SPLICE Institute 2015

I just attended the inaugural year of the SPLICE Institute at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI on July 5-11, 2015. It was an incredibly intense and busy week of classes, lessons, presentations, concerts, and nights out with deeply knowledgeable faculty and students. The faculty composers at SPLICE are Christopher BiggsKeith KirchoffAdam VidiksisElainie LilliosSam WellsPer BlolandRichard JohnsonDavid Wetzel was on the faculty as well, as a performer. The food was awful cafeteria food, the dorm rooms were terrible and hot, with no a/c, but the environment was friendly, intimate, and productive.

Each day of the festival was structured the same way: breakfast, 2 classes for 1-hour-15-mins, lunch, more classes and rehearsals between composers and performers, dinner, pre-concert presentation from one of the faculty members, and a concert. Monday through Thursday were solo recitals by Keith Kirchoff, David Wetzel, Sam Wells, and Adam Vidiksis, and Friday was a chamber concert. They performed works written by themselves, each other, the faculty composers, and other repertoire that they had ready. All of these concerts were well-prepared and amazingly performed. Some of these pieces and performances changed the way that I think about the presentation of electronic music, especially works that combine music with video and other multimedia.

The concerts featuring student works were all on Saturday, June 11. Three concerts of about 8 pieces each. I collaborated with David Wetzel for SPLICE and wrote a work for clarinet and electronics called “Staying Ahead of the Game,” which David performed beautifully on the final concerts. Every other piece on the festival was captivating. Works were performed by both student and faculty performers from the festival. My colleagues are ridiculously creative and I am honored to be part of such a bright and innovative generation.

As part of participating in SPLICE, I received a scholarship that involved being a part of the sound tech crew, and my responsibilities included running live sound for the performances. But more often then not, we would meet briefly in the afternoon, see that the performer was largely self-contained or that the setup was prepared before lunch, and we were dismissed shortly. But sometimes, there were lessons on how to use the digital mixing board, how to place speakers, differences between speakers, and other discussions about live sound.

I learned more in this week than I can process, but there’s still time (isn’t there?). I took classes in MAX/MSP, effects processing with Logic, private and group lessons with Elainie Lillios, Per Bloland, and Christopher Biggs, and participated in 8 concerts. There were other classes that I could not participate in because of schedule conflicts. For an inaugural year, this festival did a lot of things right and can keep improving for future participants. It was a ridiculous amount of work, but we made it happen because of our dedication and passion for our craft. I highly recommend the SPLICE Institute to any performers or composers with an interest in electronics or technology.

SPLICE 2015, class with Christopher Biggs. Photo Credit: Elainie Lillios

New Music on the Point 2015

I recently returned from one of the best experiences of my life. New Music on the Point was a two week festival in cabins on the side of Lake Dunmore, VT from June 1-14. I have attended several contemporary classical music festivals and this one should be the model for all others. There is no way to fully describe the simultaneous craziness and educational value of NMOP, but I am going to try.

I had private lessons with Juraj Kojs, Robert Morris, and Jim Mobberley, who each had unique perspectives on my work and on music in general. Amy Williams is the festival director and gives composition lessons, but I did not work with her. I have come away with some fantastic ideas after this festival after working privately with each of these composers. I also presented in masterclasses with Marcos Balter and Christopher Cerrone. Chris’ comments were helpful, especially for my vocal writing. Marcos’ master class was wild. This man can see into your soul when listening to your music. He had a full psychological profile for you in his mind by hearing your compositions. I don’t know how he does it. His ideas are fascinating and his personality is huge. These master classes occurred during the afternoon and mornings.

The performers at NMOP were unbelievable. Every one of them. I saw incredible performances that I will never forget. The JACK Quartet and members of American Modern Ensemble were resident performers and teachers. Members of both groups perform in and coach the pieces that composers write for the festival. The best thing about NMOP, in my opinion, is the lack of barrier between performers and composers. At other festivals that I have attended, there has been a clear separation between performers and composers. The composers show up, get one rehearsal with performers, hear their piece, and the performers are gone. At NMOP, both performers and composers were there for the full two weeks as students. We ate together, slept together (in bunks), and spent nights around the campfire together. Projects were formed, ideas were shared, and collaborations happened because performers and composers got to be together for two weeks in close quarters. This made for better performances and, even more important, more enjoyable and less tense experiences at concerts.

The nights got crazy in ways that you just need to experience personally. The first Saturday was dance party night. There was seemingly very little interest leading up to the party but it was live when it happened. The following Sunday was a day off with hikes planned. I hiked to a small mountain peak where I could see the entirety of Lake Dunmore with beautiful mountains in the background. We also found a stray dog in the woods, which was really sad to see, and we walked it to a nearby state park. So at least we got it some help. We called her Hildegarde.


I am truly excited to listen to music and compose after this festival. I was feeling a personal lull and tired of contemporary classical trends, but this festival has reinvigorated me. I highly encourage any and all composers and performers to apply for next year. Jenny Beck and Amy Williams do an incredible job running this festival. The website is here: http://newmusiconthepoint.com/