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Autumn 2021 Faculty Notes

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on November 1, 2021 - 2:20pm
Faculty composer Joël-François Durand. Photo: Steve Korn.
Faculty composer Joël-François Durand. Photo: Steve Korn.

Honors, accolades, research highlights and other news from the School of Music faculty.

Patricia Shehan Campbell, Music Education, Ethnomusicology

The Music Education chair continues her studies into the recordings of Alan Lomax in a new project she has been conducting with Music Ed graduate student Clayton Dahm. Working with the recordings of Alan Lomax that are available on his Global Jukebox of recordings from across the world’s musical cultures, the new project is a program of music culture studies developed especially for school-age students and drawn from the Lomax collection. The program was introduced recently in Campbell’s and Dahm’s co-written article published in October 2021 volume of the National Association of Music Educators’ Music Educators Journal: “Star Songs and Constellations: Lessons from the Global Jukebox.” In other activities, Professor Campbell was keynote speaker for the International Orff-Schulwerk Forum 2021, hosted by the Orff Institut in Salzburg, Austria, and was invited to serve on the review board of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for 2021-23. She  was named inaugural chair of the Education Committee for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and is a continuing member of the board of the Association for Cultural Equity that works with the repatriation of the recordings of Alan Lomax to the families of musicians from his 1959 “southern journey.”  The Society for Ethnomusicology presented her with an Honorary Membership at the Society’s Oct. 30 virtual meeting in recognition of her ongoing contributions to the field of Ethnomusicology. Read more about this honor here.

Joël-François Durand, Composition

His piece Geister, schwebende Geister, for viola and ensemble (written for faculty violist Melia Watras in 2020) won First Prize at the European Composer Competition organized by the Franz Schubert Konservatorium, Vienna, Austria, in the Category Chamber Music (7 to 12 players).

Second prize in the competition went to Durand’s former graduate student Jeffrey Bowen.

Robin McCabe, Piano

Faculty pianist Robin McCabe served on the jury, on line, of the Vancouver International Piano Competition this past  September. In October she performed a recital for Seattle’s Skyline Community, dedicating a new Steinway acquired by the residency.

Michael Partington, Guitar

After a summer of livestream performances, Michael Partington made a welcome return to in-person concertizing in Eastern and Southern Washington in October, with an appearance on KING FM’s Northwest Focus and a solo performance at Nordstrom Recital Hall. He performs Roberto Sierra’s Fantasia Corelliana with the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra November 20 and 21, and with Northwest Sinfonietta December 18 and 19. 

David Alexander Rahbee, Orchestral Conducting

Under Dr. Rahbee's direction, the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra  has been awarded the American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2021, in the college university division. Dr. Rahbee was also awarded second place for the 2021 American Prize Marijosius Award in Orchestral Programming (College/University), and third place in the American Prize in Orchestral Conducting (Professional division), for a recorded performance with National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia in May, 2019.

Additionally, he was awarded the Music & Stars 2021 Gold Star for Best Video Conductor; Bronze Star for Best Concept and Bronze Star for best editing, for a recording of Elegischer Gesang (Elegiac Song), Op. 118, by Beethoven. This project occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and was completed in the Winter 2021 quarter. The recording with UW Symphony members took place on Monday, February 23 at Meany Center for the Performing Arts. Members of the UW Chamber Singers rehearsed one day a week using the Zoom communication platform and recorded their tracks individually from home. The video of the singers, from the UW Padelford parking garage, was created after the initial recording, when Seattle was in Phase III of the COVID-19 reopening plan. 

Dr. Rahbee was guest conducting faculty at the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival in summer of 2021.

Craig Sheppard, Piano

Faculty pianist Craig Sheppard was featured on WWFM (New York) in November in a program highlighting aspects of his life and his musical philosophy, interspersed with selections from his CDs over the past ten years.  The program was part of a series by the pianist, critic and composer Jed Distler. In March, Sheppard will perform a recital and teach once again at the Jerusalem Music Center at the behest of renowned concert pianist Murray Perahia.

Cristina Valdés, Piano

The faculty pianist was recently a juror for the CINTAS Foundation Fellowship Competition, which is awarded to artists and musicians of Cuban descent. Recent performances included a world premiere by Anahita Abbasi with the Seattle Modern Orchestra, and performances with the Seattle Symphony for the orchestra's Opening Night Gala, and for performances of Charles Ives's "Three Places in New England."

Melia Watras, Strings

The faculty violist was one of three guests, alongside Midori and Pinchas Zukerman, at the Fresno State Violin and Viola Festival (virtual) in May 2021. In October, she taught as guest viola professor at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, giving viola lessons, a viola master class and teaching a class for the Pacifica Quartet’s String Quartet Seminar. 

Watras’s most recent album, Firefly Songs, was reviewed by Textura (“Melia Watras distills rich life experiences into strikingly original musical form”) and The Whole Note (“Firefly Songs stands strongly, piece by piece as beautifully expressed miniatures, each feeling free and spontaneous”). Her recording of Betsy Jolas’s Episode sixieme for viola solo was aired on Radio Eclectus in celebration of the composer’s 95th birthday. Watras was also the featured guest on KPTZ Port Townsend’s Exploring Music with host Tigran Arakelyan. On the Bass Marimba, Watras recorded short pieces of Harry Partch with Charles Corey, as part of Bonnie Whiting’s Partch recording project.

Recent performances of compositions written by Melia Watras include Otra vez on pianist Cristina Valdés’s UW faculty concert on May 5; percussionist Bonnie Whiting’s performance video of Barking up which tree?, released on YouTube on August 8; and cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir’s performance of Vetur on King-FM Seattle’s Northwest Focus Live on September 24. 

Giselle Wyers, Choral Conducting, Voice

 The head of the UW’s Choral Conducting and Voice programs has been appointed conductor of Concord Chamber Choir, an adult semi-professional community chorus that is part of the Columbia Choirs of Metropolitan Seattle.  The ensemble’s first live concert is set for December 12. Professor Wyers recently presented, alongside Angela Kasper (Western Washington University), a session Facilitating an Ensemble Composition Project” for AMIS International Music Educators Online Summit. The one hour presentation outlines the in-depth process Giselle and Angela underwent in facilitating student-led online group composition projects for three choruses at Western Washington University.

Wyers’ work “Fire in the Garden” for chorus and piano receive West and East coast premieres in December at University of San Francisco and with Boston’s Cantilena Women’s Chorale.

Emeritus Faculty

Larry Starr, Music History

Retired Music History Professor Larry Starr's new book Listening to Bob Dylan (University of Illinois Press, 2021) is a reader-friendly guide to the recorded work of the acclaimed singer-songwriter. Its publication capped a period of Dylan-related work for Starr, which included participation in two virtual conferences in 2020: that of the Society for American Music, and the "Bob Dylan@ 80" event hosted by the Bob Dylan Archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Starr has continued as co-author of American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3, the sixth edition of which has just been published.

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