For the longest time I’ve wanted to start a Contemporary Music Ensemble and that dream has come to fruition. While working on a number of occasions with a local composer, Rachel Short (a recent graduate of IUS), we’ve pulled together some resources and folks (as haphazardly as that might have happened) and concocted the Mothership Ensemble (the name which, as she said, “chose itself”).
I’ve talked with a number of local composers and musicians when i moved back to the Louisville Metro area about the idea of starting a New Music group, and ideas flew back and forth, but nothing really solidified. Over the past year or so I’ve been Rachel’s works for various events and as well as her senior recital. One piece of hers, Wormhole: Caesura (for voice and string trio), we’ve performed a number of times with pretty much the same line-up (with me on voice/cello).
For some time ASTA (American String Teacher’s Association) has been focusing on training string music teachers to develop Alternative String programs. Last year I had decided that I need to formally join the organization (which I haven’t done yet but still intend on doing) so that I can be better informed about the programs, literature and techniques being created by those involved in the organization.
ASTA apparently has an “Alternative Styles Award competition” which I learned about after reading Rory Williams “Report from an ASTA Roundtable: ASTA roundtable finds alternative-styles education moving a step ahead—slowly” in the Strings magazine from the conference in Georgia in 2009. Here’s what sparked my interest in the organization:
Vighnesh Viswanathan, 14, milled about the exhibit hall with his father and sister at the 2009 American String Teachers Association National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. What set him apart from the several hundred teachers, dealers, and performers that visited that day in mid-March was not just his age, but his name badge, which proudly proclaimed “winner.”
“It’s for the Alternative Styles Awards competition,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.
One of 12 string players chosen out of 35 applicants, Viswanathan, of Westford, Massachusetts, won the Junior Division of the “Recognition of Established Traditions” category. His specialty: Carnatic (Indian) violin.
“He studies classical music, too,” his father says.
Viswanathan is part of a growing number of bilingual string players—those who can play both classical and alternative styles—who are seeking a well-rounded education. But nearly a decade after ASTA first embraced alternative styles as a viable pedagogy, the question remains whether teachers and institutions—from the elementary to the graduate level—can accommodate these students.