Autumn Musings

October 2009: I barely knew you. This month has been a complete blur, and it seems that today is the first day in a very long time where I feel like I have a chance to catch my breath! What have I been up to? Well – other than my usual professorial life, directing and running a new music festival, attending the premieres of two large ensemble works (“Tock” for concert band, and “Jefferson Rising” for orchestra), adjudicating a composition competition, and raising a two year old…well, you get the idea!


Of all of these activities, the Fresno New Music Festival needs a special mention from me. I founded this event back in 2006, and with the fourth festival now having come and gone, I must say how please I am with how it has grown! The inaugural 2006 festival was a mixed bag for me, as although we had a really great guest act in Duo46, the festival wasn’t attended well at all. (Incidentally, Duo46 was one of two guest ensembles for the festival – our second ensemble, The Quintet of the Americas, was stranded in the Dallas airport!!!) In addition, my daughter had just been born three weeks earlier, so as you might imagine I wasn’t in much of a position to host.


So, having reflecting on where this festival started from, I can safely say that we have made many improvements over the past few years! Having both Don Freund and Adrienne Albert as guest composers was a real treat – especially in part due to their many interactions with the Fresno State students. The Definiens Project proved to be a masterful chamber ensemble, and it is my intent to bring them back to future festivals (especially since I will be writing a chamber concerto for them!). Finally, I must give our two student ensembles – The Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, and the Fresno State Saxophone Quartet – special props for all of the incredible hard work that they did! Their performances were incredibly impressive, especially considering the difficult music that they had to learn in a very short time period. While the festival still wasn’t attended as well as I would like, attendance was most certainly better than it had been in the past. Next year, though, I’m filling the hall!


Admittedly, directing this festival can feel at times like a huge undertaking, especially since this is all done pro bono! However, with the passing of each festival I always come back with the same thought: I can’t wait until the next one! It is, to use a cliché, a labor of love.


Now that the festival has past though, I can once again resume work on writing the music to Valentine! I am just about done with the music for the first scene, and will shortly begin working on the music for Act I, Scene IV. I often enjoy composing material “out of order,” as it gives me ample opportunity to “preview” thematic material and motives earlier in the work before the actual presentation of the idea. I’m not sure exactly how this will turn out in the actual opera, but I have a feeling that elements of this scene will manifest themselves in scenes II and III as well. Should be fun!


As a final note – I will be up in Portland visiting the Heretic Opera next week, from November 5th through 8th. I look forward to finally meeting everyone in person, and putting more than just “facebook” faces to everyone’s names! Until next week!

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~ by Madelaine Coffman on October 29, 2009.

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