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Dinosaur Annex, Encouraging Youth in Modern Music


Featured Composer and BMInt Reviewer, Peter Van Zandt Lane

The approach the new music ensemble Dinosaur Annex takes towards immersing curious and talented youth in contemporary performance is critical to the future vitality of new music. It is all too common for the most gifted young performers to progress through advanced instrumental training with little or no inclusion of contemporary music in their repertoires.  Early exposure to the unique challenges, thrills and rewards of collaborating with living composers is the best way to discover and begin training the new music specialists of tomorrow. So Dinosaur Annex presents an annual celebration — this is its eighth — of young composers and performers. This year’s concert, Joyful/Youthful, features new pieces by six composers, Michael Djupstrom, Stephen Feigenbaum, Peter Van Zandt Lane, Clint Needham, Elizabeth Ogonek, and Du Yun.  The concert is on Sunday, January 30, at 7:30 pm., at Goethe-Institut in Back Bay, Boston.

Co-Artistic Director, Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin explained that each year Dinosaur Annex commissions “a special composer to write a piece just for the young composer’s concert. That piece involves young children, as well as professionals, sitting side by side, working together, playing. It’s always a very big thrill for the kids.” This year’s commission, Beacons, by Peter Lane (who is also one of BMInt’s reviewers), showcases three high school students, Katie Armstrong (clarinet), Julian Drummond (piano), and Phoebe Reuben (flute), as well as guest pianist Yukiko Shimazaki. As Lane writes in his program notes, Beacons exploits the opportunity for “dialogues between the student-professional duets that this instrumentation provided: two flutes, two clarinets, and two pianists… The piece, divided into three connected movements, is saturated with imitation within these groups… [t]he imitative writing elicits the professional leading the student early in the piece, and transforms into the student leading the professional by the end.” The inspired narrative of Lane’s piece promises an additional layer of intrigue as well as a pertinent metaphor.

Discussing the program as a whole, which features four other Boston premieres by emerging composers, Hershman-Tcherepnin added that for her, “this is always the most exciting event of our season.  It is an opportunity to hear these people who are full of enthusiasm, new ideas…you never know what they’re going to come up with! We thought maybe we knew all the weirdest ways of playing our instruments, non-traditional ways, and the next thing you know, someone’s coming up with something even more unusual.  And you’ll hear some of that at this concert!”

Preceding the concert, at 6:30 p.m., several of the composers will participate in Cross Talk, a pre-concert dialog. The talk will be moderated by Dinosaur Annex’s Co-Artistic Director, composer Yu-Hui Chang, who will also conduct Lane’s Beacons.

David Dominique is a composer living in Somerville, Massachusetts.  He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Music Composition and Theory at Brandeis University.

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