South Carolina Arts Commission Announces Artist Fellowships And $1.8 Million In Grants For New Fiscal Year

Mark Kilstofte
Mark Kilstofte
photo by Joanna E. Morrissey

The Board of Commissioners of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) has awarded Artist Fellowships to four resident, professional artists. Each fellow receives $7,500 in recognition of superior artistic merit. The out-of-state review panels also selected alternates, who do not receive awards, but are considered notable in the competitive selection process.

Two of the four Fellowships were awarded to musicians: one to a composer, and one to a performer. Mark Kilstofte is associate professor of music composition and theory at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Award, the Aaron Copland Award, the Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Schuman Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. Kilstofte’s compositions have been performed by ensembles such as the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, and the San Francisco Choral Artists.

Kilstofte is going to use the grant to allow him to take some time off from teaching at Furman and work on two projects. The first of these is a piece for chorus and orchestra that Kilstofte is writing to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Greater Anderson (South Carolina) Musical Arts Consortium (GAMAC). The piece, which uses texts from Chapter 55 of Isaiah, will be performed in April 2001. Kilstofte chose the text because he felt that it dealt with “everything coming in its time,” an idea that the Consortium is confronting as it makes plans for a new arts center.

Kilstofte’s other project is a symphony, his first. The composer calls the four-movement work “a mid-life symphony,” although he is careful to assert that the piece is not programmatic, strictly speaking. In the first movement, Kilstofte explained, he has attempted to write the “reverse of an expanding variation,” a formal device that he has used in much of his recent work. In Recurring Dreams, for instance, each variation expands in real time, while the tempo gets faster and faster. In the first movement of the symphony, every section instead “contracts and compresses.” He has been working on “depicting a descending spiral in a structural way,” inspired both by a colleague’s work with pitch spirals and by Dante’s Inferno and the Orpheus myth. Kilstofte describes the second movement, which will emerge from the first movement without pause, as a “botched rescue mission.” The tempo will be a “blazing” 172 to the quarter, with hocket-like imitation at the tritone. The third movement will be a lament, and the fourth movement is still a “puzzle” waiting to be solved.

Kilstofte characterizes his work as “trying to find the middle road” between his “far-out” training at the University of Michigan, and the needs of his audience in Greenville, where he has lived for eight years. “Sometimes people are still struggling with Stravinsky, and that has put me kind of outside of the box in the musical community here,” he admits. At the same time, he feels he has benefited from the challenge of trying, to write music “that people will understand, and will draw them into wanting to understand better,” without “blatantly pandering.” For Kilstofte, the South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship is not only “an important resource” that will assist him in his work, but also a meaningful “form of recognition.”