Something to Hunt

Since the fall, I have had the pleasure of working with ÆPEX Contemporary Performance to produce and present a concert of music by living, diverse composers. I am the only “white” male composer on the program. This concert is today and you should either come or live stream it.

I present two arguments for supporting this project. 1.) diversity across experiences is more important than ever, and 2.) your ear needs to be challenged, and this music will challenge you.

Diversity.

In this political climate, diversity is a subject that keeps coming up. Regardless of your political leanings, the world is getting smaller and more mixed up. To assume you can avoid interactions with someone outside of your race, religion, socio-economic class, etc.- is to live in a bubble. Future generations need to be able to handle this, and this starts now. Part of the awareness of diversity comes from intentional inclusion. For my line of work, this is intentional inclusion within the arts. 

If we want the arts to continue–meaning we have a continuation of audience, and a continuation of creators and performers–then we must cultivate artists that reflect the population around us. If we want contemporary classical music to reach more people, let’s start by presenting an actual snapshot of the people making this music. It’s not just white dudes, despite the majority of composer you will find as the “composer of the day” at the Society of Composers, and other such traditional organizations.

Our concert Something to Hunt features two women composers, an African American composer, a Mexican composer, and myself, the white male composer. We are not always defined by our gender and race, but statistics (and my day to day work interactions) show that we still move through our world with a white-male-dominated lens. Simply presenting and purposefully showcasing a diverse group of artists gives the audience a real slice of who makes up the classical contemporary music scene. It also gives future generations the ability to see themselves doing these things.

Your Ears Need to be Challenged.

Like any art form, the sounds of new music will most often challenge the ear. Tonight’s concert is no exception. The opening piece by Matthew Evan Taylor is a duet for saxophone and bass clarinet, boisterous and groovy, and will disrupt your evening. Follow that with a piece for solo violist by composer and friend Cassandra Kaczor.  Then the most harmonic and soothing pieces appear on the program, the world premiere of my “glass studies” for solo piano. Consider this my gift to your ears. After intermission, we reach into the mind of Edgar Barroso who begins his piece with the instrumentalists’ making noise with anything BUT their instruments. Gestures and shapes abound, but it’s not your normal listening experience. The program will end with Ashley Fure’s “Something to Hunt,” a piece that is far more interested in timbre and effect than anything pertaining to melody and harmony.

Most of the time, we go out to be entertained. This program will do that, as the sounds you hear are so unusual they will captivate, but they never labor on. However, tonight’s program will also invite you to contemplate the titles, the sounds, and the meaning of what you are listening to and why you are here. This exercise of questioning is just as important as breathing, and will hopefully allow you to create an inner dialogue with yourself–dancing around the sounds you like and the sounds you don’t and why.

Tickets here. [K-College Faculty & Students Free, Students $5, $10 all other]

8pm, Dalton Theater, Kalamazoo College. 

Live-streamed here: ÆPEX Contemporary Performance

and if tech goes well here: Adam Schumaker’s YouTube

 

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Dear (Music) Students

Dear (music) students,

I bet this semester will be filled with hours of practicing, too many required courses (like music theory), and many hours of self-doubt, wondering how these activities will lead to a job. Well, I bring you this encouraging message: “they won’t.”

All of these things we want you to do will not necessarily lead to a job. They may not lead you to your “breakthrough.” A college degree and all of its promises will not always guarantee your success.

I have taught in higher education as an adjunct, part-time, and visiting instructor for almost 10 years. I absolutely believe in the college experience. I dream of going back to finish my doctorate because I simply love learning. I know that a society that is willing to seek information, critically think, and grow–will be a better society–and I want to be part of that.

However, at some point, those who gave us guidance became confused. Although the future was uncertain, a degree, any degree, was the path to success. In some ways, it still can be, but the notion that “degree = job” is a fading reality. At its best, “degree = job” was a pleasant correlation rather than a causation (Yes, some degrees in medicine, sciences, and engineering are required for the job, but I am speaking to the arts and humanities today!)

Once you forego the belief that your academic success will land you a job, you can create your own successful and rewarding life. Yes, it is still important to go to class, get the best grade you can, study long, and work hard. These experiences are rewarding in and of themselves but also contribute to your future success as an employee, a business owner, a creator, and a thoughtful, caring human. But outside of the academic grind… there is so much more you should be doing right now.

Embrace your peers and colleagues. These people will be your friends for a long time. They will also be your network to learn from, collaborate with, lift up, and support.

Seek help and support from your professors. It’s our job to help and teach. Asking for help opens up a line of communication that can get you on the right track academically, or lead you to insights and opportunities not found in the classroom.

Experience opportunities outside of school. It’s too easy to say “I have homework” instead of going to a concert. Get outside of the classroom and the studying to experience the world around you. See and be with visual art. Go experience theater and live music. Eat different food. Volunteer. Do something new every week, at least! Experiencing the world around you will lead to more opportunities, and more knowledge about potential paths to take.

Start projects outside of class. If you are interested in something, chase it. You will never have more time or resources to do this than while you are in school. Crazy, right? Start a business. Release an album. Get gigs and play shows. Blog. Begin the momentum for your future work and gain some valuable, practical skills while you are at it.

Be the person you want to be when you graduate, and when that idea changes (because it will), bravely change your course. Taking the time to reflect in college is especially crucial. If your writing classes haven’t pushed you to do so, write in a journal. Write honestly and write often. Put a pen to paper and get physical with it. Discover yourself through careful reflection. Write down goals, observations, failures, and plans. Especially write down your dreams.

Once you know yourself better, you can give more honestly and determine what “success” means to you. Only then can you craft a life that is yours.

And that is what this time is about. The courses are your canvases. The ideas gathered are your paints. The conversations, discussions, activities, and experiences are the dreams upon which you paint your reality. Whether you are aware or not, your painting, your composition, is taking form as your college experience unfolds.

Take a moment to see what picture appears before the paint dries.

-Adam