Mar 152013


The Daily Reflector / The Daily Reflector

Jason Smith/Contributed photoGuest composer Augusta Read Thomas will have pieces performed and will work with ECU music students as part of the NewMusic@ECU Festival.


Friday, March 15, 2013

The NewMusic@ECU Festival is soon to be in its 13th year but has managed to stay true to its name.

Beyond sticking to the intent to encourage and showcase new music that reflects today’s sensibilities, the festival will also accommodate new types of performances this year.

The festival — which includes eight separate events in 10 days — will open Monday with “Frequencies,” an ensemble that was completely student initiated.

“We’ve been doing this festival for 13 years,” festival director and founder Ed Jacobs said. “This year I was approached by a student who said, ‘There’s a bunch of us who want to take part in this on our own. We want to pick our own pieces, we want to do our own research.’ So I said that’s great.

“Students participate all the time, but usually with faculty guidance. They wanted to do something on their own, and that’s really a big deal.”

The students were able to choose their own pieces and are responsible for rehearsing them, choosing who is participating, bringing notes for the program and addressing the audience.

“The whole idea of the festival a number of years ago was to get students and faculty to play more contemporary music,” Jacobs said. “The existence of (‘Frequencies’) is the reason the festival came to be in the first place.

“I think they’re taking ownership of the event in a big way. I don’t think it’s a departure. I think it’s an extension of the training that we’re giving them all the time in trying to get them to take ownership.”

East Carolina invited back alumnus Travis Alford — a trumpet player and composer now finishing his doctorate at Brandeis University — and commissioned him to compose a new piece which will debut Wednesday. It is another first for the NewMusic@ECU Festival, which has commissioned original pieces before, but not from one of its alumni.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of something we’ll do every other year — commission one of our own grads who has gone on to do some great things to come back, connect with our students and write some new music,” Jacobs said. “We’re delighted to bring him back, we’re delighted that he’s doing so well. We’re celebrating him and his accomplishments.”

Alford is one of four guest composers coming in for the festival. By the end of this year’s event, more than 100 pieces will have received their first performance at the festival, including what Jacobs estimated to be 15 written specifically for that purpose.

The penultimate event of the festival — “Insectaphobia,” is the product of collaboration among several schools within the university.

“This year the director of the Opera Theater, John Kramar, wanted to collaborate in some fashion with the New Music Festival, so we have found an opera that will be receiving its world premiere,” Jacobs said.

It was originally composed by Salvatore Macchia in 1997 but was never fully produced.

“It has been significantly reworked, with new music written for some of our performers and so this coming together with Opera Theater — staging and lighting and costumes — also involves the School of Theatre and Dance, Art and Design and (the School of Music),” Jacobs said.

The school of communication is also doing a documentary on the process.

“There are a lot of efforts combined to present a world premiere of an opera,” Jacobs said. “To present any piece for the first time is a big deal, but an opera — it involves so many people, it’s a huge deal. You don’t hear a new opera very often, so we’re very proud.”

Jacobs bookended the festival with premiere student compositions, closing the festival March 27 in a similar manner to which it opened.

“I sort of framed this whole thing with the students who are the future, they are the new thing,” he said.

Contact Natalie Sayewich at 252-329-9596 or

via The Daily Reflector.


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