Tag: music composition

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.

 

Magnificent Music: Lawrence students earn national recognition from DownBeat magazine

What’s better than winning a Student Music Award from DownBeat magazine? How about winning two.

The Lawrence University jazz studies and improvisation department has double reason to celebrate after DownBeat’s announcement of the winners of its 38th annual Student Music Awards.

Lawrence claimed a pair of honorees — an individual and an ensemble — in the magazine’s yearly salute to the best in student music-making. Tim Carrigg was one of two winners in the college undergraduate jazz arrangement category. Tambo Toké, Lawrence’s Afro-Cuban percussion group, was cited for outstanding performance in the college undergraduate Latin Jazz Ensemble category.Tim-Carrigg-with-DB-award

The 2015 SMAs, announced in DownBeat’s June edition, are presented in 13 categories in five separate divisions (junior high, high school, performing high school, undergraduate college and graduate college) are considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education.

Carrigg, a senior from Westport, Mass., was recognized for his six-minute, big band arrangement “Once Upon a Time,” which was inspired by Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story.”

“When I started arranging the piece, it turned out much, much different than the original tune, so I just renamed it,” said Carrigg, a music theory/composition major with a jazz emphasis.

The SMA was a well-earned reward for Carrigg, who began working on the piece in the fall of 2013 and once spent 40 consecutive hours hunkered down in his room notating the piece.

“Whenever you’re composing anything, you put in a lot of work, literally hundreds and hundreds of hours and at the end of the day, are you going to create something that is really great? Hopefully,” said Carrigg, whose compositions will be showcased in a jazz recital on May. 31.

He recorded “Once Upon a Time” in the spring of 2014, using a 17-piece band he recruited from members of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) and Lawrence Jazz Band. Guitarist Sam Genualdi and drummer Dan Reifsteck are featured soloists on the recording.

Tim incorporates contemporary grooves, fresh harmonic ideas and unique methods of improvisation to create music that is exciting and compelling…He is incredibly talented and still so humble and down to earth.”
— Patty Darling

Carrigg says composition has been a part of his entire musical life, but he says his “serious composing” phase began three years ago when he joined the Lawrence composition studio.

“I’ve written pieces that were more compositionally sound, but this is the first piece I’ve ever written for big band,” said Carrigg, a pianist whose playing career has been sidetracked by a severe case of musician’s dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. “This one has a ton of excitement. It has a lot of adventurous things that I tried.”

Carrigg credited the late Fred Sturm, an award-winning composer and former director of Lawrence’s jazz studies program and Patty Darling, a DownBeat SMA jazz arrangement winner herself as a Lawrence student in 1984, for their mentoring on the project.

“Fred said he wanted me to write a big-band piece, so I started on it and it was really tough, really tough, but he kept pushing me and pushing me,” said Carrigg. “I wanted to make it as best for him as I possibly could. He loved it and even sent me an email saying ‘I’ve been listening to it all day.’ I felt I at least lived up to that goal.”

“Patty was fantastic on it, too,” Carrigg added. “She was extremely helpful with all the deadlines and making sure everything was in place. Through the entire process she was very encouraging.”

As a composer and arranger, Darling says Carrigg possesses “a powerful identity.”

“Tim incorporates contemporary grooves, fresh harmonic ideas and unique methods of improvisation to create music that is exciting and compelling,” said Darling, who co-directs LUJE and the Lawrence Jazz Band. “He also experiments with acoustic and electronic instruments to create new sounds that help create structure and form in his compositions. He is incredibly talented and still so humble and down to earth. Last spring, Fred told me how much he loved working with Tim and what great potential he has. Fred would be so proud right now of Tim’s success and national recognition.”

Tambo-Toke_newsblog
Tambo Toké, Lawrence’s 17-member Afro-Cuban percussion ensemble, earned “Outstanding Performance” recognition from DownBeat magazine in its 38th annual Student Music Awards competition.

The SMA for Latin Jazz Ensemble is the second major honor in the past year for Lawrence percussionists. In 2014, the Lawrence University Percussion Ensemble (LUPE), of which Tambo Toké is a subset, won the Percussive Arts Society World Percussion Ensemble Competition and was a featured performer last fall at the PAS International Convention in Indianapolis.

The 17-member Tambo Toké, which includes non-percussion majors, is led by student director Eli Edelman, who submitted a video tape of a 30-minute medley of traditional Afro-Cuban drumming and songs that he arranged for his senior recital in February 2014.

“He’s done a tremendous job of teaching, creating musical arrangements and inspiring his colleagues to embrace this powerful music. The prestigious DownBeat award is well-earned testament to his great work.”
— Dane Richeson on Eli Edelman

“It was obvious to me the performance was strong enough for DownBeat to consider it in their annual national student competition. I know there are very few schools that are performing this style of Cuban music in this country,” said Dane Richeson, professor of music and director of Lawrence’s percussion studio.

Tambo Toké grew out of a presentation jazz studies instructor José Encarnación did three years ago on Afro-Cuban music, specifically Rumba.

“Some students from the percussion department starting getting together on a weekly basis to listen to the music and learn how to play the individual parts for the Rumba instrumentation,” said Encarnacion, a native of Puerto Rico, who turned the presentation into a tutorial. “Some of the students had been working on this music with Dane and Michael Spiro, so they were contributing as well on teaching other members of the class, including myself, on how to play this great music.”

With Edelman leading the ensemble, Richeson decided to incorporate it into his world music curriculum, expanding the repertoire to include other Cuban traditional music such as Arara and Bata.

“The fact that our students are open minded enough to learn, respect and embrace music and life from another culture is what makes Tambo Toké special and worthy of national recognition,” said Encarnación.

Edelman, a senior from Hoboken, N.J., brings the experience of two recent visits to Cuba to his position of director of Tambo Toké. With the support of some Lawrence research grants, including a Melon Senior Experience grant, he was able to spend two months in 2013 immersed in the Afro-Cuban folkloric music scene of Havana and Matanzas.

“Almost every single day I had a two-hour private lesson in the morning with one teacher, a two-hour private lesson in the afternoon with another teacher, and then I’d go find live music performances to watch in the evening,” said Edelman, a double degree candidate with majors in percussion performance and history.

“This music is part of an oral tradition, so everything I learned was taught by ear in the way that master drummers teach their students. In the four years that I’ve been in charge of the ensemble, I’ve drawn heavily upon material I learned from my teachers in Cuba.”

Dane and Eli Edelman_Tambo Toke
As its student director, senior Eli Edelman (front row, right), helped Tambo Toké earn a DownBeat award in the Latin jazz ensemble category of the magazine’s 2015 student music awards competition.

Richeson, who has used several sabbaticals to study music traditions in Ghana, Cuba and Brazil, says it is crucial for 21st-century percussion students to have both exposure to, and experience performing, the music traditions rooted in West Africa.

“Eli is a perfect example from several students I’ve had over the years who have fallen in love with one of these African-based music traditions,” said Richeson. “With his command of the Spanish language and his keen musical intuition, Eli learned an impressive amount of repertoire while in Cuba. It became clear that he was ready to take on the role of student directing our Afro-Cuban ensemble. He’s done a tremendous job of teaching, creating musical arrangements and inspiring his colleagues to embrace this powerful music. The prestigious DownBeat award is well-deserved testament to his great work.”

Since DownBeat launched its student music awards competition in 1978, Lawrence students and ensembles have won a total of 26 SMAs, including six in the past five 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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and 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.

Mozart Music: LU Students get rare opportunity to study composer’s hand-written score

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a Lawrence University alumnus, music history and music composition students recently had the rare privilege of viewing an autograph leaf — a hand-written page — of a Wolfgang Mozart score.

Mozart-score_newsblog
A 1773 two-sided autograph leaf from the fourth movement of Mozart’s “Serenata,” K. 185 offered students a rare glimpse into the hallmarks of his writing style.

Over the course of four days, more than 60 students visited the Seeley G. Mudd Library to see the autograph and hear presentations by Assistant Professor Jill Thomas, director of technical services and Associate Professor Antoinette Powell, music librarian.

Loaned to the college by a 2010 Lawrence graduate who wished to remain anonymous, the autograph provided intriguing insights both into the historical context of the piece and Mozart’s composing style.

The single, two-sided autograph leaf is from the fourth movement of Mozart’s “Serenata,” K. 185 and includes the final 10 measures of the Menuetto on one side and the first 16 measures of the Trio on the other. It was written in Austria in 1773, when Mozart was just 17, to mark the college graduation of a family friend.

“With the Mozart autograph we were able to briefly become a contemporary of Mozart,” said Assistant Professor of Music Asha Srinivasan, who took students from her Techniques of the Contemporary Composer class to one of the presentations. “We are all composers, so we put ourselves in that time period and thought about how and where Mozart composed that work. It was enlightening and awe-inspiring.”

According to Powell, at the time the piece was written, “Americans were wearing hats made out of raccoons and dumping tea into Boston Harbor, while in Salzburg, people were wearing elegant clothes and listening to Mozart in a refined setting.”

Comparing the autograph to a published edition, students were able to see that the hallmarks of Mozart’s writing style – working quickly, composing pieces in his head before committing them to paper – were already present, even at such a young age.

Mozart presentation_newsblog
Music librarian Antoinette Powell conducted a series of presentations for students on a hand-written 1773 score by Mozart that was on loan to Lawrence.

“It was so exciting to see Mozart’s original serenade and minuet,” said Annie Mercado, a freshman from Des Plaines, Ill., who participated in a presentation as part of Instructor Ann Boeckman’s music theory class. “It’s not every day that even conservatory students get to be in the presence of musical history that changed the way we look at music today.”

Cosette Bardawil, a freshman from Brookline, Mass., also a member of Boeckman’s class, found the informative background presentation  helped bring the centuries-old autograph to life.

“I especially enjoyed the forensics section about the different types of paper, the way that each paper was made and how that helped to identify the era of Mozart’s compositions,” said Bardawil.

Since students in Lawrence’s composition department are required to write music by hand, Srinivasan said the autograph presented “a wonderful opportunity to trace the practice of composition by seeing a renowned composer’s actual handwriting from that era.

“Seeing the quality and nature of the strokes of musical notation brought to life the human hand and mind behind this work in a way that published printed music simply cannot do,” said Srinivasan. “Many of my students really appreciated seeing the back of the autograph, the more ‘messy’ side that the librarians revealed by taking it out of the original casing. As composers, a lot of our work might be initially messy, too, so that was just very visceral for us all.”

The autograph’s owner first approached Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music, about displaying it in the conservatory, but security concerns nixed that idea. As an alternative, it was decided library staff would invite classes at appointed times for presentations in the Mudd’s Milwaukee-Downer Room so students could compare the autograph to a modern published score.

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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and 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 grad discusses film score at Wisconsin premiere of “Pilot Error”

Emmy Award-winning composer and 2010 Lawrence University graduate Garth Neustadter discusses his work on the feature film “Pilot Error” when it makes its Wisconsin premiere Monday, March 2 at Marcus’ Appleton East Cinema.

Pilot-Error-Photo_newsblogThe movie also will be shown Wednesday, March 4 at the Green Bay East Cinema and Thursday, March 5 at the Oshkosh Cinema. The film will be shown at all three theaters at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Neustadter, a Manitowoc native now living in Pasadena, Calif., wrote the film’s score. Prior to all six screenings, he will lead an audience talkback related to the music in the film, including how composers collaborate with directors and how composers can enhance a film.

Following each screening, talkbacks also will be held with the film’s producer/screenwriter Roger Rapoport and veteran airline training pilot and accident investigator Robert Hesselbein of Madison.

Set in Wisconsin and filmed in part in Milwaukee and Appleton, the film was inspired by true events, most notably the 2009 Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that mysteriously disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 200 passengers and crew onboard.

The film explores many of the same questions raised following two other more recent air disasters:  the loss of Malaysia Air 370 in March 2014 and the Air Asia crash in the Java Sea last December.

Tom Boldt, is CEO of The Boldt Company based in Appleton, served as the film’s executive producer and recommended Neustadter to Rapoport.

“He’s off the charts as far as we’re concerned,” Rapoport said of Neustadter. “He’s a special composer.”

“Pilot Error” is the 10th film Neustadter has scored. He began working on it last August, and unlike some film projects that have deadlines as tight as two weeks, he had the luxury of a little more than two months to write approximately 60 minutes of music for this film. His score was performed and recorded live by Los Angeles studio musicians.

“I was extremely pleased with how the score turned out,” said Neustadter, who won a 2011 Emmy Award at the age of 25 for his film score for “John Muir in the New World,” a PBS American Masters documentary. “Having live musicians for the recording process was really important to the producer and the director. They (live musicians) definitely breathed a certain life into the score that you need for a film like this that you can’t get with synthesized instruments.”

Neustadter said one of the things that made his job on “Pilot Error” easier was that from the start, everyone involved with the project, from the director to the editor, was on the same page regarding the score.

“That’s not always the case,” said Neustadter, whose credits include scores for 2013 documentary “The Thingmaker” and the 2012 James Franco-Mila Kunis-Jessica Chastain feature “Tar,” as well as films from China and India, Progressive Insurance ads and an American Express commercial that debuted during Sunday’s (2/22) Academy Awards telecast. “As a composer, my goal is to realize what the director wants the music to be and can that align with what I envision the music to be. That was definitely the case with this film. We knew we wanted a larger orchestra score that could bring out the drama in the film but in a way that never became melodramatic or overplayed things too much.”

Garth-Neustadter_newsblog2015
Garth Neustadter ’10

While a student at Lawrence, Neustadter earned first-prize honors (second place behind the grand prize winner) in the 2007 Young Film Composers Competition sponsored by Turner Classic Movies. A year later, TCM commissioned him to write an original score for a restored version of the 1923 silent film “The White Sister.

The film’s other Wisconsin connection includes well-known Milwaukee Repertory Theater actress Deborah Staples.

Award-winning stage actress Kate Thomsen makes her screen debut as Nicola Wilson, an investigative reporter trying to find out why a jet headed from South America to Paris disappeared in the Atlantic, taking her close friend and 211 other passengers with it.

As she searches for answers as to how a plane can just disappear, Wilson puts her job, friends and career on the line. Even though she knows nothing about aviation, refuses to fly and doesn’t speak French, Wilson uncovers astonishing details about the missing flight. Was it preventable? Has it happened before? Could it happen again? Was it pilot error?

According to Rapoport, the goal of the movie is to “encourage more hands-on flying and simulator training for airline pilots at a time when the industry is increasingly focused on automation. At the screening we’ll be announcing some very good news about a major advance in weather forecasting technology that will benefit pilots everywhere.”

“Pilot Error” is based on five years of research and interviews with more than 200 pilots, airline executives, plane manufacturers, regulatory agencies and the team that found the missing Air France 447 in the Atlantic. The film provides an inside look at the fate of pilots unfortunately kept in the dark about failed automation.

“Top airline training pilots speaking at our preview events have been warmly received by audiences trying to understand how, in the most interconnected moment in human history, it’s never been easier to hide the truth,” said Rapoport, whose first film, “Waterwalk,” also was shot in Wisconsin.

Watch a trailer for the film.

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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and 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.

Composer Asha Srinivasan Wins International Competition

Asha-Srinivasan_newsblog
Asha Srinivasan

Lawrence University Assistant Professor of Music Asha Srinivasan has been awarded first-place honors for her flute and cello composition “Dviraag” in the Flute New Music Consortium’s 2014 international composition competition.

“Dviraag” was selected the winner from more than 250 entries from composers in more than 20 countries. The work previously won the 2011 Thailand International Composition competition.

FNMC members will be invited to perform Srinivasan’s award-winning work at recitals and concerts throughout the coming year.

“From my perspective as a composer, the fact that many flutists, most of whom I will not have met, will have access and will be invited to perform my work means that my music will reach a wider audience,” said Srinivasan, who also received a $250 prize for winning the competition.

“Dviraag” is included on the CD “Millennial Masters Vol. 4” by Ablaze Records and also can be heard on SoundCloud.

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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and 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.