Tag: improvisation

Senior Sam Genualdi wins national DownBeat award for original composition

The hits just keep coming for Sam Genualdi.

Head shot of student Sam Genualdi
Sam Genualdi ’17

The Lawrence University senior, who was awarded a $30,000 Watson Fellowship last month, can add 2017 DownBeat Student Music Awards (SMA) competition winner to his resume.

Genualdi has received the “Outstanding Original Composition” award in the undergraduate category for his large ensemble composition “Treelight” in the jazz magazine’s 40th annual competition.

Announced in DownBeat’s June edition, the SMAs are considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education. They are presented in 13 categories in five separate divisions: junior high, high school, performing high school, undergraduate college and graduate college.

The composition award is all the more impressive given Genualdi’s own admission.

“I didn’t really get into notated music, written down on the page, until I came to Lawrence,” said Genualdi, a student-designed contemporary improvisation major from Evanston, Ill. “I arrived not knowing how to read music very well, but once I was here, I voraciously tried to absorb as much information as I could to make myself the best musician I could be.”

Patty Darling, instructor of music who directs the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and teaches jazz composition and arranging, offered Genualdi a commission last year to write  a large ensemble piece for the college’s annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. He spent nine months working on the five-minute piece.

“It’s not your standard big-band music,” Genualdi says of “Treelight.” “It draws on influences from hip-hop, contemporary wind ensemble music and a lot of more spread out harmony. I had one central motif that I drew upon to create the whole thing. I took this short melodic idea and flipped it on its head a whole bunch of different ways to spin it out into the whole piece.”

When he started the “Treelight project, “sorting material” was the initial step in the process.

“I had tons of ideas, way too many melodic fragments and thoughts, and just pages of different stuff, recordings on my phone, different little things that I was thinking about using,” Genualdi explained. “Most of that came from just improvising. I’d sit my phone on the piano, record, and then just start playing. I’d listen back and pick things out. I ended up distilling it to this one idea and I wanted to see how many different ways I could change it.”

Darling said all of Genualdi’s compositions reflect “his exceptional talent as an improviser and as a diverse musician.”

“Sam develops simple motifs into beautiful, extended phrases and integrates many musical influences into compositions that are unique and compelling,” said Darling, a 1985 Lawrence graduate who won a DownBeat award herself in 1984 for best jazz arrangement.

“He’s such a well-rounded musician: a composer, a performer, an improviser and a scholar,” Darling added. “Sam is always open to new experiences and learning more. No matter what paths he chooses, I’m confident he will always be creating beautiful and meaningful music.”

Photo of Sam Genualdi playing his guitarGenualdi plays guitar on “Treelight,” which was recorded last fall by the Lawrence Jazz Ensemble under Darling’s direction. He calls it “the best thing I’ve written that has seen the light of day.”

The title was inspired by family vacations and backpacking trips in the woods and mountains out west when he was young.

“There isn’t an English word for the way beams of light pass through the trees in a forest,” said Genualdi. “There are words in Japanese for this shoot of light coming down but not an equivalent English word. I was poking around and found something that suggested ‘tree light’ might be the closest, but that’s not an actual word. It’s not defined in the dictionary.”

Beyond a combination of shock and excitement, Genualdi said when he learned of his DownBeat award, his mind immediately drifted back to his freshman year and his experiences playing in the jazz ensemble under the late Fred Sturm, Lawrence’s long-time director of jazz studies who died of cancer in 2014.

“I know wherever Fred is, he’s proud, and that makes me very happy, too. I don’t really care much about name recognition, but it will be really cool to see my name next to Patty’s and Fred’s and all my peers over the years who have won Downbeat awards.”

On May 19, Genualdi will release his album “Looking Through the Glass,” through his website. The album is a songwriting project featuring jazz saxophonist and composer Tim Berne and experimental percussionist Jon Mueller.

This is the third straight year a Lawrence student has won a DownBeat original composition award. Tim Carrigg, a 2016 Lawrence graduate, won back-to-back honors in 2015 and 2016.

As one of Sturm’s former composition students, Darling points to the high bar he set as part of the reason for the recent string of successes.

“I’m thrilled our jazz composers are doing well. Fred always expected a lot from his composition students,” said Darling, who has taught in the Lawrence jazz department since 2007. “Fred was always incredibly supportive, dedicated and positive so it’s very important to me that we continue to uphold his traditions.”

Since DownBeat launched its Student Music Awards competition in 1978, Lawrence students and ensembles have won a total of 28 SMAs, including eight in the past seven years.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Bridging Cultural Gaps: Senior Sam Genualdi will travel the globe in search of musical collaborations as Watson Fellow

Music has always been a part of Sam Genualdi’s DNA.

A Head shot of Lawrence University student Sam Genualdi
Sam Genualdi ’17

He grew up as a serial instrumentalist, working his way through a litany of recommendations from his parents — violin, piano, percussion, double bass — but it wasn’t until he taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 15 that he found his sweet spot.

“When I picked up the guitar, it felt like something on my terms,” said Genualdi, a senior at Lawrence University from Evanston, Ill. “I felt like I was rebelling against my parents through the electric guitar.”

As his musical interests evolved, he discovered collaborating with other musicians was vital to his creative process. Later this year, Genualdi will embark on a year-long musical “binge” to feed his creative hunger that will take him around the world to engage in collaborations with musicians he’s never met.

Genualdi, a student-designed contemporary improvisation major at Lawrence, has been named one of 40 national recipients of a $30,000 Watson Fellowship for a wanderjahr of independent travel and exploration. Beginning in August, Genualdi will spend 12 months visiting Scotland, Peru, Indonesia, India and Japan.

“I plan to spend my Watson year in five countries steeped in unfamiliar musical traditions,” said Genualdi, Lawrence’s 72nd Watson Fellow since the program’s inception in 1969. “Music can be a powerful tool to bridge cultural gaps. I hope to co-create music that makes this evident. I want to engage in musical collaborations that push against the boundaries of existing genres.

“I have always thrived on collaboration,” added Genualdi, who has had plenty of opportunities as a member of numerous groups and ensembles at Lawrence, including the small jazz combos, the improvisation group IGLU, Gamelan Cahaya Asri and the Sambistas Brazilian drumming group, among others. “While I’ve done a fair amount of solitary work as a musician, the experiences that most excite me are those that involve interacting with other people.”

At each of his global destinations, Genualdi plans to meet musicians he hopes to work with by attending concerts and jam sessions. He will approach local musicians as a student to develop relationships and more effectively absorb the culture.

Sam is infinitely curious about sonic possibilities and how improvisation and collaboration can create
musical worlds yet unimagined.”

— Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music

“Taking lessons will give me the opportunity to interact with these musicians on a personal level, accumulate skills and expand my musical vocabulary,” said Genuldi. “I may learn a new instrument to gain perspective, but mainly I intend to communicate musically through my primary voice, the guitar.”

In Scotland, Genualdi will focus on the country’s rich history of stringed instruments, including guitar. In Peru, he will work with within Afro-Peruvian music traditions which combine African, European and native influences.

“Afro-Peruvian music along with the salsa and flamenco traditions prevalent in Lima involve unique forms of improvisation,” said Genualdi. “My background in jazz will help me find common repertoire to play with locals because of the relatively recent surge in the fusion of jazz and local traditions.”

January will find Genualdi in Bali where he looks to expand his experience with Indonesian music, which has been limited to his work with Gamelan Cahaya Asr. The following three months will take him to India, where traditions of improvisation in Hindustani music run deep. Much of his time there will focus on working with several highly regarded sitarists.

The final three months of his travels will be spent in Tokyo’s vibrant musical community with its improvised and experimental music scene. Genualdi calls the enthusiasm in Japan for fringe musical projects “inspiring.”

A photo of Lawrence University student Sam Genualdi playing his guitar.
When it comes to instruments, the guitar serves as Sam Genualdi’s “voice” of choice.

Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music and Lawrence’s campus liaison to the Watson Foundation, calls Genualdi “an explorer of sound.”

“Sam is infinitely curious about sonic possibilities and how improvisation and collaboration can create musical worlds yet unimagined,” said Pertl, himself a Watson Fellow in 1986 as a Lawrence senior. “He has been pushing the boundaries of improvisation during his time at Lawrence and now will have an opportunity to explore his passion across the globe. I can’t wait to see what new musical concoctions will emerge from his grand adventure.”

Genualdi says the Watson experience will deepen his relationship to music and profoundly affect every aspect of his life moving forward.

“The musical experiences I’ll have in each country is sure to be different, but each will help   bring into focus a larger picture of the human experience. Music is an important part of lives across the globe and I am intensely inspired by discovering these connections.”

Genualdi was selected for the Watson Fellowship from among 149 finalists nominated by 40 leading liberal arts colleges. This year’s 49th class of Watson Fellows hail from 21 states and six countries and will collectively visit 67 countries.

More than 2,700 students have been awarded Watson Fellowships, providing opportunities to test their aspirations, abilities and perseverance through a personal project that is cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become international leaders in their fields including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, MacArthur grant recipients, Pulitzer Prize winners, diplomats, artists, lawyers, doctors, faculty, journalists, and many renowned researchers and innovators.

The fellowship was established by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence interdisciplinary project examines gun-related issues through micro-operas

A photo of Lawrence University micro-opera production "Straight from the hip" poster.Guns, one of America’s most polarizing topics, gets examined through a unique lens — improvised micro-operas — in Lawrence University’s presentation of “Straight from the Hip.”

Through a series of nine mini-vignettes, each approximately three minutes in length, the issue of gun presence and gun awareness in the community will be explored Monday, Oct. 24 at The Draw, 800 S. Lawe St., Appleton. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Designed to challenge the audience to think about issues that are complex and often highly partisan, “Straight from the Hip” is based on 135 responses to a local, month-long social media survey conducted by three Lawrence faculty members.

Featuring 30 student performers, the program is an interdisciplinary endeavor created by the collective brain trust of Copeland Woodruff, Lawrence’s director of opera studies, Margaret Paek, director of Lawrence’s dance program and Matt Turner, director of the ensemble Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU).

“Each of these arts has the power to connect, transform and uplift,” said Paek. “Combined, the three art forms have exponential power. The full use of all the capacities of the performers helps them embody the art in a deeply personal way and can help reach the audience more profoundly.”

Turner, an unabashed fan of interdisciplinary projects, says it is “crucial our students see how important collaboration is to us as faculty. This really is the future. Students will find themselves in situations in which they will have to use movement, music and improvise and compose.”

A Head shot of Lawrence University director of dance program Margaret Paek.
Margaret Paek

The survey solicited answers to questions about personal relationships with guns, whether a person had ever used a gun in self defense and if there were specific local areas or locations in which a person felt unsafe and why, among others.

Choosing a single survey answer, the performers will craft an emotional landscape for that response which may be spoken, sung, whispered, turned into a dance or a sonic play, producing a short, improvised theatrical performance. The various vignettes may feature a soloist, a trio, a quartet or a quintet performing.

John Adams, curator at The Draw, a modern art gallery near the Lawrence campus that fosters artistic creative collaborations, loved the concept behind “Straight from the Hip” and generously offered the gallery’s various spaces for the production. The audience will be divided into small groups and guided through The Draw’s three floors for each short performance.

Each of six complete “shows” will last approximately 30 minutes and start on the half hour beginning at 7 p.m. The last performance starts at 9:30 p.m.

A Head shot of Lawrence University director of opera studies Copeland Woodruff.
Copeland Woodruff

Because of its interdisciplinary structure, “the students foster a sense as ‘artists,’ not ’singer,’ ‘guitarist,’ ‘cellist,’ ‘dancer,’” said Woodruff. “The divisions blur, so that they are contributing with their full range of capabilities and testing those that may not be their primary mode of expression. Their sense of ensemble dynamics is extremely sophisticated.

“I am so in awe of our students’ ability and willingness to approach this challenging topic with curiosity, generosity and artistic rigor and examination,” he added.

By its very nature, Paek believes different parts of the production will affect different people.

“Some will be more moved by the words, some will be more impacted by the music and some will be more touched through the movements of the performers,” she said.

Turner underscored that point by citing one of the vignettes that focuses on a father and son reminiscing about fond memories of hunting together, a confluence of gun hunting and family.

“I personally do not like guns, but that said, I have learned to see other perspectives through this project,” said Turner.

A Head shot of Lawrence University director of the ensemble Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU) Matt Turner.
Matt Turner

Acknowledging the wide, and often divisive, range of opinions related to gun control and gun violence, the program’s aim is to stimulate careful thought and meaningful dialogue rather than advocate a specific viewpoint.

“It is a complicated subject tied up with personal freedom and how far that personal is freedom allowed to go when considering someone else’s personal freedom and sense of freedom,” said Woodruff, who grew up in a home in Alabama that had guns, although he personally never shot one.

Paek hopes “Straight from the Hip” provides a process for audience members and performers alike get to see this topic through someone else’s eyes, heart or personal experience.

“The conversations that we have already had have helped me think in broader terms and be more compassionate towards perspectives that are different than mine. It has reminded me how complex this issue truly is.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

ImprovisationaLU: Two-day festival features some of music world’s best improvisers

New York City’s Jen Shyu and England-born, California-based  guitarist/composer Fred Frith headline a two-day music festival at Lawrence University devoted to all things improvisation.

A photo of Jen Shyu plays "gayageum," a traditional Korean zither-like instrument.
Jen Shyu performs her “Solo Rites: Seven Breaths” on the opening night of the ImprovisationaLU festival. Photo: National Gugak Center.

Shyu and Frith will be among five artists performing Sept. 23-24 for the first “ImprovisationaLU” in the Warch Campus Center. All festival performances are free and open to the public.

Festival organizer Sam Genualdi, a senior from Evanston, Ill., said he wanted to showcase artists “who haven’t previously had a strong voice on campus.”

“These are people I’ve been listening to for a long time,” said Genauldi, who has played guitar with the Lawrence Faculty Jazz Quartet pm several occasions. “The festival is designed to provide a forum for artists who are pushing the boundaries of their musical communities. There will be something there for people who are already knowledgeable about improvised music as well as those who are simply curious about it.”

Shyu, an experimental jazz vocalist, composer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist, takes the stage Friday evening for a performance of her critically acclaimed composition “Solo Rites: Seven Breaths.” The personal story of loss and redemption examined through the lens of modern world hardships combines vocals and dance with a variety of instruments, including piano, the Taiwanese moon lute and gayageum (a traditional Korean zither-like instrument).

Classically trained in opera, violin and ballet, Shyu has recorded six albums, including her most recent, “Sounds and Cries of the World,” which the New York Times included on its list of “Top 10 Best Albums of 2015.” Music critic Ben Ratliff has called Shyu’s concerts “the most arresting performances I’ve seen over the past five years..she seems open, instinctual, almost fearless.”

A photo of Fred Frith with his guitar.
Fred Frith will perform a solo gig before teaming with White Out on Sept. 24.

Frith performs Saturday as a solo act as well as for the first time with the two-person experimental band White Out.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Frith has performed with numerous bands, including the British avant-rock group Henry Cow, Skeleton Crew and Keep the Dog. Best known for his genre-bending and innovative work with the electric guitar, Frith currently leads the Gravity Band and Cosa Brava, an experimental rock and improvisation quintet he helped found in 2008. He also leads Eye to Ear, which performs and records film and theatre music composed by Frith.

The schedule for ImprovisationaLU:

FRIDAY, SEPT. 23
8 p.m.-9 p.m. Matt Turner and Hal Rammel.  Turner, a 1989 graduate of Lawrence and current lecturer in the Lawrence conservatory, has established himself as one of the world’s leading improvising cellists. He has performed on more than 100 recordings with artists ranging from jazz violinist Randy Sabien and goth vocalist/pianist Jo Gabriel to punk artist Kyle Fische and alt-country band Heller Mason.

Rammel is a composer and improviser who performs on musical instruments of his own creation. In the 1980s, he was an active member of Chicago’s experimental and improvised music scene. In 2007 he organized the quartet The LOST DATA Project and founded the Great Lakes Improvising Orchestra in 2011 to explore large ensemble open form and structured improvisation.

• 9:15 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Jen Shyu, “Solo Rites: Seven Breaths.” Shyu will conduct an audience Q & A following her performance.

A photo of Minneapolis-based rapper/beatboxer Carnage the Executioner (Terrell Woods).
Rapper/beatboxer Carnage the Executioner kicks off the second night of the ImprovisationaLU festival.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 24
•  7:15 p.m.-8:15 p.m. Carnage the Executioner (Terrell Woods). Minneapolis-based Carnage is a rapper and beatboxer known for his lyrical dexterity and uncanny ability to compose musical symphonies with his mouth through beat boxing.

•  8:30 p.m. – 9:15 p.m. Fred Frith

•  9:15 p.m.-10:15 p.m. White Out with Fred Frith. A product of the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, White Out is the husband-wife team of percussion maverick Tom Surgal and synthesizer artiste Lin Culbertson, who also plays autoharp, flute and mystery electronics while providing vocals. Musical experimentalists to the core, White Out released its seventh album, “Accidental Sky,” in 2015. With its “spiritual jams from the outer regions…spastic, feedback-laden licks and massaging and stabbing beats that resemble a voodoo ceremony,” it landed on the New York Observer’s 2015 list of “best experimental albums.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

35 and counting: Annual jazz festival welcomes guest artists Cyrille Aimée and Rufus Reid

The name has changed — slightly— but the mission remains the same.

Lawrence University’s annual salute to all things jazz celebrates its 35th year with a new name— Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend —  in honor of its founder and mentor who passed away in 2014.

This year’s weekend celebration welcomes vocalist Cyrille Aimée Friday, Nov. 6 and bass legend Rufus Reid, Saturday, Nov. 7. Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Tickets, ranging from $18 to $30, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Cyrille-Aimee_newsblogIn addition to the two evening concerts, Lawrence will host more than 350 students from 23 high schools on Saturday, Nov. 7 who will participate a series of educational clinics and performances. The schedule includes free performances by the Lawrence jazz faculty and the Lawrence Jazz Band.

French-born Aimée has established herself as one of the most promising jazz singers of her generation. Raised in the village of Samois sur Seine, Aimée’s culturally rich background — her mother is Dominican, her father French — has provided her with a distinctive vocal combination: the driving force of Dominican rhythm and the incredible swing of the French Gypsies.

Accomplished jazz singer Janet Planet, who teaches vocal technique and jazz history at Lawrence, says Aimée clearly “enjoys making music” and describes her style as “infectious.”

“She is the ‘hot ticket’ in the world of jazz today and brings her youth and obvious hunger for the music to her performances,” said Planet. “She also shows a respect for singers that have come before her, such as Ella Fitzgerald.

“Cyrille brings her joy to stage as she unveils each moment of each song.  She emotes a certain fearlessness, a requisite characteristic for improvisation,” Planet added. “Along with the ability to improvise in the scat format, she utilizes technology by incorporating looping devices in her concerts, stacking her vocals as she builds live tracks.”

“She is the ‘hot ticket’ in the world of jazz today and brings her youth and obvious hunger for the music to her performances.”
— Janet Planet

Inspired by the musical legacy of renowned guitarist Django Reinhardt, Aimée is a past winner of both the Montreux Jazz Festival’s Vocal Competition and the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. Her 2014 major label debut, “It’s a Good Day,” showcases Aimée’s incredible range of musical styles, eras, continents and moods.

Reid, a Grammy Award-nominated bass player whose career spans five decades, and his quartet, will be joined on stage by the Lawrence Jazz Ensemble during the direction of Patty Darling.  Nearly the entire program will feature works composed or arranged by Reid.Rufus Reid_newsblog

As a leader or co-leader, Reid has recorded more than 20 albums, including 2014’s “Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project,” which was inspired by the legendary sculptor and civil rights activist.

“We are so fortunate to have Rufus Reid and his Quartet joining us for the Saturday evening concert,” said Darling. “Not only is Rufus one of today’s premiere bassists, he is also one of the world’s leaders in jazz education and jazz history, as well as an inspiring clinician and accomplished composer.  His passion for performance and jazz education make him the perfect choice as one of this year’s guest artists for our 35th festival.”

Reid is the author of “The Evolving Bassist,” the definitive bible for every jazz bassist and the industry standard since 1974. He has lent his signature sound to the music of a litany of jazz icons, including Thad Jones, Stan Getz, Benny Golson and Nancy Wilson, among others.

Sturm created jazz celebration weekend in 1981 as a way to bring renowned professional jazz artists to the Lawrence campus and the roster of guests reads like a Who’s Who of jazz greats: Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Slide Hampton, Bobby McFerrin, Diana Krall, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and others.

Beyond the concerts, Sturm established a completely non-competitive jazz educational festival featuring renowned clinicians for students as a way to provide an inspirational jump-start for school jazz groups and promote improvisation as a primary focus in school jazz ensembles.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.