Matthew Evan Taylor: Bringing new voices into the century

MIDDLEBURY — How often do you think about the composer when you’re listening to classical music? Be honest…. For most of us, it’s not much at all, right? And that’s OK.
“There’s something really nice about experiencing classical music; letting it wash over you,” said Matthew Evan Taylor, an assistant professor in the Music Department at Middlebury College. “But for some reason, nobody is perturbed that the fourth concert you go to is all white men.”
Consider it: Mozart — white and male. Haydn — yup, a white dude. Brahms — you guessed it, another white guy. Etcetera, etcetera. Sure the performing musicians might be of a different race or gender, but the point is that we’re assimilating our diverse musical cultures to one created just by white men.
What about the work of women and people of color who created and continue to compose music?
Taylor, a 38-year-old black composer, musician and educator, is doing his part to help with a music series at the Mahaney Arts Center (MAC) that kicked off in January called New Century | New Voices (NCNV).
“When I arrived at Middlebury College in August of 2017, I was struck by how urgently people were discussing issues of inclusion and diversity, in part triggered by the Charles Murray controversy and the events that same summer in Charlottesville, Va.,” the Alabama native explained. “In some ways they mirrored discussions that had been becoming ever more intense in classical music circles.
“NCNV is my attempt to contribute to this larger discussion of inclusion by showing the growing diversity among classical composers working today. It is my hope, in the future, to also highlight the work of composers from bygone centuries who were marginalized by their race or gender.”
This music series honors the work of classical composers who are women and/or people of color. To start, Taylor first picked three people he wanted to work with: Carlos Simon, Marcos Balter and Gabriela Lena Frank. Then together they curated the series.
The first concert in January, “The Mentors Among Us,” was curated by Taylor, featuring songs composed by Gabriela Lena Frank, Trevor Weston, Valerie Coleman-Page and Dorothy Hindman (who Taylor called his “most important composition teacher,”) as well as two of Taylor’s own pieces.
Later in January, Redi Llupa performed the piano sonatas of George Walker. Walker, who recently passed away at the age of 92, was the first black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music Composition for his piece “Lilacs” for voice and orchestra.
Coming up on Feb. 15, TURNmusic — a contemporary chamber music group based in Waterbury — will perform “Young Lions” curated by Carlos Simon, at MAC.
“‘Young Lions’ has a young, hip aesthetic,” Taylor described. “There are allusions to jazz and hip hop… it’s going to be a really dynamic concert.”
The series continues with performances by Gary Levinson and Asiya Korepanova on Feb. 18, a masterclass with Gary Levinson at Middlebury Community Music Center on Feb. 19, “Music Without Boarders” curated by Marcos Balter and performed by TURNmusic on April 7, and concluding with “American Mestiza” curated by Gabriela Lena Frank, performed by TURNmusic on May 12.
“The music you will hear during the concerts of New Century | New Voices is categorized as ‘classical,’” explained Taylor, who received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music composition from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, Fla. “That essentially means that the composers in question write music that is in part related to the classical tradition. However, music in this series will not sound like Mozart, Haydn, or Brahms. The composers featured in this series are, for the most part, active in our modern world and thus write music informed by that world. There will be music that will be easy to grasp and there will be music that will sometimes ask the listener to be patient. What these pieces have in common are that they are earnest expressions of artists living and creating today.”
And Taylor is one of them.
“I started playing the alto saxophone in 1990 when I was 9 going on 10 years old,” said Taylor, who grew up mostly listening to Michael Jackson. “By age 14, I started playing in small jazz groups around Birmingham, even writing a few small songs in high school (thankfully lost to time).”
Taylor remembers as a kid, they would get dressed up and go to the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. But it wasn’t until college that Taylor really found classical music.
“These days, I am most well-known as a classical composer and a free improviser on saxophone,” said Taylor who now lives in downtown Middlebury. “In addition to the alto saxophone, I play soprano saxophone, flute and piano.”
Not to mention his work trying to change the fabric of classical culture. A pretty big goal.
“I want the perception of what we call classical music to be as diverse as it actually is,” Taylor said. “That the face of classical composers is not one skin color or one gender… I’m hoping to make just one cut into this fabric of our culture.”
Want to join him? Check out the NCNV series events. And click here to listen to Taylor improvising on the piano during the interview:
February 10, 2019 at 4:00pm
Young Lions – open rehearsal
Performed by TURNmusic under the direction of Anne Decker
Axel’s Gallery and Frame Shop
Waterbury, VT
Free Admission
Come join Anne Decker and TURNmusic as they fine tune music featured in Young Lions, a concert curated by composer Carlos Simon.
February 15, 2019 at 8:00PM, doors open at 7:30
Young Lions
Curated by Carlos Simon
Performed by TURNmusic under the direction of Anne Decker
Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
Free Admission
Carlos Simon presents a program of young women and people and composers of color who are writing some of the most dynamic and meaningful music of today.
February 18, 2019 at 8:00PM, doors open at 7:30
Gary Levinson and Asiya Korepanova in Concert
Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
Free Admission
Gary Levinson, concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, and Asiya Korepanova present a program of new and old: masterpieces by Richard Strauss and Sergei Prokofiev and new gems by Dr. Korepanova, Matthew Evan Taylor and more. They will be joined by Eugene Levinson, double bass, and Matthew Evan Taylor, alto and soprano saxophones.
February 19, 2019 at 3:00PM
Gary Levinson Masterclass
Middlebury Community Music Center
Middlebury, VT
Gary Levinson coaches aspiring string players in the best ways to practice and how to perform more musically. All are welcome.
April 7, 2019 at 8:00PM, doors open at 7:30
Music Without Borders
Curated by Marcos Balter
Performed by TURNmusic under the direction of Anne Decker
Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
Free Admission
Come hear music from across the Western Hemisphere.
May 12, 2019 at 8:00, doors open at 7:30
American Mestiza – The Music of Gabriela Lena Frank
Curated by Gabriela Lena Frank
Performed by TURNmusic under the direction of Anne Decker
Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
Free Admission
TURNmusic performs the music of one of the most prominent and unique voices in American classical music.

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: