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The Magic That Happens In A Week

In an article for NewMusicBox, alum Garrett Steele (’16) describes his first visit to VCFA, what made him enroll in the MFA in Music Composition, and why he keeps returning to our immersive week-long multi-genre music composition residencies every semester even though he graduated more than two years ago.

Garrett writes: “VCFA is a swirling vortex of bizarre, beautiful convergences, built on the idea that it’s all music. Maybe, in the end, everything is.”

Read the article HERE.

Michael Garrett Steele is your friend. He writes concert works, including the video-game inspired saxophone quartet “Water Stage,” and “Pedal Tone Study for Voice and Electric Toothbrush in C.” His scoring work includes the Boston-based webseries Allston Xmas, rescores of classic Winsor McKay cartoons, and work in both indie and AAA game titles.One time he accidentally broke into the grounds of the Vienna National Gallery, but in his defense, they left the gate open.

Picture of composer Rick Baitz

Rick Baitz Scores Museum Exhibit, Writes for New Music Box

Faculty member Rick Baitz is currently celebrating the opening of three museum exhibits that feature his work, all of which can be found at the newly opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Rick Baitz wears many hats. As an educator, he’s a professor at VCFA. He’s also served a couple of terms as faculty chair. Outside of VCFA, he runs a film scoring workshop for BMI. He’s also a prolific composer of concert works and scores, known for several documentaries for PBS and HBO. Lately he’s turned towards museum installations.

Baitz began his relationship with Monadnock Media by scoring 24 Hours That Changed History for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Monadnock puts together large-scale media rooms and unique films for multi-faceted screens for museums across the country. As the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum neared, they approached him to score three more of their exhibits, Emmett Till, Freedom Summer, and Why We March. The museum recently opened in December.  It’s already making headlines for its refusal to back down from the ugly truths about our nation’s history — and its present.

Emmet Till recounts the story of the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old boy who was visiting rural Mississippi. The national outrage surrounding the incident was part of what sparked the momentum of the civil rights movement as we understand it today. Freedom Summer tells the story of the summer of 1964, as members of the SNCC recount the trials and triumphs during one of the most tumultuous periods of recent history. Both documentaries are narrated by Oprah Winfrey.

In addition to his work on the exhibit itself, he was asked to write for New Music USA’s NewMusicBox about his process. (Frank J. Oteri, co-editor of NewMusicBox, is a recurring visitor at VCFA’s music composition residencies.) To that end, Baitz has written three articles thus far. “Requited Music: Anatomy of a Scoring Gig” tells the story behind the Civil Rights Museum work, as well as his compositional approach to the pieces. “Tearing Down the Wall” is an autobiographical piece about his journey to music composition. And “Becoming Real” tells the story of crisis moments in his career, using his work for HBO’s Vagina Monologues documentary as a launching point.