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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

Student Composers Debut New Music The Only Way They Can... On Zoom

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YouTube
Tetractys New Music Players perform student compositions online.

Unique among composition competitions, the Jack Stone Award for New Music is the only national music competition open solely to community college students.

Last year, the coronavirus pandemic hit just before Northwest Vista College, the sponsoring college, could invite the winners to hear their pieces performed live before an audience. And with the pandemic continuing its march in 2021, Northwest Vista College hosted the 2020 and 2021 winners online on March 23.

The performance, by Austin's Tetractys New Music (Peir Shiuan Tang, piano, Matthew Armbruster, cello, Christopher Demetriou, percussion) featured pieces by six composer awardees.

In an email interview, 2020 winner Tim Naples of North Idaho College said, “The musicians nailed their parts. The months of mental sweat felt totally justified, as the experience was one that is truly unique to music and will be one I can always cherish.” Naples says he’s currently spending his time composing and editing music for videos and podcasts, and hopes to perform live again once the pandemic subsides. “The more music I have in my life, the happier I am.”

Like Naples, the 2021 winner also attends North Idaho College. Kailey Martinelli described the win as an “honor” and was excited to hear her music performed by actual players.

“Before the concert, the only way I’d heard all three parts together was through a MIDI recording on my computer, so I really enjoyed hearing the performers capture the essence of the piece with their own musical interpretations,” Martinelli explained by email.

Martinelli currently teaches piano and performs in a jazz ensemble at North Idaho College. After obtaining her associate degree, she plans to continue teaching piano locally, and possibly continue studying composition. “I’m trying to keep the creativity flowing by writing as much music as I can.”

The Jack Stone Award for New Music was created in 2010 by former NVC music faculty Beth May. Both the competition and the follow up concert are dedicated to the late Dr. Jack Stone, an accomplished musician, educator and community college leader.

See the performances in the video below, and read the winners’ description of their pieces below the embedded player.

2020 JACK STONE AWARD for NEW MUSIC

Tim Naples, North Idaho College: "XP (in Four Mvts)"

“XP” is shorthand for “experience” or “experience points," a common term in gaming. In particular, the main theme in the first movement and the chord progression were ideas that I had kicked around for a while, and was immediately excited when I saw the instrumentation allowed that this was a perfect opportunity to use them. My experience for the first movement came largely from Bulgarian folk music and percussion ensemble music. The second movement was inspired by the music of Astor Piazzolla and symbolizes a more happy, dance-filled memory. The third was an opportunity to utilize the intense emotions and existential crises that accompanied the horrible experience of my mom having a stroke this past September. The finale was drawn from my experience writing the first three movements; I wanted it to reflect them, rhythmically and tonally, but still have its own personality.

First Runner Up:

Samina Yaghouti, Los Angeles Community College District: "Just a Collision"

Just a collision is a piece that represents life, from birth to the last beat of his heart. This piece takes the listener through a journey, with the ups and downs, laughs and cries, struggles, and joys of life. When composing this piece, Samina used the musical style of famous composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff at the beginning of some sections, and then she developed the idea into a more chromatic style of our time. There are sections that are original ideas and the key clusters are used as an artistic expression at points that the listener doesn't expect them. This piece envelopes positive and negative emotions all together, and asks the listener to let go of judgment, and to accept and see life with all its challenges as a beautiful composition.

Second Runner Up:

Kurtis Roush, Peninsula College: "Train Ride Memories"

Train Ride Memories is a piece that is nostalgic yet near. Sitting on a train, looking out, what memories flood your mind? Happy memories? Sad memories? Important memories? Though some share in those memories, they are your own.

2021 JACK STONE AWARD for NEW MUSIC

Kailey Martinelli, North Idaho College: "Return"

The piece opens with solo piano to represent a foreshadowing of an adventure that takes place throughout the piece. A sense of wandering creates a longing to return to the place left behind. The contrasting 4/4 section in C minor is the height of the adventure. The triplet and duplets combined in the last part of the 4/4 section drive the piece to return to the original 6/8 section. When returning somewhere after some time away, it will still mostly be the same place, but different because of the events that have occurred in the time that has passed. The piece closes with a return of the opening section but ends in a contrasting key to represent the change that has occurred during the time away.

First Runner Up:

Tristan Scott, Dallas College Richland Campus: "Rhythm Song"

Rhythm Song is a rhythmic tour de force taking characteristics from math rock and hyperpop. The work is characterized by its use of odd time signatures, frequent metric modulations, and above all rhythmic complexity. To all who attempt it, good luck!

Second Runner Up:

Zander Furrow, Lane Community College: "Cave of Hollows: A Soul's Journey"

Cave of Hollows; A Soul's Journey, tells the story of a lost soul who finds himself in a decrepit cave; the Cave of Hollows. It is now up to the soul to find his way out and himself along the way before he becomes hollow like the rest of the scattered souls around him. The piano acts as the main melody of the cave, and the guide to the lost soul, played by the cello, towards hope of finding a way out. The accompaniment of the rolled and bowed vibraphone, along with the various cymbal rolls on the drum-kit, help to signify the ambience and echoing of the cave. The first of the three sections sets up the atmosphere of the cave. The second section represents the souls’ loss of hope, before the piano picks him back up on his feet and shows him the light at the end of the tunnel. In the third and final act, the piece reaches its turning point. After being guided by the piano, the cello now plays an upbeat and fully realized main melody of the piece. It is now the soul’s journey, and his determination to make it out and persevere.