UA Music fills Guzzetta’s halls

Patrick Stallings

Musicians and composers presented unique styles of sounds this week as the School of Music held the 13th annual Akron New Music Festival over three nights at Guzzetta Recital Hall.

The festival headlined the event with professor Lewis Nielson. Nielson, a well-travelled composer and professor at Oberlin College, brought students from Oberlin to perform a number of classical contemporary and neo-romantic compositions.

The director of the festival, Daniel McCarthy, was happy to have Nielson as the guest composer, with his unique style.  

“His music is quite different, which is a good thing,” McCarthy said. “It could have been considered avant-garde in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but not now. Many composers are turning to neo-romanticism and these traditional types of elements are working their way back.”

Nielson’s unconventional style brought mixed reactions from some Akron students.  

Music major Tyler Spuzillo said, “I study a lot of 20th century music and it was a little out there.”

The music, at times, included the wind instrument performers breathing through their flutes and clarinets without playing notes, and a pianist dragging a chain across the piano wire and adding gavel bangs on wood.  

“Students need to be exposed to lots of different styles,” McCarthy said. “He’s an eclectic teacher with a pallet for different styles. He energized me as a teacher.”

McCarthy added that Nielson met with Akron students in his visit and was very flexible in working with their respective compositions.

The second concert of the festival presented students from Akron’s music department with their own compositions.

A trio of musicians performed a piece composed by Veronica Quevedo. Quevedo herself played violin in the performance with classmates Maria I. Ortiz-Laboy on clarinet and Josephine Suwanpoh playing piano.  

Students performing solos were Max Fujs on horn, Rory Agsten on tuba, a vocal performance by Durrell LeGrair and an electronic piece from Thomas Guarino. Guarino’s Radio Daze was a mix of different genres playing as if a driver was tuning from station to station on a car radio.   

“You can see what influences people on how they write and think by the instruments they play,” UA freshman Nick White said.  

Durrell LeGrair showcased that music does not always have to come from an instrument as he sang a beat-box variation of Richard Rogers’ “My Funny Valentine.”

“I’m sorry I got to hear it for free,” Spuzillo said.

LeGrair was modest in his reception of praise from the audience.  

“It was my first attempt at this type of thing. It’s different from what I hear and people’s reaction to it,” he said. 

Ending the evening was the duo of Alexandros Fragiskatos on percussion with Sarah Hartong on flute. Fragiskatos composed the well-received performance.  

“It was amazing,” said Spuzzillo. “I felt like that song was written for this hall. The percussion instruments fit perfectly.”  

The third and final concert of the festival held four performances by Akron faculty and students, with two world premieres from Nikola Resanovic and James Wilding.  

“It’s important each year that we present music by the faculty and show the students that their teachers are constantly writing,” McCarthy said.  

McCarthy ended the festival conducting his own composition performed by the Akron New Music Ensemble.  

“It’s cool to see what everyone else is thinking,” White said in terms of composing. “I’m here looking for inspiration. This is what music is about. It’s not necessarily meant to be played in your bedroom. It’s meant to be shared, explored
and discussed.”