David Alm’s “Oceano” Included in VCFA Exhibit “Ecstatic Beasts”

David Alm’s (’17) woodwind quintet Oceano was featured in Ecstatic Beasts, a VCFA exhibition that considers our complicated relationship to animals and, consequently, the natural world. Animals are regarded a multiplicity of functions in contemporary human society and culture, serving as pets, food, clothing, medicine, surrogates, life-savers and proxies—to name a few. Their role is hotly contested, as what it means to support animal stewardship and still acknowledge our collective dependence upon them is a murky, and often political, ground. And then the question: which animal? We revere some, loathe others, and barely even think of many.

Oceano is a celebration of the birds living in and around the tiny California beach town of Oceano. The musical material mimics and emulates the many natural world sounds emanating from the habitats of six particular shore bird species. Beyond providing a means to further explore a woodwind quintet’s capacity for sonic beauty, the inclusion of such tunes are intended to demonstrate a kind of mythical/real interaction between the human beings and avians inhabiting Oceano.

Oceano was premiered by The City of Tomorrow (Elise Blatchford, flutes; Stuart Breczinski, oboe and English horn; Rane Moore, clarinets; Nanci Belmont, bassoon; Leander Star, French horn) on February 10, 2017 at VCFA. Listen to the performance here.

David is a high school choir director in San Luis Obispo and works as an instructional assistant/piano accompanist at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. He received his BA in piano performance/composition at UC Berkeley where he studied with the pianists, Charles Fuery and Janet Guggenheim (Itzhak Perlman’s longtime accompanist) and the distinguished composers, Richard Felciano and Jorge Liderman. He graduated from the MFA in Music Composition in February 2017, having studied with Roger Zahab, Michael Early, Andy Jaffe, and John Mallia.

Composer Rick Baitz at the rehearsal for the INTO LIGHT release concert.

Rick Baitz Releases New Album, Into Light

Faculty member Rick Baitz’s most recent works have been immortalized by Innova Recordings and released on the new album Into Light. The three pieces presented span various stages of his career. Together, they represent a return to concert music for the seasoned media composer.

Baitz’s work tends to explore musical movement in time. He speaks at length about the ways that music can show that movement, and the way it transports the listener. Given his background, he’s especially interested in non-Western ways of approaching that motion. He spent part of his youth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Durban, South Africa, among others. His wide variety of experiences instilled in him a unique sense of how to approach musical construction. His singular perspective shows in the way he deliberately eschews harmonic motion at times in favor of texture, rhythm, and musical gesture. These latest works represent some of his most comprehensive takes on his longstanding fascinations.

“Chthonic Dances” is a string quartet composed in 2011 for Mary Rowell, and revised in 2016. It features Joyce Hammann and Mary Rowell on violin, Beth Meyers on viola, and Ashley Bathgate on cello. The piece exalts his experience with the healing, cathartic power of dance across cultures around the planet. It veers between shimmering textures and bright, folksy dances. “The healing energy of dance is a constant wherever I’ve lived,” says Baitz. “From South African township music to Brazilian samba, the juxtaposition of dance and story-telling creates catharsis- and if you’re down, the act of dancing your pain is a force in transcending it. So the dance of chthonic spirits brings out their complement, the spirits of light.”

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“Hall of Mirrors” was a commission for the Juilliard School’s “Beyond the Machine” concert series, and premiered in 2015. This recording features percussionists Brian Shank, Christrian Lundqvist, Jeremy Smith, and Brian Shankar Adler. Baitz himself accompanies on electronics via a laptop computer. The piece features percussion from around the world, including mbira, caxixi, talking drum, surdo, dumbek, and tabla, to spin a unique web of weaving, interlocking rhythms.

“Into Light” is a new recording of an earlier work, from before Baitz’s film scoring years. Baitz calls it both a dance and a meditation. It features Ken Thomson on clarinet, Jessica Meyer on viola, and Stephen Gosling on piano.

Rick has a long history of bringing phenomenal New York session musicians to the VCFA program. During his tenure as faculty chair in the early years of the Music Composition MFA, establishing strong relationships with virtuosic talent was one of his most enduring achievements. In turn, he has collaborated with several people that he has met through the school. Baitz’s collaborative projects are a perfect example of VCFA’s spirit of cooperation and artistic spark.

A concert and release party on Thursday, September 13th celebrated the album. Tribeca New Music hosted the concert, which was a virtuosic showcase for the composer and the performers alike.

You can find Into Light at Amazon on CD or digitally. You can also find it at Apple Music or iTunes. If you’re feeling more direct, you can always grab it straight from Innova.

This year has been an exciting one for Baitz. In May, BMI awarded him their Classic Contribution Award. The commendation recognized his creation and 10-year leadership of BMI’s “Composing for the Screen” workshop. Previous honorees have included the likes of Mike Post and David Newman.

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.

Andy Gagnon wins TURNmusic Collegiate Composition Prize

Congratulations to Andy Gagnon, current MFA in Music Composition student and winner of the 2018 TURNmusic Collegiate Composition Prize.

Andy is a native of Hardwick, Vermont who has worked across the world as a performer, composer, and educator.  His music has been performed from the clubs of New York and Boston to the concert halls of China and the music festivals of Colombia.  As an educator, Andy has worked at The Governor’s Institute on the Arts, The Vermont Jazz Camp,  U-32’s summer jazz camp, the Get Thee to the Funnery camp in Barre, and the Green Mountain Youth Symphony Summer C.A.M.P.  He has also served as a composition mentor for students working with Music-COMP. He currently teaches instrumental, vocal, and general music at Stowe Middle School and instrumental music at Stowe Elementary School.  Andy regularly performs with The Renegade Groove, The Vermont Jazz Ensemble, and PURPLE feat. Craig Mitchel, which won recognition from The Seven Days for being voted the best tribute band in Vermont.  He has served as a sideman and studio musician for a wide variety of artists including Ray Vega, Eugene Uman, Dennis McNeil, Eric Lindberg, Elizabeth!, and Myra Flynn.

TURNmusic offers  a fresh, new type of a hybrid concert experience that brings more of the community together to celebrate. Conductor Anne Decker has mixed her musical tastes to create a unique set of performances. TURNmusic performs music that is defined by quality–not by genre–to present professional music concerts in a relaxed venue, and to offer affordable ticket prices.

Andy’s piece I Found The Way will be performed on November 1 at 8:00pm at FlynnSpace in Burlington, VT and on November 2 at 8:00pm at Rusty Nail Stage in Stowe, VT.