USU String Chamber Music Premieres Works from Two Composers in Crossing Borders Concert

Utah State University String Chamber Music and the Caine College of the Arts present a two-part concert series called “Crossing Borders,” developed in partnership with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. The concerts will be livestreamed April 6 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. on ccapresents.usu.edu.

The April 6 concert features the world premiere of Loved and Feared by composer Andrew Rodriguez. Rodriguez was previously a songwriter for and member of Close Your Eyes, a punk/hardcore band signed to Victory Records and touring the country relentlessly. He now uses this period in his career to formulate the core of his music that is both raw and dramatically expressive.

“It was a drastic change to go from collaborating with four other people every time a new song was written, to being the sole creator and decision maker in a piece of music,” Rodriguez said. “Loved and Feared is a piece entirely devoted to the practice of performing in a group. The piece pushes the boundaries of what it means to perform within an ensemble, and of creating a unified, cohesive sound while also giving the performers room to test the limits of ensemble playing.”

Rodriguez says the urge to write a piece around this idea comes from a deep longing he has from not performing in a band in more than five years. The collaborative process of working with the USU string students has been a complete joy and highlight of his last few months.

Loved and Feared takes the simple concept of presenting two harshly contrasting musical ideas and smashing them together in the same piece, thus highlighting their differences while also exploiting their similarities,” Rodriguez said. “The two contrasting ideas may sound in direct opposition to one another, but ultimately they both seek to achieve the same goal—a unified sound as an ensemble.”

The second concert in the series, streaming April 8, features the world premiere of Far from Righteous by composer Kerwin Young. Young is a prolific international composer and recording producer whose music has served as social commentary the world over since 1989. He has gone from a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted band, Public Enemy, to a renowned orchestral composer of more than seven epic symphonies.

Commenting on his career during the time of COVID-19, Young said, “As a composer I already have a secluded lifestyle, so quarantining didn’t present anything new or different into my life. I’m also a media composer and recording producer who must always work virtually in collaboration.”

This was Young’s first virtual collaboration with college students, but he said it has been a similar experience to other virtual collaborations and performances he has worked on with professional ensembles.

“Initially, I write as many ideas that I can think of, with some minor development,” Young said. “We workshop my ideas and I go off and further develop the ideas that work best and sound best to me. Then I present a semi-final version that gets workshopped again, leading toward my final version. This has been the flow for all the experiences.”

Young and Rodriguez are both recipients of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music’s Composers for Racial Equality in the Arts Fellowship (CREA). CREA was established in 2019 by the Academy in response to the lack of access to mentors for emerging composers of color who have shared cultural experiences. CREA Fellows are inducted to a cohort of established composers who have active concert careers and/or hold professorships, receiving lessons both in music and life. Mentors generously share their time and expertise as artists of underrepresented racial demographics.

“In the 90s, I was accustomed to being the only Latina in my honors courses in high school,” Frank said. “I never expected to find many peers nor mentors of a similar cultural background in the music conservatory. Despite this, or maybe even because of it, certain white teachers of mine were absolute lifelines, believing in my truth and insisting, ‘Go. GO. Explore this.’”

Frank believes it is now more possible to find multicultural leaders who can extend a lifeline to emerging artists of color, which benefits us all. She calls this a beautiful thing and is pleased to facilitate Young and Rodriguez’s composers-in-residence positions during this unique time that requires imaginative new ways for collaboration.

Young hopes audiences will appreciate the comfort of not having to leave their homes in order to enjoy great music, and that they continue their support of the musicians and composers involved.

“I hope the format of this concert gives the audience a new perspective and some new insight into the world of contemporary music,” Rodriguez said. “The fact that it is in this virtual medium gives it a freshness for the audience. I hope it can be a new experience for them and that they will find new things to pique their interest, whether it be in the music itself or any of the discussion or introductions associated with the concert.”

The April 6 concert program also includes Duplicity for string quartet by Anjna Swaminathan; Three American Folk Hymn Settings for two violas by Kenji Bunch, and Strum for string quartet by Jessie Montgomery.

The April 8 concert program also includes Relics for viola and cello by Iman Habibi; String Trio no. 1 by Timothy Peterson, and Song and Dance from String Quartet no. 2 by Michael-Thomas Foumai.

The concert livestream is free and open to the public at ccapresents.usu.edu. Contact the CCA Box Office at 435-797-8022 or ticketscc@usu.edu with questions.

Sky Optics Media drone video