I have just returned home after spending the last two weeks as a composer fellow at the 2017 nief-norf Summer Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. I have known about this festival since 2014 when faculty from nief-norf were in residence at Northern Illinois University for our New Music Festival. After working with them that week, I knew that I had to find a way to attend their festival in the future. That opportunity finally happened this summer, and I am so grateful for what I experienced and learned. On top of composing a new piece that was premiered at the festival, I took lessons with faculty and residence composers, observed rehearsals, attended presentations/masterclasses/lectures, experienced 10 concerts in 14 days, and met some of the niefiest and norfiest people full of creative energy.
Here are a few major takeaways from this trip:
- A good improvisation is when you can hear the quietest person in the room (paraphrased from call-for-scores composer, Carolyn Chen)
- Rock music is an excellent form of inspiration and/or can even be used as a “backing track” when writing new thoughts (as heard from in-residence composer Nina C. Young)
- Music needs composers, performers, AND an audience in order to make a difference in the world (as heard from in-residence composer Marc Mellits)
- Wild, crazy, and incredibly inspiring things happen when you are surrounded by creative individuals for long periods of time
- Research should be taken as seriously for composers and performers in order for us to truly understand the work we do
- Music does not have to be complex for it to be important or influential
- Never forget about the joy and fun that music brings to people
Thank you to all the nief-norf faculty, staff, fellows, and members from the Society for Minimalist Music for a life-changing couple of weeks!