through Saturday, March 19. Led by Director of Composition, Coordinator of New Music and Associate Professor of Composition Jonathan Newman, M.M., and Assistant Director of Performances & Engagement and Communications Manager Alisa Holley ’14, M.S., New Music in New York offers Shenandoah Conservatory students the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and experience some of new music’s most innovative performances and meet boundary-pushing leaders.
“Our week in New York was an opportunity for our students to immerse themselves in the wide breadth of new music in the city,” said Newman. “They not only experienced the different venues and varied forms in which new music lives, but also met a variety of the people who make it happen.”
This year’s event featured one-on-one meetings with seven composers/industry leaders, five performances and three museum visits. Participants learned what is involved with living and working inside the New York new music community, as well as experienced that community’s interconnectedness, even amongst its diverse styles.
Monday, March 14
Students and faculty arrived in New York City via Megabus on Monday afternoon. After settling into the hotel, the group stopped for lunch at Westway Diner in Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown West. The group then walked to Lincoln Center, the world’s premier performing arts center, for a tour of the area and the chance to explore the extensive score collection housed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. Students also met composer David T. Little in Columbus Circle and chatted with him before the performance in the lobby of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Little is a former Shenandoah University faculty member and spearheaded the New Music in New York GEL trip idea in 2016.
The highlight of the evening was watching members of the New York Philharmonic perform in the Sound ON: The Schumann Connection concert hosted by Philharmonic Kravis Creative Partner Nadia Sirota in the Appel Room overlooking the streets of New York City. The evening of contemporary chamber music explored creative partnerships akin to the one shared by Robert and Clara Schumann and featured works by Nico Muhly (the youngest composer commissioned to write for the Metropolitan Opera), Michael Gordon (awards and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Wang Lu (2014 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient), Anthony Cheung (Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016, the Rome Prize in 2013, and first prize in the Sixth International Dutilleux Competition), Reena Esmail, György Kurtág, Julia Wolfe (2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, 2015 Herb Alpert Award in Music, Musical America’s 2019 Composer of the Year) and David Lang. Composers Gordon, Lu, Cheung, Wolfe and Lang were present at the performance and the students had the opportunity to chat with several of them after the show.
Lang was the featured Pulitzer Prize-winning composer during the Conservatory Performs 2015/16 season. He is the co-founder of the musical collective Bang on a Can and was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music for “The Little Match Girl Passion.” Gordon and Wolfe are also co-founders of Bang on a Can.
Tuesday, March 15
On Tuesday morning, the group debriefed at a local coffee shop. From there, they traveled to Ajisen, a Japanese restaurant specializing in ramen and located in Chelsea, to enjoy lunch with cellist Tom Valdez ’16 (B.M. in Performance). Valdez attended the inaugural New Music in New York trip in 2016, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in the new multi-style strings program at New Jersey City University.
After lunch, the group participated in Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid’s “Soundwalk” in Central Park. The GPS-enabled work of public art was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for communities to safely enjoy socially-distanced music and performances. The group also met Reid on Monday evening as she was also an audience member attending the Sound ON: The Schumann Connection concert. Participants ate dinner at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street after the walk.
The evening culminated in a rare concert performance of Austrian composer Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Before the performance began, participants explored the score exhibits through Carnegie Hall and saw composer Philip Glass, who attended the performance as an audience member. The performance was highlighted in a New York Times article featuring a note from Little on the work’s significance.
Wednesday, March 16
Participants debriefed the previous day’s events at another local coffee shop before meeting composer Robert Paterson for lunch. Paterson discussed many of the logistics and business strategies for supporting new music ensembles and projects in the city. In addition to being an award-winning composer, Paterson is the director and house composer of the American Modern Ensemble, which he founded in 2005. He also serves as the artistic director of the Mostly Modern Festival based in Saratoga Springs, New York, and directs the affiliated record label, American Modern Recordings (AMR), distributed by NAXOS.
During the afternoon, the group visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to explore the parallels between music composition and visual art. Newman led a tour through the museum and discussed the similarities in form, structure, pacing, context and more between the two art forms.
The evening concluded with a collaborative, improvised duo performance by Lea Bertucci and Ben Vida at Roulette in downtown Brooklyn. Bertucci shared her work for alto sax, wooden venu flute, tape and electronics from her recent release “A Visible Length of Light” on Cibachrome Editions. Vida joined the second half of the performance on electronics. Roulette was founded in 1978 and exists to support new and adventurous artists in all disciplines.
Thursday, March 17
The group gathered for brunch on Thursday at Mom’s Kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen for a special St. Patrick’s day meal where they again debriefed. They then traveled to the Morgan Library & Museum to explore its extensive collection of books, scores and manuscripts. Participants also saw the “Holbein: Capturing Character” exhibit, featuring works from Hans Holbein the Younger, one of the most skilled, versatile, and inventive artists of the early 1500s.
After a little shopping on 5th Avenue, the group traveled back down to Brooklyn to meet with composers Huang Ruo, Michael Markowski and composer Jonathan Wyatt ’19 (B.M. in Composition). Ruo kicked off the discussion with a preview of the evening’s performance for which he composed the music and wrote the libretto. He shared insights about his creative process in general and his collaborative efforts in producing his new opera. Markowski shared his atypical career path in becoming a composer.
Wyatt recently collaborated with the Wind Ensemble for the premiere of his new work “Spellcaster” at the Music in Motion concert at Shenandoah earlier this month. He attended the both New Music in New York trips in 2016 and 2018, and is currently the personal assistant for Philip Glass with Dunvagen Music Publishers. He also studied music composition at Mannes School of Music from 2019 to 2021.
The evening culminated in the performance of Ruo’s “Book of Mountains & Seas” at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Award-winning puppeteer Basil Twist served as the director and production designer for the work. The opera featured members of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and was presented in association with PROTOTYPE Festival led by Beth Morrison (Musical America Award for Best Artist of the Year as Agent of Change) of Beth Morrison Projects and Trinity Church Wall Street. “Book of Mountains & Seas” is a work of vocal theatre for 12 singers, two percussionists and puppets, and was inspired by the ancient Chinese compilation of early myths of the same title. Participants also attended the one-night-only post-show discussion led by Morrison featuring Ruo and Twist. Students also had the opportunity to meet and chat with Morrison after the post-show discussion.
Friday, March 18
On the last full day of the trip, the students shopped for scores, books and more at the Juilliard Bookstore, one of the last venues in New York City that sells scores in-store. They then traveled to Battery Park in lower Manhattan to meet with composer Frank J. Oteri. In addition to his compositional activities, Oteri is the Composer Advocate at New Music USA and has been the editor of the web magazine NewMusicBox since its launch online in May 1999. He is also the vice president of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and serves on the board of directors of the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC). Oteri shared an array of resources and advice for young composers during the discussion.
During the afternoon, the group explored the Whitney Museum of American Art to soak in its full range of 20th-century and contemporary American art, including a special focus on works by living artists. The group then walked the High Line, both a nonprofit organization and public park on the West Side of Manhattan, before catching a New York pizza dinner at Ovest Pizzoteca.
The evening concluded with a powerful performance by the New York Philharmonic as conducted by Gustavo Dudamel in the Rose Theatre of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. Dudamel led the orchestra in performances of Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish”) and Symphony No. 4, as well as the world premiere of Andreia Pinto Correia’s “Os pássaros da noite” (“The Birds of Night).” The students met Correia after the performance and congratulated her on the premiere of the work.
This trip was supported in part with a special gift by long-time Shenandoah Conservatory supporter and first Dean’s Circle member Amy Fielder.