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What would you give back in a minute?

The Banff Centre recently started curating Kickstarter crowd funding campaigns of alumni and artists of the Centre. Aaron Rosenberg, a composer from Massachusetts, managed to fundraise $3,579 to fund a 70-day stint here for the Banff Musicians in Residence program, during which time he aims to compose ‘Ascent’, a trio for piano, cello and violin. To meet his Kickstarter fundraising goal, Rosenberg offered a special incentive to prospective donors. I spoke to him about the fundraising process.

Aaron Rosenberg in the midst of composing a trio for piano, cello and violin

Aaron Rosenberg in the midst of composing a trio for piano, cello and violin. Photo: Meghan Krauss

“What’s unique about my project is the rewards that I’m offering people. I’m writing short piano character pieces, about 1-2 minutes long, in homage to those who donated $50 or more to my campaign,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from the 19th century classical composers, primarily Chopin and his prelude pieces, Rosenberg will embark on creating 11 romantic short piano pieces once his residency here is finished. “I think it will be really fun, especially writing pieces for the people I know.”

For some people the compositions will be a minute-long piece, for others it will be two minutes. “I feel like it’s really something I can give back to them but it’s also something of an incentive for my next project when I’m finished here, which is to write a collection of piano character pieces. It would be an opus of mine, to write a collection of piano pieces based on certain people or their ideas.”

“The compositions are really portraits of the people who are giving me money. If I don’t know the people then they get to decide what I write about, the subject matter.”

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Greg Samek: Practice makes percussion

Samek

Percussionist Greg Samek, teaching a master class. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

Recently I sat in on a master class taught by percussionist Greg Samek to a group of Grade 8 and 9 students from Edmonton. After the class, I talked with him about two of his passions — music and education. “It’s a wonderful road you’re all going down,” Samek said to the students after he played for them for a minute on a drum set and vibraphone. He was referring to their decision to play music. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

Samek, who now holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music, began his career as a self-taught drummer at the age of 17. He currently plays in the percussion group Scrap Arts Music and works on solo projects that have brought him to The Banff Centre many times over the past five years. “It pretty much was love at first sight — I knew that I needed to come back to be in the mountains to practice,” he told me.

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“The deep roots of all music…must come directly from the earth”

Catherine Thompson with her self-made instrument. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

Catherine Thompson with her self-made instrument. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

Catherine Thompson – folk instrument builder, multi-instrumentalist, and a current music resident at The Banff Centre is something like wild fruit; tarter, rarer and more unruly than its mass-produced counterpart.

Throughout our meeting last week from inside her rustically decorated music hut, she moved between intoning sweet melodies and radical pronouncements: “My work revolves around the idea that the deep roots of all music and language must come directly from the earth.” Before picking back up her melody, she added, “and that modern industrial civilization has a death wish and will devour everything it touches, including itself!”

If you haven’t caught Thompson performing rollicking folk tunes at the Rolston concerts in-between sittings of Beethoven and Brahms, you might have spotted her serenading tourists around Banff on a self-made traditional African- or Asian-inspired instrument. She’s raising cash for her upcoming five-month journey by horse throughout Southern Alberta. Thompson says that her travels (this is her third trip of this kind) are also sustained by the “respect, hospitality, and tolerance” of the farmers and ranchers she meets along the way; strangers who routinely let this wild fruit plant herself overnight on their land.

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RocKeys duo premieres synergistic keyboard music in the Rockies

Pianist Luciane Cardassi (left) and harpsichordist Katelyn Clark have been experimenting with arrangements with their respective keyboard instruments in residencies at The Banff Centre. Photo: Kim Williams, The Banff Centre

Pianist Luciane Cardassi (left) and harpsichordist Katelyn Clark have been experimenting with arrangements for their respective instruments in residencies at The Banff Centre. Photo: Kim Williams, The Banff Centre

Luciane Cardassi, pianist, and Katelyn Clark, harpsichordist, share the concert performer’s devotion to mastering the traditional techniques of their instruments, as they do the artist’s curiosity about the novel directions that might be tread with their instrument.  RocKeys, the duo which they together comprise, concentrates on performing new works that pair their respective keyboards in experimental and synergistic arrangements.

“Luciane and I are both very curious about our instruments and what possibilities there are for the two to exist simultaneously within musical works,” says Clark. “[RocKeys] allows us to explore the strengths and limitations of the piano and harpsichord.” Continue Reading →

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Arts residency inspires “radiantly innocent hope” for Anna Pidgorna

Composer and media artist Anna Pidgorna was at The Banff Centre recently in a residency supported by the Canadian Federation of University Women’s Alberta chapter. Photo by Gavin Schaefer

Composer and media artist Anna Pidgorna was at The Banff Centre recently in a residency supported by the Canadian Federation of University Women’s Alberta chapter. Photo by Gavin Schaefer

I just returned to Vancouver from a three-week creative residency at The Banff Centre. The 15-hour bus ride through Beautiful British Columbia gave me some time to take stock of the last 18 months of my life. Since August 2011, I have moved between Canada’s coasts three times, officially held three addresses plus four transient ones, attended two composition workshops, gave three public talks, and wrote 39 minutes of music in addition to completing a 36-minute chamber opera. My three months’ stay in Ukraine last fall, though offering some incredible opportunities to hear authentic performances of folk music, was a psychological nightmare from which I came back feeling broken and depressed.

In that mind state, the Banff Centre, despite everything it has to offer, seemed like yet another place to travel to, yet another place to have to work very hard at. I was still trying to finish my chamber opera. I was terribly behind on a piece I was supposed to be workshopping with the Thin Edge New Music Collective and was absolutely dreading having to face them. I was too worn out to enjoy the prospect of yet another three weeks away from home.

But I went. And it ended up being exactly what I needed. Continue Reading →

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Musicians inspired by summer residencies

What’s it like to spend uninterrupted, focused time in a summer music residency at The Banff Centre? We followed violinist Ben Odhner of Philadelphia, PA, and harpist Kristan Toczko, from Moncton, NB for a few weeks this summer to find out where they found their inspiration.

 Video shot and edited by David Copithorne

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