13 years ago, Alex Shapiro was the guest composer for Capital University’s 23rd Annual NOW Festival. This year, she returned to the Conservatory to grace the university with more of her work and expertise. She remarked that, then and now, Capital has great vibes, which were on display this past week at the 36th NOW Festival.
The festival began last Thursday night with improvisations from Julie Licata on percussion and Stan Smith on guitar. The following night in Mees Recital Hall, Shapiro gave a keynote address to the audience who came to listen to students and faculty perform compositions written by her.
In her address, Shapiro spoke about the privileges of being a composer. She said that she has the power to control emotions, a power that she does not take for granted.
Within her music, especially post-pandemic, Shapiro wants to emphasize embracing one another and the shared experiences we have because of music.
She said, “We embrace in beautiful ways … you, each one of you, as creators or interpreters of music, if you are playing or conducting, everybody has an equal opportunity now, to decide what kind of music moves you and how you want to express yourself.”
The performances that followed brought to life the words of Shapiro, making them into tangible art that resonated with the listeners.
Friday morning, though not listed on the schedule, was a recital of works composed by students of the Conservatory, entitled “Students of the Craft.” To the untrained ear, it may have been hard to know that the students’ music was not a master’s work.
There were some arrangements that were surprising. For example, seeing a tuba, a guitar and a snare drum setup on stage is not what one would expect to create a harmonic piece.
However, the composition of “A Falling Maple Leaf” intricately worked the three instruments together to defy expectations.
Aside from the talent displayed, the recital was also a demonstration of the relationships built between artists. The composers typically stood up after the musicians finished performing their piece to be acknowledged. The audience of their peers and colleagues greeted them with applause and gratitude.
Friday night, there was another highly anticipated event, “the Whispering Gallery,” which was “an original suite of music for big band, chamber ensembles, and spoken word.”
Professor Zakk Jones was inspired by the poetry of his late great-grandfather, Rex Sebastian, and the concept of whispering galleries.
Whispering galleries have auditory effects, such that a sound whispered on one side of a domed circular room can be heard along the walls in the entire room. Jones believes that there is a reciprocal relationship between him and his great-grandfather where Sebastian whispers poetry through time and Jones plays music back.
The final concert of the 2023 NOW Festival was a performance by the Wind Symphony & Symphonic Winds featuring compositions by Shapiro.
The entire week showcased the power of music and was a beautiful presentation of the talented individuals who use the Conservatory to gift the community with “earfuls of loveliness,” as Tony Zilincik, associate professor of music, put it.
The 2023 NOW Festival has the intention of celebrating the latest contemporary and progressive music. It aims to educate and expose residents of Central Ohio to a diverse range of composers and their styles of expression.
This year was no different, if not exceeding expectations and impacting the community with a conviction only art, sound and music have the ability to do.