In Your Neighborhood: MTC Announces Final Round of 3-year New Residencies Grants



(L to R) Franklin, Amaya, Custer, Whipple, and Cepeda

Meet The Composer has announced the composers selected for the final round of its three-year New Residencies program. Over the past eight years, the program has sought to integrate the working lives of composers into the culture of diverse communities across the nation. For this final round, William Cepeda returns to his native Puerto Rico, Beth Custer will serve in San Francisco’s Mission District, Cary John Franklin will work in Minneapolis, and Efraín Amaya and R. James Whipple will team up to serve the greater Pittsburgh area.

Cepeda, Custer, and Franklin’s residencies begin this summer (2002), while Amaya and Whipple’s began in October 2001. Details of each residency follow below. The New Residencies program will officially conclude in 2005.

The financial support provided to the composers and their host organizations is substantial and has likely contributed greatly to the success the program has enjoyed. Each of the five composers will receive $100,000 over the three-year residency period and an additional $20,000 from the hosting organizations in the final year. Each residency partnership also receives $40,000 for production and partnership expenses.

Heather Hitchens, president of Meet The Composer, notes that the residency program has met its goal: engendering a greater understanding and enthusiasm for the work of the living composer. “These groundbreaking composers span an exciting and broad musical spectrum, and promise to make lasting contributions to their host communities, partner institutions, and to the American repertoire.”

The New Residencies composers serve not only culturally established cities like New York and San Francisco, but also to smaller communities from Anchorage, Alaska to Ruston, Louisiana. In addition to their artistic role, they also engage in a broad range of cultural, community development, and human service activities.

For their part, the composers speak enthusiastically about the opportunity for personal growth the residencies provide. Already at work in Pittsburgh, Amaya has found the circumstances to be a great boost to his productivity. “My focus is certainly much clearer than a year ago,” he admits. “There are also all these new opportunities of exposure, which bring a richer and wider range of feedback and exchange. As I see it, to create is an ongoing process of self-discovery and dialogue. It is a dialogue between our surroundings and our inner voice.”

Whipple, also in Pittsburgh, points to the variety of experiences he will have—balancing the very different requirements of a public radio station, a professional chamber music ensemble, an arts education service organization, and a school district. Asked to write both short themes for the local radio station and music for a city middle school, he acknowledges that he will also be artistically stretched. “The Pittsburgh New Residency is an exciting opportunity to apply my skills in new and unexpected directions and to get my music heard in entirely new types of settings.”

Franklin also sees his residency in Minneapolis as an opportunity to grow as an artist. In equal measure, he hopes that his investment in the community will have a lasting positive impact. “I feel I can speak enthusiastically about music to people of varying degrees of musical sophistication and engage them in the excitement of creating something new,” he says. Through that dialogue he aims to demonstrate that “music does indeed nourish our souls and is of vital importance in our everyday lives and that new music has just as much value and meaning in enriching our lives as does the music of the past.”

Gateway to the Arts, a nonprofit arts-in-education organization that links professional performing and visual artists with pre-K-12 students and teachers, is working with both Amaya and Whipple in Pittsburgh. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Lisa Hoitsma is enthusiastic about the potential each composer brings to the residency and the educational impact they will likely have on the organization and the community. “We believe that professional artists, gifted at communicating with students and teachers, are the best representatives for their disciplines and that it is essential to engage students and teachers in the actual activities of the art form in order for them to understand its essence. Having living composers involved in our activities supports our mission and broadens the experience of the students and teachers who participate in our activities.”

Hoitsma also points out that there are also some very basic implications of having a composer working actively and openly within the community. “Community members will understand that composers live next door to them, have many different skills and interests, have families, and can bring a unique perspective to activities. Also, that contemporary music has a variety of styles and sounds and most generalizations do not apply.”

In Minneapolis, Franklin will be working with VocalEssence, among other organizations. Kathleen Grammer, director of education and community partnerships for VocalEssence, points out that on the most basic level, “having a composer in residence to host our pre-concert chats, interact with singers and conductor, and take part in our programs for emerging composers is truly a gift. It will enhance all of our programs and will add a unique dimension to our educational programs.” Franklin will work in three different school districts and communities and compose specifically for each of the choirs. Grammer suggests that “having these choirs come together to share in their experiences and perform for each other and other students and community members is a life changing experience.”

Grammer further echoes Hoitsma’s sentiments on the value of working directly with the composer for the community and the local artists. “The students will benefit by learning the entire compositional process, rather than staring at a piece of black notes on white paper. The second and very obvious benefit is to motivate the potential composers in the classroom. This collaboration has the possibility of awakening these talents in many students.”

Since its inception in 1993, MTC has sponsored nine rounds of three-year residencies supporting 45 composers. The program has aided not only the individual careers of the composers, but also helped build the repertoire and introduced the general public—from children to seniors—to a world of creativity through music. Over 100 new works have been created under the auspices of the program, which has served hundreds of people in 44 communities.

Though the program is winding down to a close, MTC will document the impact the residencies have had throughout the next year and create a handbook for the field that will become a practical guide for planning and managing long-term composer residencies. These will hopefully serve as a blueprint and encourage other institutions to take on projects of this scope. MTC will also use the information gathered from the documentation process to help determine the best structure through which it can support long-term residencies, with the goal of launching a new program in 2004-2005.

Complete outlines of this round’s residency activities (courtesy Meet The Composer)

Efraín Amaya & R. James Whipple in Pittsburgh, PA

Efraín Amaya and R. James Whipple take part in a joint residency in the greater Pittsburgh area (both composers also reside in Pennsylvania). Over the course of three years, they will venture into collaborations and projects with:

*Gateway to the Arts, an arts-in-education organization

*Renaissance City Winds, a wind ensemble

*The Shaler School District

*WQED-FM, a full-time classical music station

As part of their Pittsburgh New Residency, Amaya and Whipple plan to:

*Compose new music for and with the partner organizations, including jointly composing works with the students of Shaler schools;

*Work regularly with the local community outside the concert hall by developing composition programs, teaching performance techniques of contemporary music, and exposing students to music of the past 20-50 years;

*Act as ambassadors to the larger community by adding a new element to Musical Kids (WQED-FM’s radio show that spotlights talented young performers) by including young composers chosen from area schools;

*Interact with audiences at concerts given by Gateway to the Arts ensembles and the Renaissance City Winds, and offer pre-concert chats to senior citizen music groups and other community organizations;

*Contribute to the programming of the host organization, primarily Gateway and Renaissance City Winds, as well as hosting a new show on WQED-FM devoted to “Music Since 1950″;

*Provide consultation to local composers in order to help them find performance opportunities for their music.

William Cepeda in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Trombonist and composer William Cepeda returns to his native Puerto Rico for a three-year residency partnership with:

*Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music

*Puerto Rico Department of Education

*Agua, Sol y Sereno

This residency offers Mr. Cepeda an opportunity to influence how contemporary non-commercial Puerto Rican music is viewed and appreciated by everyday people and mainstream cultural institutions. His unique musical and cultural experiences will inform his New Residencies activities, which include:

*A multi-disciplinary performance on the history of the Caribbean developed in dialogue with the theater group Agua, Sol y Sereno to be performed by an ensemble comprised of Conservatory students;

*The creation of an ensemble of 10 musicians with students from the Conservatory;

*Composing several works that incorporate traditional Puerto Rican, jazz, and European music for ensembles ranging from stage band and full chorus to symphony orchestra;

*Interacting with audiences through concerts at the Conservatory, workshops, rehearsals, and master classes in the Caribbean jazz program;

*Meetings with board members and principal executives from the partnerships, community members, cultural institutions, sponsors and press to speak about the partnership, its goals and the participating organizations.

Beth Custer in San Francisco, CA

Beth Custer’s vision for her residency brings together the most fruitful elements of her musical life, teaching, writing music, and collaborating with other artists in one of the most artistically cutting-edge community spaces in San Francisco: the heart of the Mission District. Her New Residencies partners are:

*The LAB

*Joe Goode Performance Group (JGPG)

*TILT (Teaching Intermedia Literary Tools)

Ms. Custer’s plans for the three years include:

*Composing music for dance and film, for the annual productions of the Joe Goode Performance Group, and for the feature length film Mission Movie;

*Teaching the art of collaboration between professionals at The LAB;

*Holding workshops for teens and young professionals with members of JGPG and TILT on how to make a soundtrack for film and dance, how to access creativity, and how to produce a final production;

*Classes with aspiring young artists at The LAB on the techniques of composition, sampling, sequencing, musical instrument playing, singing, writing lyrics, and songwriting;

*Working as a LAB staff member, assisting in the curation of shows, and archiving their 20-year accumulation of performance recordings;

*A final project as a culmination performance in the third year of a narrative work written by and with the students and professionals of the workshops.

In addition, Beth Custer and members of JGPG and TILT will hold annual workshops at The LAB for teens where they will teach the basic techniques of filmmaking, choreography, and composition.

Cary John Franklin in Minneapolis, MN

Cary John Franklin will work in partnership with:

*VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, formerly the Plymouth Music Series (Minneapolis)

*Minnetonka Senior High School (Minneapolis)

*Como Park Senior High School (St. Paul)

*Red Wing High School (Red Wing)

Educational and community work have always been an integral part of Mr. Franklin’s career in music, and a residency with the above four organizations is consistent with his vision of an artist as creator, performer, teacher, advocate, and leader in a community. During his three-year residency, Cary John Franklin plans to:

*Create a number of works for a variety of circumstances, and participate as a performer in many of the premieres;

*Be present and active as a coach in the preparation of these new pieces;

*Prepare and present a number of talks about his music, other composers’ music, and new music in general for both formal and informal situations;

*Engage audience members through pre-concert lectures;

*Serve as an advocate for not only his music, but also music of other composers as he advises members of the partnership on programming new works;

*Lead the partnership by linking high school students and teachers with a professional performing organization to broaden experiences and help foster and nurture a genuine love of music.