Hosted by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Music Department The La Crosse New Music Festival from 8-10 November. This year’s festival brought composer Arturo Rodríguez as a guest and featured three nights of concerts featuring only new music.
Rodriguez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and now lives in Los Angeles, California, working as a composer and conductor for orchestras and film soundtracks, as well as orchestrating and composing for television shows and films.
The festival opened on November 8 with the “Partners in New Music” concert and featured student ensembles, community musicians and student artists. The Hoefer Brass Quintet and the Cordeiro Woodwind Trio were two student ensembles performing new music, with the trio performing an original piece by Dr. Mike Forbes, instructor of low wind instruments at UWL.
The piece, titled “Tripoli,” was originally composed for a tuba trio, according to the program notes. Forbes revised the piece for a woodwind trio of flute, oboe and clarinet.
Assistant Festival Director Dr. David Diess also had an original piece performed by fellow UWL faculty member Dr. Michelle Elliott. Eliot performed “White Tea” on violin, and according to the program notes for this piece, it was written to show how during meditation, unexpected thoughts and emotions can disrupt the peace and quiet of meditation.
The concert also featured community members Pamela Kelly and Tara Kelly, a mother-daughter duo, with Pamela playing the piano and accompanying Tara on the flute. They performed a piece that premiered on November 4, 2023 and was written by Mary Ellen Haupert, professor of music at Viterbo University. The track is called “Breeze,” and according to the program notes, it was inspired by the sounds of their family’s cabin on a lake in Minnesota, including the waves lapping against the shore and the cries of the moonshine.
The concert also featured two art students, Amy West and Brevin Crews, who created artwork while listening to jazz musicians improvise. Artists drew and painted based on how they responded to the music. According to the notes from that concert, this project came from a discussion between Elliott and Professor Jennifer Williams, Professor of Art.
The second night of the festival, November 9, was guest artist Arturo Rodríguez in concert. Rodriguez performed seven works he composed, including “Full Moon,” “Luminiscncia’ and ‘Tres Veranos’. Rodriguez also accompanied flutist Dr. Jonathan Borja, associate professor of music at UWL, on several pieces, including “Little Spirit” and “Tango Sentimental.” Rodriguez invited Borja back on stage after the concert ended to perform an encore of “Tango Sentimental” as a “thank you” for inviting Rodriguez to the festival.
Earlier that day, Rodriguez held a question-and-answer session for students where he talked about his career as a composer for television and film. One example Rodriguez showed was a television episode for which he had recorded or composed new music. Rodriguez also shared the process behind composing the music for the opening sequence of a film titled “The Mistress.”
The festival ended with a performance by the Wind Ensemble on November 10. The wind ensemble performed new pieces by composers Steve Danieu, Aaron Perrin and two pieces by guest artist Arturo Rodriguez, including the Wisconsin premiere of “Cuando Hablan los Vientos,” which featured two flute soloists, Heidi Keener and Borja.
“Cuando Hablan los Vientos” means “When the Winds Speak” in Spanish, and according to the concert’s program notes, Rodríguez was inspired by the inability to truly see music and compared it to the way that wind cannot truly be seen, but only felt.
The work was commissioned by Borja, who was on a sabbatical or sabbatical, premiering this work at universities across the country, including the University of Central Florida, Kansas State University and Utah State University.
Rodriguez spent some time with the brass band as they rehearsed his music. UWL student Kallie Johnson is a member of the wind ensemble and was interviewed by The Racquet Press about what the experience was like.
“He was really nice and very attentive. I really enjoyed his comments and insight into the music, like how we have to articulate a certain way to emulate Spanish-language music,” Johnson said.
She continued:[Rodriguez] he talked about how he was so grateful that we play his music and that’s how his music lives on. It was really great to see him and give us feedback.”This year was the third annual La Crosse New Music Festival. Learn about last year’s event hereand the 2021 event here.