Over the past two years in cities throughout the U.S., groups of people have been gathering, digital music players in hand and headphones in place, to watch the sun rise or set. It must be an odd sight for anyone stumbling across these scenes—25 to 50 people all “plugged in,” intently facing in the direction of the sun. They are all listening to the same music by composer Nat Evans.
While Joseph C. Phillips Jr.’s music sometimes incorporates improvisation and his ensemble features several prominent jazz musicians, he does not consider himself a jazz composer. An adept multitasker who balances creating music for film, dance, symphonic bands, and his own 25-piece ensemble with teaching music to kindergartners, Phillips creates very clearly 21st-century music—incorporating a broad range of styles while being ultimately beholden to none.
When Lembit Beecher was named composer-in-residence with the Opera Company of Philadelphia (in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group of New York) in 2011, he didn’t bring a large portfolio of operatic work with him to the brand new three-year program. An instinct and affection for storytelling, however, already infused his compositions.
A wide spectrum of guitarists have responded to the siren call of the $100 Guitar Project. No curatorial bar was set, no stylistic walls erected. It has been a community exercise, each musician encouraged to come to the project without preconceived ideas and to simply explore whatever the guitar suggests to them.
The musical life of composer David Froom is steeped in a sense of community. As a self-described extrovert who derives energy and inspiration from the company of other composers and musicians, he has developed a strong circle of performers and music-making opportunities in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area as well as in his St. Mary’s City, Maryland home.
“I always feel like whatever I’m working on is in response to where I am at the time,” Dusman explains, citing not only her concert music, but also her installation work and electroacoustic music. “I’m not trying to write music that’s an escape from anything. I’m really trying to write music that’s a reflection on the contemporary moment.”
Mohammed Fairouz retains an optimistic outlook as he aspires to create music that carries a larger social meaning. And he has managed to garner an extraordinary array of performances for his deeply charged music all over the country—from over 100 art songs to a nearly 80-minute symphony for orchestra, soloists, and a nearly 100-voice chorus. This is no small feat for someone who is only 26-years old.