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Composer event brings spotlight to River Falls

April 6, 2012

The 46th annual Commissioned Composer Project provides students with the opportunity to work with an award winning and nationally recognized composer performing an original piece of music for the student body.

Started in 1967 by Professor Emeritus Conrad De Jong, the Commissioned Composer Project is the longest standing commission composer series in the United States. Placing a national spotlight on UW-River Falls Music Department, the project is the oldest program of its kind to be organized at the university level.

This year’s project will host composer Cort Lippe, who was selected to write a piece of music for the student body, and over the course of three days will interact with the students and take part in the premiere performance of the composed piece.

“This is a student run organization and the students are the ones who make all the decisions each year on the composer,” music professor Patti Cudd said.

The Student Senate and the Allocable Fees Appropriations Board (AFAB) committee provide an allotted amount of money that gives funding to the Commissioned Composer Project. At approximately $2 per student, this funding was almost taken away from the program two years ago, according to Danny Lebowitz, the presidentelect of the project.

“Two years ago, my freshman year, the Commissioned Composer project had a very difficult time even attaining money from the AFAB committee,” Lebowitz wrote in an email. “Many students from all different majors came together to attend meeting after meeting to find some way to fund the program to see the premiere of Zululand, composed by American composer Michael Colgrass.”

Any student can take part in the composer selection process, a voting process is held to decide on the selection committee that comprises of five student members and three student officers that will decide the composer for the following year, according to Lebowitz.

The criteria used in the composer selection process is based on the educational value of the composer’s music, the innovative and unique compositional style that reflects contemporary music, the versatility and prolific nature of the composure, and the feasibility of potentially contacting the composer for the program.

“An open meeting is held for faculty, staff, and students to share names of composers. After the presentations there is a vote by only the committee members. The first choice is then contacted by our faculty advisor Patti Cudd,” Lebowitz wrote in an email.

Throughout the years students have been given the opportunity to work with a wide range of famous composers such as John Cage, Morton Feldman, Libby Larson, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Colgrass, according to Dave Herdan, a senior studying music education.

“The Commission Composer Project is a much bigger deal that our campus thinks it is. It brings worldclass composers to UW-River Falls and puts our name on a piece of their music. The chance to work with and see artists of this magnitude is a once in a lifetime opportunity that most other college and university students do not get,” Herdan said.