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Composers gather to make music at the lake

SALISBURY — Contemporary music has always gotten a bad rap. Its discordant, atonal tones have often consigned contemporary music to the fringe. Today, New Music — the term for contemporary classical music composed in the 21st century — is a genre whose popularity and rapid growth are bringing it back from the fringe. Contrary to its perceived difficulty, this is music that you can identify, remember and enjoy.
And this is what New Music On The Point celebrates. Not only is it celebrating its fifth-year anniversary in June 2015, but it is also celebrating college-aged composers writing some beautiful, interesting and whimsical music.
While often rooted in traditional composition theory and the history of music, these college-aged composers attempt something new. Echoes of Mozart and Beethoven and other heavy-hitters of classical music certainly pepper these new works, but NMOP’s students celebrate the 21st century in unique ways. Their music balances the beauty and energy and uncertainty of the contemporary moment.
In 2010, Jenny Beck, executive director of New Music On The Point, became aware of the New Music concerts at the Yale School of Music in New Haven. Having recently become director of Point CounterPoint, the chamber music camp started in 1963 by Edwin and Helen Finckel, the parents of world renowned cellist, David Finckel, Beck was eager to hear the sounds of New Music in the 21st century.
Intrigued, Beck heard contemporary music that provoked thought, and sounded beautiful. Convinced that New Music should be heard, she recruited Kathryn Alexander, professor of music of Yale University, to co-found a two-week summer festival devoted to college-aged composers.
In June 2011 New Music On The Point entered the music world. To perform the young composers’ pieces, the program hired Chicago’s 5thHouse Ensemble. New York City’s JACK Quartet has now been the ensemble-in-residence for four years with wind members of the American Modern Ensemble. A longtime enthusiast of vocal music, Beck pushed to include singers in thecomposition program.
New Music On The Point (now better known as its acronym NMOP) has become one of the top summer contemporary programs in the country with a coveted selection rate. Unlike other programs on university campus settings, NMOP is located lakeside in beautiful central Vermont with bunk-like housing, garden sheds used for practice, and the best food of any festival. Vermonter and local forager Chef Steve Lanphere even offers cooking classes forparticipants.
Contemporary music college professors, whose work makes up the current concert repertoire, serve as faculty. Master Artist classes by established as well as up-and-coming composers sprinkle the program. Nightlyconcerts occur on-campus with two final performances held at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
Participants thrive due to the accessibility of faculty, swimming and eating beside them during downtime, and networking with contemporary music colleagues for future endeavors.
As one performer from 2010 and 2011 says, “It all started for me at NMOP. The legitimization it gave me in pursuing unconventional music, the support of the JACK Quartet, and their inspiration encouraged me to keep performing New Music. NMOP will always be in my heart.”
Amy Williams, composer, pianist, and professor of composition at the University of Pittsburgh, joins Beck this year as the new artistic director.
For more information, visit www.newmusiconthepoint.com.

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