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IRVINE, CA - After a competitive selection process, Choral Arts Initiative is pleased to announce the seven selected Composition Fellows as part of the PREMIERE|Project Festival. These seven composers from across the country will join Choral Arts Initiative for a 3-day intensive festival experience on June 13-15, 2018. Housed in a beachside villa, the Composition Fellows receive a commission scholarship for their new work, discuss the business side of living as a composer, learn with renowned composition faculty, have the work premiered, and receive a distribution deal with a music retailer. Please join us in congratulating these fabulous Composition Fellows! Learn about them below (listed in randomized order):
Kyle Pederson | St. Paul, MN
Emerging talent Kyle Pederson is equally at home as a pianist, arranger, and composer.
After careers in teaching and business, Kyle dove headlong into his life-long passion for choral music in 2014. He has received awards from such choral ensembles as Cerddorion (NY), Little Singers of Armenia, Elysian Singers (London), and the International Lutheran Youth Choir.
Commissions and premieres have included the TAISM international high school choral festival, AMIS international middle school honor choir, MN-ACDA convention, and a variety of high school, university, and church choirs. In addition to choral works, Kyle has released two critically acclaimed albums of instrumental hymn arrangements--Renewal and 12.25.
Kyle earned a BA from Augustana University (SD), MA in Education from University of St Thomas (MN), and recently earned his MFA in music composition from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In additional to a variety of freelance projects, Kyle works part time in the music ministry at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN, where he composes and arranges music for a variety of services.
Most of Kyle’s choral scores can be found on his website at KylePederson.com, with select pieces to be released shortly by Walton and Santa Barbara publishers.
Deanna Witkowski | New York, NY
Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition and a past guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, New York City based pianist, composer and arranger Deanna Witkowski has been heralded for her “consistently thrilling” playing and her “boundless imagination” (All Music Guide). Her 2017 trio album, Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns, features twelve of her congregational jazz hymn arrangements along with a companion sheet music book. Her earlier releases include Raindrop: Improvisations with Chopin, a solo piano session that combines jazz, classical, and Brazilian music; three jazz quartet recordings; and the liturgical jazz release, From This Place.
Witkowski’s body of work includes eighty sacred music originals and arrangements, including two jazz Masses. In 2017 her SATB hymn, “We Walk in Love,” was selected for inclusion in the inaugural Justice Choir songbook. Also in 2017, Witkowski won the ChoralArt New England Carol Contest; the Colorado Chorale commissioning contest; and the annual hymn search sponsored by the Hymn Society of the US and Canada. In 2016, she won the Illinois-ACDA Choral Composition Contest and the Lutheran Arts-sponsored Martin Luther Hymn Prize. In 2015, Witkowski was one of five composers selected for the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio, where she collaborated with five playwrights to compose five music theater pieces in a two week period.
As a 2018 Sacatar Institute Fellow, Witkowski is currently in Bahia, Brazil as part of an eight week residency doing research for her new project, the Nossa Senhora Suite. NSS will merge Afro-Brazilian expressions of the Virgin Mary and jazz in a new compositionfor Witkowski’s jazz quartet, percussion, and four vocalists, and is a New York Foundation for the Arts fiscally sponsored project.Learn more at deannajazz.com.
Matthew Swartz | Pomona, CA
Connecticut-born composer and pianist Matthew Swartz has lived in Los Angeles County since 2010. He holds degrees from Claremont Graduate University (D.M.A. and M.A., Music Composition) and the University of Connecticut (B.M., Piano Performance). During his musical studies, Swartz has had the privilege of receiving mentorship from prominent American composers Peter Boyer and Kenneth Fuchs as well as pianist Neal Larrabee. Beginning to find his own voice as a composer, Swartz received his first international premiere in 2016 with his award-winning choral piece Zueignung (available through Pavane Publishing in Summer 2018). Currently a full-time freelancer, Swartz is in demand as a versatile pianist, organist, music copyist, editor, and educator. His collaborative work yields frequent appearances as an accompanist for choral ensembles and vocal soloists, and he has sung with the Pomona College Choir since 2012.
Swartz has a passion for music technology and enjoys exploring electronic elements in modern film and game scoring. He spends his spare time in Logic Pro, tinkering with virtual instruments and creating cinematic cues. More information is available at www.MatthewSwartz.com.
Rachel Whelan | Denver, CO
Composer Rachel Whelan has been breaking rules and demanding attention with her varied composition styles. Her music has been performed by Omaha Symphony members, Orlando Cela, flusSion, SBO Wind Ensemble, KC Vitas Choir, and she has opened for Susan Werner at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska. Whelan demonstrates her versatile compositional abilities, ranging with songwriting, film music, chamber works, and her primary interest, music for wind band. Her film compositions have primarily been direct collaborations with Nicholas Snell and students at the University of Arizona. She has also collaborated with film students at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and was Head Production Assistant for the UNL Feature Film “DIGS” (2013).
In 2016, she received her MMus in Music Composition from the University of South Carolina, studying composition and running the New Voices student composer concerts and the Southern Exposure New Music Series (under the direction of Michael Harley of Alarm Will Sound). Her dedication to the performance of music by living composers is further evident in her work with Treefalls: New Music Series (501c3) in Spartanburg, SC, where she is assistant director. A typical optimist, she's frequently inspired by the upsides of life: nature reserves, beaches, exceptional food, and talented, spirited friends. When not composing, she can be found in these activities. Her teachers in composition include Mandy Fang, John Fitz Rogers, Jesse Jones, and Paul Snell. Her primary flute teachers have been Carolyn Cline Corbett and Laura Schulkind.
Jamie Kunselman | Bloomington, IN
Jamie Kunselman has a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Percussion and a Bachelor of Music Education from Baldwin Wallace University. He is currently attending Indiana University for his MM in Composition and has studied with Sven-David Sandström, Claude Baker, and Don Freund.
He has written both instrumental and vocal works that have been performed on New Music Concerts, at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Baldwin Wallace University, Indiana University, and Cleveland State University by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.
He has performing experience in wind ensembles, orchestra, percussion ensembles, marching band, new music chamber groups, student recitals, pit orchestras, jazz ensembles, IU’s NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and has performed in Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as well as the Kennedy Center in DC. Jamie co-founded the Defiance Duo, a soprano and marimba ensemble, with Kia Frank. The duo works to expand the repertoire for soprano/marimba and encourages young musicians to create their own career path. For more information, check out defianceduo.com.
In addition to composing, he recently coauthored a novel with Philip Brown and enjoys rock climbing, chess, puzzles, and lemonade.
Christian Guebert | Orange, CA
Christian Guebert is a composer and music educator from Orange, California. His works include published and award-winning pieces for instrumental and choral ensembles. Christian’s music aims for immediacy, idiomatic performing style, and sonic variance and depth. He holds an MM degree (Cal State University, Fullerton, 2013, composition) and a Parish Music Certification (2015) and BA (2010) from Concordia University, Irvine, CA; he is now a PhD student in composition at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music where he is a teaching associate for advanced musicianship and theory courses. He has taught university classes and lessons in theory, composition, ear training, singing, piano, counterpoint, orchestration, percussion, handbells, conducting, and technology.
Aside from current doctoral work, he also serves as music director at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Orange and adjunct professor at Concordia University Irvine (where he was Composer-in-Residence, fall 2013-fall 2014). Other recent appointments include Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar faculty 2016 (and slated for 2018) and director/clinician of massed handbell choirs and adjudicator at Young Ringers Festival (Irvine, CA, 2016-2018). Recent publications include a handbell piece (Glad Adoration, Lorenz) and an orchestration of a choral work (Peter Anglea’s Silent Night,Beckenhorst). Recent projects include a choral song cycle of Walt Whitman sea poetry (Voyaging, 2018), which incorporates “The Untold Want,” the prizewinning piece of the 2016 Pacific Chorale Young Composers Competition, performed in April 2017 by the John Alexander Singers; harp and handbells form the instrumental scape of this expansive choral work.
Jordan Kuspa | Del Mar, CA
Jordan Kuspa’s music has been praised in the New York Times as “animated and melodically opulent” and “consistently alive and inspired.” Explorative and eclectic, Kuspa’s music encompasses intricate motivic developments, carefully-wrought formal structures, and unexpected detours of wit and whimsy. His compositions have been performed by ensembles such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Yale Camerata, 21st Century Consort, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble SurPlus, loadbang, Quartetto Indaco, Quartet Metadata, and Sandbox Percussion, in venues such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Kimmel Center, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Oper Leipzig. Kuspa has been a composition fellow at programs including the Aspen Music Festival, Atlantic Center for the Arts, June in Buffalo, and MusicX, while his music has won honors from ASCAP, the American Composers Orchestra, the Foundation for Modern Music, the Lake George Music Festival, the League of Composers, and the National Association of Composers–USA.
Kuspa was co-founder and Artistic Director of the Sonus Chamber Music Society, an organization that presented an interactive concert series in the Houston museum district. He continued his community engagement work in schools across Connecticut, with programs that included musical collaborations with students in writing, drama, and filmmaking. Kuspa has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, for which he composed a 45-minute ballet score based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” From 2012-2017 he served on the faculty of Richland College in Dallas, where he taught composition, music theory, cello, and directed the Richland String Orchestra. He currently teaches at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA. Kuspa earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Yale School of Music and also studied at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. You can find more about Kuspa’s music at jordankuspa.net.
Lorraine Joy Welling