Vincent Calianno has been awarded the 36th annual ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize for The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson, a 12-minute work for orchestra. Selected by a panel of conductors from among 170 entries, the Brooklyn-based Calianno will receive a prize of $5,000.
I’m staggering, this late December, to the end of my first semester in graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in composition, but I am thrilled to report that my comrades in the department are just as worn out as I am. This counts as a win because I am 58, and they are younger than my own children.
While an extremely wide range of composers are writing operas in the United States today, many of these disparate operas share an important trait—a libretto written by someone who was born in Alberta, Canada: Royce Vavrek. The gregarious Vavrek at first seems like an unlikely candidate for the mysterious, and regretfully somewhat anonymous, profession of writing opera librettos, but he loves telling stories and collaboration.
When my mother was just a few years out of college, she took a position teaching music at East Stroudsburg High School in Pennsylvania. John Eaton, then 16 or so, was one of her first students. In spite of her own gifts, and a fine music education, nothing–absolutely nothing–prepared her for John Eaton!
With John Duffy, everything was possible. He radiated an optimism as forthright and clear as it was free of guile and self-importance. Though the limits of observable reality might be challenged, audacity never distracted from core purpose. His optimism happily went about its business. It lived solidly on terra firma. It got things done.
When I heard that Daniel Felsenfeld, Lainie Fefferman, and Matt Marks were creating this conference, I wanted in even though I didn’t really like conferences–they make me think of barriers and give me the heebie jeebies. But take self-aggrandizement and/or alienation away, and you’re left with conversations and ideas being exchanged between people who simply want to create art and people who want to facilitate the making of that art.