Contemporary Music

Audience Engagement, Contemporary Music, Education, Inspirational Stories, Opportunity, Travel

Scor! Season Reflections

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If you haven’t already, read Scor!’s post from March 2016 here before continuing. 

By Beth Bultman

Our 2016 season has ended, and we are thrilled to have shared Scor! with so many people around the country this year. Scor! offers string camps for adults, and we specialize in providing a safe, nurturing, educational environment where it’s OK to still be in process, where we learn, grow, allow ourselves to be transformed, and hey, make friends and have a lot of musical fun! My husband Kyle & I are the founders of Scor!, and travel to and run all the camps. We left our Rochester, NY home for our first stop in Raleigh, NC in March, and haven’t stopped traveling since!

Our camps in 2016 took us all around the country. In Dunedin FL we had a St. Patrick’s Day parade and festivities (read “noise!”) right outside our door at Scor!. The plus side? We’re only 3 blocks from the water! In Atlanta GA, we had an extra day of Scor! to just have fun sight-reading music and playing together. In Austin TX, campers got to stay right in the hotel, and play downstairs. You can’t beat the convenience (except if you take an accidental nap!). In Escondido CA we had an enthusiastic bunch for our second year. In Lodi CA, our first camp in northern California, we discovered that Lodi in wine country is really worth traveling to! Our trip back across the country to Knoxville TN came next (FYI – it’s a LONG way!). People there are so nice and inviting, and just have the best way of showing hospitality! In LeClaire IA, it was HOT, but thankfully, the air conditioning at our facility made up for that. In Lansing MI the hotel/rehearsal room combination was a winner. Rochester NY brings us our largest and longest running camp with lots of traditions. We had a varied and fantastic Final Music Sharing event there. Bel Air MD is our second largest camp with lots of new people this year and lots of inspiring chamber music. And finally, Kingston RI where we hold Scor! at the University of Rhode Island, had a really nice group of people this year and was lots of fun.

Although we run a similar event around the country, various regions of the country can be different. Some are more traditional, some are more open to new musical experiences. Some are more high-pressure, and some are more laid back. But what do we find in common? All over the country, there are wonderful people following a dream. They’ve always wanted to play. They’ve always wanted to come back to playing. They’ve always wanted to improve their playing. Now, they are doing just that. They are open to learning, improving, playing music, making new musical friends, getting out there and doing what they’ve always wanted to do. We are the only ones that really get to see the arc of these events – the commonalities that all these individuals have. Believe me, it’s a lot of work to do what we do. There are no illusions about that in my world. But I have to say, we have set out to inspire people to play music, to improve, to be transformed. I think we are doing just that. Yet, I have also been inspired by the kindness, the can-do attitude, the openness, the determination, the persistence of the people we have met along the way. They are pursuing their dreams, and I have to say, that’s one courageous and inspiring group of people.

How can I find out about Scor!?

Check out our website at & sign up for our E-Newsletters, where you’ll get free string-playing tips, as well as news of upcoming events. Ask to join our Facebook Group or search “Scor! String Camps for Adults” Public Group and check out recent photos of events.

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Contemporary Music, Education, Ensembles, Future of Music, Inspirational Stories, Opportunity

Collaborative Composition: How Writing Together Helped The Kraken Quartet Evolve

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By Chris Demetriou

When we formed The Kraken Quartet, we had no master plan for where the group would go. Like so many other college chamber groups, we had no five-year goals, no catalogue of repertoire, and certainly no major notoriety. We were just a couple of friends who knew we loved playing music together. Despite this lack of long-term direction, we had one crucial characteristic that tied our group together: the willingness to try anything. So, for the first few years of our existence, The Kraken Quartet gave everything a shot. We were still trying to find out what “our thing” was, but we decided early on that no matter what we did, we would give it our all. We started volunteering to play on premiers of any and every student composer that would have us, and eventually pieced together our first ever call for scores (which boasted a whopping total of three applicants). We began tackling the lists of repertoire that percussion groups were “supposed” to play, striving to build some kind of foundation for our group. We started commissioning every composer we had contact with, organizing community shows, exploring alternate performance models (including one of our first experiments, a concert that was designed to put the audience to sleep), and grasping at every opportunity possible. Even though we loved every second of it, the four of us still hadn’t settled into exactly what it was that made our group unique.

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The Kraken Quartet is an Austin-based percussion group. The ensemble includes (from left to right) Sean Harvey, Chris Demetriou, Taylor Eddinger, and Andrew Dobos. Photo credit: Evan Monroe Chapman.

Our direction took a major turn one night when Taylor, one of our members, asked for a favor. He was enrolled in a composition class, and wanted help playing through an assignment he was working on. We got together in our usual room, set up the gear, and started going about it like any other rehearsal. But, almost immediately, a different feeling emerged. As we worked through the music, offering advice and making edits, a level of comfort formed that we could have never expected. Here we were, great friends who were united by a love of playing music, stripping that motivation down to its core. We were working together to create our own sound, our own unique voice. The feeling was liberating. Soon, other members of the group began writing similar frameworks for us to shape as an ensemble. It didn’t take long before we were skipping that first step altogether, writing pieces from the ground up as a group. After so much time spent trying to find the repertoire that best suited us, we simply created our own.

Of course, the idea of an ensemble writing for itself is nothing new. In many musical realms, from pop to rock, this is in fact expected. But after years in music school, a certain barrier had been put up for us. Whether it was intentional or not, we were made to feel that (in our musical culture, at least) there was a line separating composer and performer. But as soon as we pulled away that divide, our group propelled forward faster than we could have ever imagined. This structure become our focus, and for a while we performed exclusively our own music. We played shows wherever we could: bars, concert halls, basements, parks, living rooms, art galleries, and more. The liberation that came with creating our own music flowed into everything we did. Motivated, we packed our cars and started driving to any venue in any city that would have us. Summers became time for touring, recording, and writing. Even after we graduated and spread out across the country, we always gave the group everything we had.

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The Kraken Quartet performs live in Ithaca, NY.

After far too many long commutes to rehearsals, today we finally find ourselves located in the same city once more. Based in Austin, TX, we have made The Kraken Quartet a major priority in our lives. With the skills we developed through writing music together, we have come full circle, returning to the works of other composers. However, after all we’ve been through, we can’t help but come at it in a different way. The process of collaborative writing gave us an acute ear for the sensibilities of our ensemble-mates. As we find ourselves preparing music by other composers, whether it be Steve Reich or a friend who wants to collaborate, our experiences have given us a feeling of comfort and community. Our understanding of one another helps us bring music to life, and we really do believe this connection shines through.

We have by no means abandoned composing for ourselves. This fall, we are headed to the studio to record our next album, featuring entirely original music. Collaborative composition has been a valuable asset to our group’s growth, and starting this year, we are looking to share this process. Over the next several years, we will be developing a series of masterclasses centered around this concept of collaborative composition. We will be heading to universities, conservatories, and public schools with the goal of helping students learn to be comfortable writing music with their peers. When that barrier was removed from our group, we soared forward faster than we could have imagined. We want to do the same for others. Our goal is to help tear down this divide, and ultimately make composition an important part of any student’s music education.

Although we are thrilled to share the lessons we have learned by writing music together, getting others to follow us is not exactly the point. In the end, we want other young ensembles to feel the same sense of liberation that we found. The music world today is rapidly changing, and with that the definition of what makes a chamber group is shifting. We have started to figure out what we love to do, but it took a willingness to shake off expectations. More than anything, we want other young groups to know that it is okay to find your own way, and that anything is fair game. This mentality is what will continue to push our art forward, and help keep music alive and growing.

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Contemporary Music, Ensembles, Opportunity

Ear Taxi Festival

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By Stephen Burns

The State of the Union…of New Music in Chicago…is Strong!

Did you know there are dozens of composers, hundreds of performers and over 30 ensembles specializing in new music in the Windy City? This fall you can take a musical joyride through Chicago’s contemporary music scene during the Ear Taxi Festival October 5-10, 2016.

Celebrating the vibrant and robust classical contemporary music scene in Chicago, Ear Taxi was created with seed money from the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University. Co-curators Augusta Read Thomas and Stephen Burns have assembled a creative committee of curators, intellectuals and supporters to shape the festival and nurture its content. With the fiscal partnership of New Music Chicago Ear Taxi has been able to apply for grants and receive tax-deductible donations in order to establish a production team headed by Festival Manager Rebecca Cafarelli.

Searching for a central location that shares Chicago’s reputation for innovation and contemporary style, the curators approached Michael Tiknis at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance who immediately and enthusiastically offered the Harris Theater as presenting sponsor and host for the main-stage concerts, forums, performances in their newly renovated lobby bar and interviews with artists—for up-close and personal conversations with composers, nothing can beat New Music Box who’ll bring their show to Chicago during the festival. Upon hearing the scope of the programs, Michelle Boone Chicago’s Commissioner of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) committed the Chicago Cultural Center for two days of concerts, free to the public.

With over 300 performers, 75 composers, and 25 ensembles Ear Taxi features the creativity of Chicago’s emerging and established composers with over 50 world premieres, 4 sound installations, daily artist receptions, forums, and a 2-day marathon. From Mana Contemporary and the University of Chicago on the south side to a blowout Sunday party/performance at Constellation on the north side, take the Ear Taxi ride through the whole city and hear the future of classical concert music.


Co-curator of the Ear Taxi Festival with Augusta Read Thomas, Stephen Burns is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Fulcrum Point New Music Project in Chicago. An internationally acclaimed solo trumpeter, conductor, and composer Prof. Burns is a visiting lecturer at Northwestern University and the Amici della Musica Firenze. Winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and the Maurice André International Trumpet Competition, Stephen is a Yamaha Performing Artist.