All In the Family

All In the Family

Getting notice for any new music project is a tricky task. However, once you add kids into the picture, the process can be daunting to almost impossible. Yes, the halls are filled with the parents, teachers, and friends who are supportive and enthusiastic patrons. But how do you go beyond that? How do you legitimize the right of young persons’ music to be listened to by an audience beyond their peers?

Part of the problem, I fear, comes from us. Even within the new music community there is a lack of knowledge and interest in student ensembles. Sometimes institutions that have a youth program component treat those activities as the runt of the litter, giving them the leftovers of their publicity staff’s time and financial resources. More than once I have become part of an organization, lured in by their desire to have me help them with bringing new music to the youth in their communities. However, once committed, my role was more as a figurehead than anything else. Suggestions on how to integrate their mission with music education would be dismissed or given minimal support. There were even cases where my pedigree was used to help secure funding that was to be for a young peoples’ project, yet the funds got funneled into another branch of the organization.

I recently learned about an amazing project called Album for the Young (A4TY) spearheaded by Katy Luo, who is on the piano faculty at the Bloomingdale School of Music in New York City. The primary focus of A4TY is to introduce student players of beginner to intermediate level to music by living composers. What makes this program unique, though, is that in addition to commissioning new works by “professionals,” Luo also programs works written by the students themselves on the concerts. The series has been a huge success among participating composers and the Bloomingdale School community. However, they haven’t been able to garner outside publicity or an audience for this innovative series.

We need to help music program’s such as A4TY get publicity and support for their goals. Whether that is by helping with publicity or attending their concerts or volunteering our time to help a teacher rehearse a piece, we have a responsibility to teachers and students willing to invest in new music, even if it is not our new music. If we want the young to listen to new works when they are grown, we need to support their playing when they are young. A4TY’s next concert is happening in New York City on Friday, May 11, and will feature music by Elliott Sharp and Tom Johnson, as well as several works by students. If you happen to be in New York that weekend, be there!

Sign up for our monthly NewMusicBox newsletter

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

2 thoughts on “All In the Family

  1. jaquick
    For those not in the know about this institution (14 years…does that make it an institution?), student performers from Junior Fortnightly Musical Club and the Cleveland Music School Settlement are put forward by their teachers, composers volunteer, and then the two are randomly matched; you don’t know what or who you are going to write for, going in. When I have participated, I’ve written for violin/piano, bassoon/piano. trumpet/piano, voice/flute/piano (for the charming and talented flutist Allison Ballard, now an employee at Kulas Library), string bass/piano, piano, and 2 pianos. I haven’t volunteered in several years, but probably will next year. The pieces are crafted to the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The student gets paid, their teacher gets paid, and the composer gets paid (when the grant money comes through). The last several years, we have included the opposite approach: student compositions played by professionals.

    The three student pieces were all worthwhile listens. Eric Lin’s Night Hunt evoked Yakov Smirnoff’s signature line (What a country!); where else could a Chinese-American write music that sounded like Vivaldi hanging out in a Hungarian gypsy camp? But the best (and I blush to admit, the best piece on the program, as well as the most progressive) was from Monica Houghton’s student Max Mueller, a senior at Lakewood High who is going to Cal Arts to study film music. His Glass for 3 cellos spoke a pop/minimalist language with eloquence and cohesion. He may not be another Mozart (or even another Jay Greenberg), but he’s a talented young man who should do well.

  2. rskendrick

    there’s hope
    Belinda, there’s hope out there. The Iowa Composers Forum holds a yearly composition competition as well. The 1st and 2nd place winners of the elementary, junior high, senior high, and college level divisions get their pieces performed at a concert during one of our two annual festivals. All of the professional level composers are in attendance because they are there for the festival…and I’ve heard many of them talk about what an inspiration the event is each year. We hire college level students and professionals to perform their pieces, and sometimes, the second half of the concert consists of works by professional composers. It’s a win-win, because there’s usually a very good audience there for the professional composers as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.