CAZENOVIA — On July 30, seven budding composers will premiere their new music during the Young Composers Corner (YCC) Concert at Cazenovia’s Lakeland Park pavilion at 4:30 p.m.
Now in its 15th year, the YCC is a free, five-day music composition workshop for middle and high school students from across Central New York.
The mentoring program is a cornerstone of the Cazenovia Counterpoint festival of the expressive arts, an annual monthlong celebration of artists in all disciplines.
During the YCC, students interested in or currently writing music get the chance to work with a professional composer to develop and refine their writing skills, to think and talk critically about music, and to develop a new piece of music in any style for the instruments available to them.
The program is led by Paul Leary, an associate professor and chair of the music department at SUNY Oswego, where he teaches electronic music, theory, composition, music business, and popular music.
This year’s YCC participants are Finn Carruthers-Coles, Alex McGlauglin, Nathan Schierer, Grant Gilham, Clark Durant, Che Richmond, and Jack Picciano.
The workshop ran from July 17-21 at the First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia.
“We spend part of each day listening and talking about music,” Leary said on July 19. “I pick a piece that we listen to, then we discuss it. There’s often an element of music theory as well. They also have at least one hour a day for just breaking off into their own space to compose.”
According to Leary, the students wrote their compositions for saxophone, violin, cello, piano, clarinet, soprano voice, or a combination of those instruments.
Schierer, a rising junior at Cazenovia High School, participated in the YCC for the third time this year.
“I decided to participate in the program again this year because I feel like it’s a fun way for me to be creative in a way that I enjoy,” he said. “Plus, as I found the program enjoyable the past two years, why not do it again?”
Last summer, he composed a piece for violin, cello, and piano titled “<Reminder to make a good title later>.”
“The piece I am composing this year doesn’t have a title yet, seeing as it’s still named ‘ycctest2’ in MuseScore,” Schierer said. “Although, when compared to my first year where the title was effectively a keysmash with no significance, it may end up staying that way. It’s being written for two cellos, and its inspiration comes from all the music I have listened to before. As a composer, I try to recreate the sounds I’ve heard from other composers that I enjoy, and each year I get closer to being able to create a sound I enjoy.”
All the completed works will be performed by professional musicians, the Society Players, during the July 30 concert, and the students will have the opportunity to speak about the music they created.
“It’s very rewarding to work with such motivated and talented students,” said Leary. “Each student is doing excellent work and is pretty self-motivated. It’s been a joy to work with these kids, as always.”
The YCC Concert is presented in collaboration with the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce and is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs for seating.
In addition to the YCC, Cazenovia Counterpoint includes a juried art show, solo and group musical performances, a plein air art event, a poetry round-robin and writers’ corner, new music at the Cazenovia Farmers’ Market, performances at the Fourth of July parade, the premiere of a Cazenovia native’s new film about a rock star, and a meditative music session.
“We just had our first sound bath last night and had a really good turn-out for it,” said Cazenovia Counterpoint Committee member Neva Pilgrim. “. . . This festival does indeed help bring people into Cazenovia, and all those performing are paid.”
Another highlight of Cazenovia Counterpoint has been vocal, piano, organ, violin, trombone, and alto saxophone performances by “Rising Stars,” prize-winning high school students from across CNY.
The Rising Stars are Dominic Fiacco, Elijah Gebers, Heather Buchanan-Wise, Sean Alvaro, Frank Wang, Paul DiFolco, Eric Lee, and Michael Guarneiri.
According to Pilgrim, each performance featured a premiere of a new work by a young composer who wrote the piece in collaboration with the musician. The performances were taped and aired on FRESH INK on WCNY-FM.
One of the featured composers is Jason Cavanagh, who participated in the YCC in 2020 after graduating from Fayetteville-Manlius High School.
“[I] gained a lot of really valuable knowledge about writing for chamber music,” Cavanagh said of his YCC experience. “Paul was a great teacher and was really helpful all throughout the creative process of conceptualizing and writing a piece of music.”
This summer, Cavanagh is interning with the Society for New Music, which is the presenter of Cazenovia Counterpoint, and he is preparing to enter his senior year at Boston University, where he is majoring in composition and saxophone.
“Working with Neva and the Society for New Music has been amazing,” he said. “I have gotten to learn so much about the ins and outs of how this Cazenovia Counterpoint festival is run, and I have been presented with so many cool opportunities to perform and compose. It really has been a joy.”
One of the things he agreed to do this summer was to compose a piece for Rising Star Frank Wang to perform during the festival.
“Frank plays the saxophone, and the piece was written for solo alto saxophone and piano accompaniment,” Cavanagh said. “The first movement, entitled ‘Turmoil’ is a very fast and turbulent section with lots of fast passages in both the piano and saxophone parts. The second movement, entitled ‘Easement’ is much more calm and relaxed, making use of both the whole-tone and pentatonic scales. Overall, it is about six to seven minutes in length.”
On July 19, Cavanagh stopped by the First Presbyterian Church to assist this year’s YCC participants.
“[The YCC] was a program that I gained a lot from in 2020, and I was happy to come back this summer and offer my services as a musician that the students could write for,” Cavanagh said. “I am very excited to hear their music.”
Schedule of events
Cazenovia Counterpoint runs through the end of July.
The Invitational Regional Art Exhibit will be on display at various locations throughout the village through Friday, July 28. According to the festival program, the featured artists are Peter Allen, Sherry Spann Allen, Linda Bigness, Ellen Blalock, Wayne Daniels, John Fitzsimmons, Dona Flaherty, Faithanne Flesher, Bobbie Flintrop, Shawn Gilmore, Robert Glisson, Dave Hickcock, Judith Haynes Levins, Rick Marchant, Kim Pudney, Kristen Reagan, Penny Santy, Dan Shanahan, Eric Shute, Pam Steele, Lucie Wellner, Carolynne Whitefeather, and Julius Williams.
On July 28 at 7:30 p.m., St. James Church, 6 Green St., will host a multi-media performance titled “CREATION, A CELEBRATION.” Dedicated to the memory of Sam Pellman, Barbara and Ed Hitchcock, David Stam, and Diana Brownlie, the event will feature poetry, music, videos, and dance. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors/students, and free for 18 and under. For more information, visit societyfornewmusic.org/concerts.cfm.
On July 29, Ingrid Slocum, a pianist who lives in Cazenovia, will play new music at the Cazenovia Farmers’ Market from 10 a.m. to noon. Slocum is a rising high school senior schooled at home through Memoria Academy, which teaches students through classical education. She takes piano lessons with Marlene Billhardt and mandolin lessons with Joe Davoli. She enjoys playing classical pieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Haydn, and Strauss, as well as songs from the 1940s. After high school, Slocum plans to continue her education at a liberal arts college.
Cazenovia Counterpoint is an initiative of the Society for New Music, a Syracuse-based organization that commissions, performs, and records works by regional composers; catalyzes artistic connections across CNY; and expands the audience for new music. Learn more at societyfornewmusic.org.