"Vireo" and Young Composers

Hello SFGC Community, from back home in NYC, Lisa Bielawa, Artistic Director, Photograph by Liz Linder

I had a great couple of weeks out on the West Coast. Not only did I get a chance to meet many of you parents, and your girls, but I also had a couple of other creative projects there—both of which gave me a chance to bring some SFGC singers into some other musical worlds outside of our own programs at Kanbar.

I spent a week in Los Angeles mixing and editing the next two episodes of my serial made-for-TV opera Vireo, one of which features six of our own singers (and two of our directors too—both Valérie Sainte-Agathe and our Level I Director Joseph Fanvu—along as a chaperon but pressed into service on the set as surprise Second Assistant Conductor!) in their prominent role as Forest Women, dwellers of the ancient, natural realm from which the original healing practices of witchcraft came. We will all need to wait for the big wheels of the TV Broadcast world to turn before we can see the final product, but here’s a few snapshots of them on the set!

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Then, back up in SF, I hosted a four-hour composition master class and reading session of student works at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a project of my new collaborative project called Your Music Bus.

This is an initiative that I started with two other wonderful composer-performer colleagues, Aaron Jay Kernis (who is composing a piece for our girls this season!) and Pamela Lynde Stein, to give young composers a chance to hear their music performed by professional musicians, get feedback from professional composer mentors, and walk away with aunnamed (2)             unnamed (1)

quality recording of their piece to use in the advancement of their careers. Last Sunday’s session featured short pieces by six talented young men who are graduate students in composition at the Conservatory, and one fearless eighth grader from our own Level IV, Madeleine Clinch. The musicians were members of the superb SF New Music Collective Wild Rumpus, which boasts our own Margaret Halbig as pianist.

Here we are, hearing the first read-through of her piece Growing Up for cello and piano!

Madeline Clinch rehearsal photograph courtesy Lisa Bielawa

When I was a young composer, I was accepted to an orchestra reading session with the Minnesota Orchestra, led by Aaron Jay Kernis. Now he and I are working together as peers to mentor those in the next generation, like Madeleine. Composition is, and always has been, an apprenticeship field—remember that joke “Why couldn’t Beethoven find his teacher? Because he was HAYDN!"—and these kinds of inter-generational exchanges serve to pass down the craft from generation to generation, while also encouraging individuality and innovation. Are there other fields that are similarly traditionally apprenticeship-driven? Is that an old-fashioned way to learn? Does it sometimes make it harder for girls to get mentored? If you are girl who wants to learn a craft like composition, is it important to have a mentor who is a woman? If you are a woman professional in a field where there are not many women, how important is it to teach girls? How important is it to teach both boys AND girls?

Importance aside, it was great musical fun, and I’m so glad and proud that Madeleine had the courage to join me on that stage. I can’t wait to hear what she writes next!

Yours faithfully, from Manhattan, Lisa