New Music Ensemble performs contemporary pieces in concert

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Unlike many student ensembles at the University, the New Music Ensemble provides student musicians and singers with the chance to play 21st-century chamber music and hear their own work performed in concert.

The New Music Ensemble is holding its last performance of the semester on Nov. 24, when it will play five contemporary pieces, including one piece written by a UT student for the concert.

Conducted by composition professor Dan Welcher, the ensemble only plays works that were composed within the last two decades. According to Andrew Boss, who has a doctorate of musical arts in composition and is a pianist for the ensemble, it is the only musical group at UT that doesn’t play pieces written in classical and romantic eras.

“Orchestral music [groups] typically focus most of their music written during a certain time period — oftentimes most of the repertoire before 1900,” Boss said. “The New Music Ensemble performs numerous works from the 20th and particularly the 21st century.”

The ensemble, in addition to playing contemporary pieces, premieres one piece written by a UT student each concert. Because of this, many students in the ensemble are able to hear their work performed live for the first time.

“As a result of having so many premieres of student composers, almost every composer here who writes for this ensemble will likely get a performance [of their piece] within their time at UT,” Boss said. “That’s a very strong component of this ensemble. It’s very supportive of the music of composers here.”

Sara Sasaki, who is obtaining a Master’s of Music in Violin Performance and is the first violinist in the ensemble, said the size of the ensemble allows for the students to work with each other more.

“It’s only 16 people versus the orchestra, which is 70 to 80 musicians,” Sasaki said. “It’s nice to be able to communicate musically to a lot of my colleagues, and, instead of telling 25 violinists to play one way, we all talk to each other like friends.”

The rehearsals for the concert, which have been going on for the past few weeks, have let the ensemble put its own interpretation on the pieces.

“We have to make it our own,” Sasaki said. “Professor Welcher’s very helpful in figuring out who needs to come out of the texture, who needs to back off a little bit. In that way, I think it’s going to be a great product.”

Lance Witty, who is obtaining a doctorate of musical arts in musical performance and is a trumpeter in the ensemble, urged the UT community to attend the concert held in Bates Recital Hall.

“I really encourage everybody to come out,” Witty said. “Great performers, great pieces, lots of fun to play. It’s going to be a great concert.”