Indiana State University Newsroom

Contemporary Music Festival set for Oct. 25-28 at Indiana State

October 11, 2016

The Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival will celebrate its 50th year with an exciting roster of composers and performers Oct. 25-28.

For five decades, the festival has brought internationally acclaimed composers, performers and speakers to Terre Haute. Members of surrounding communities, school children, university students and guests are encouraged to attend and participate in performances, educational activities and discussions focusing on trends in contemporary musical expression.

Since its inception in 1967, the festival has developed a strong national reputation for the performance and creation of new music. Some of the most important composers of contemporary classical music have come to participate in the festival, including 18 Pulitzer Prize winners and five recipients of the Grawemeyer Award.

The festival stands alone among similar university events in hosting a professional orchestra as a resident ensemble. Two annual composition competitions provide emerging composers the invaluable experience of hearing their works performed live. School outreach programs offer elementary and middle school students the opportunity to mix with guest artists and better understand the art of composition.

Through these activities and the many festival events, the Indiana State School of Music aspires to involve members of the local and campus communities in the creation, performance and support of contemporary music expression and to uphold Indiana State's reputation as a national leader in education through contemporary music.

Two outstanding composers will be featured in this year's festival -- the music of internationally acclaimed composer Libby Larsen and Indiana's own James Beckel. Larsen is one of America's most performed living composers with a catalogue of more than 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles and orchestras around the world and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.

Beckel is a nationally recognized composer and long-time principal trombonist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. His works have been performed by orchestras such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Rochester, Charlotte, Fort Wayne and New Mexico. He has received many composition grants and was an Individual Arts Fellow through the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was one of 50 composers chosen nationwide to be part of the Continental Harmony Project.

The orchestra-in-residence, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, will perform works by Larsen, Beckel and other contemporary American composers on the evening of Oct. 27. The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of director Matthew Kraemer, is an outstanding professional orchestra that regularly features internationally recognized concert artists as well as outstanding Indiana performers, aspiring young soloists, and the talents of contemporary composers.

Performing with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra will be internationally renowned horn soloist Jeff Nelsen. Probably best known for the eight years he spent touring and recording with Canadian Brass, Nelsen has also performed concerti and chamber music on six continents and in the horn sections of dozens of orchestras including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, and the Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Montreal and St. Louis symphonies. He is professor of horn at the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and is founder of Fearless Performance LLC, a company that focuses on training musicians and more to consistently perform their best.

The guest chamber ensemble for the festival is Shattered Glass, a conductorless string ensemble that is truly collaborative and self-operated. Virtuosic and versatile, Shattered Glass has performed repertoire ranging from J.S. Bach to Krzysztof Penderecki and crossover projects with Grammy®-nominated hip-hop artists.

The festival's guest vocalist is Clara Osowski, hailed by the Urban Dial Milwaukee for her artistry and "rich and radiant" voice. Osowski is an active soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States and Europe, a 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Upper-Midwest Regional Finalist, the winner of the 2014 Bel Canto Chorus Regional Artists Competition in Milwaukee, and recently the runner-up in the 2016 Schubert Club Bruce P. Carlson Scholarship Competition.

The origins of the festival stem from Izler Solomon, conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1956-1975. Solomon approached the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965 with the idea for a foundation-supported project involving the orchestra and universities in the Indianapolis area.

Solomon suggested that if the foundation supported an additional week for the ISO concert season the orchestra would devote that week to publicly rehearsing and performing music by American composers, giving preference to works not previously performed in the Indianapolis area. This visionary meeting was the genesis of Indiana State's Contemporary Music Festival.

Since this original meeting, the festival has developed several long-lasting purposes: one, giving students and the community a glimpse of the lives of professional composers, performers, critics, and scholars; two, promoting the work of young American composers; and three, generating public interest in living classical music. True to its origins, the festival stands alone among similar festivals by emphasizing symphonic music and featuring a major professional orchestra.

Over the past 50 years, the festival committee has included program lectures, symposia, open rehearsals and social events to further interaction between the visiting musicians and the public. Annual orchestra and chamber music competitions have provided many young composers with the invaluable experience of hearing their works rehearsed and performed by a professional orchestra.

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra stayed with the festival for 20 years. When they left in 1986, the Louisville Orchestra, known for its interest in and recordings of new music, stepped in and became the resident orchestra for the next 20 years. In 2007, the introduction of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra as the festival's guest orchestra helped to reestablish its connection to Indiana's own outstanding arts organizations. In fact, the 2007 festival featured an all-Indiana cast, including the guest composer, the composition winner, the guest orchestra and the guest chamber ensemble.

While the principal guests have changed over the years, the primary goal of the festival remains true to its roots -- to introduce students to the everyday work of professional musicians and to present new music to the public.

One thing is certain: If art music of any style is to remain alive, it must continue to grow. Indiana State University's Contemporary Music Festival is one event that encourages that growth and hopes to persevere as an enrichment of our culture and our lives.

Support for the 50th Annual Contemporary Music Festival comes in part through the Arts Illiana; Indiana Arts Commission; National Endowment of the Arts, a federal agency; SAI Philanthropies, Inc.; Indiana State University Sesquicentennial Grant; and the Indiana State Center for Community Engagement.

For the full schedule of events, go to


Media Contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

For five decades, the festival has brought internationally acclaimed composers, performers and speakers to Terre Haute. Members of surrounding communities, school children, university students and guests are encouraged to attend.

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