In the first semester of my masters degree, I was in a graduate-level 20th Century Music class with about thirty graduate students. I remember the class vividly because aside from the small handful of composition majors, almost everyone – the teacher included – had a high disdain for contemporary music. Musical examples were laughed at. Twelve-tone analysis were glossed over because “who cares about this noise?” John Cage’s music was passed off as ravings of a lunatic.
The suppressive atmosphere of that class was heavy on my spirit. Becoming a composition major saved my undergraduate career and reinvigorated my entire life, and that life path was being brutally stomped on by people with graduate degrees in my field. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s hard enough to get the masses to appreciate contemporary music – these are ‘music experts’ that will have a lasting impression on their students who could subsequently have lasting impressions on their students decades later.”
It was one of the best classes I could have taken. It’s what changed me from being a mere contemporary music creator and supporter to being a passionate contemporary music advocate.
The seeds planted from that class is nienteForte’s true origin story and mission statement: a concert season based on my personal belief that contemporary music of all shapes and sizes has the ability to resonate with a diverse populace and that the gap between contemporary art and its audience can be bridged with an open and inviting mind-set on both sides of the conversation. It is my sincere hope that by coming into our events as a group of disparate and diverse performers, composers, moderators, and listeners, we will all walk away at its conclusion as a more unified community that believes that contemporary music and art may have its works that we individually love and hate, but regardless it is something that belongs to all of us collectively and is therefore deserving of our acceptance, respect, and love.
Mendel Lee (he/him) (b. 1975) is a music professional whose career oscillates between composition/artistic entrepreneurship and music education/pageantry arts. His work has been performed across the globe, including the World Expo 2020 Dubai, and his artistic vision has earned him recognition as a National Performance Network (NPN) Take Notice Fund grantee. His music has been described as “finding the right balance between minimalist… [static] space and forward motion and trajectory.” His solo timpani work Timpani Forces has been praised as a “…virtuosic tour de force…[whose] attention to melodic and lyrical content and the creative use of glissandi result in a unique addition to the repertoire.”
A passionate new music advocate, Mendel is the Founding Executive Director of nienteForte Contemporary Music, and the Co-Founder and an Executive Team Member of Toolbox Sessions, an organization whose mission is to connect composers and orchestrators with experienced new music performers and collaborators to delve into effective writing for their respective instruments and voices.
Mendel performs regularly as a percussionist with Versipel New Music. He has also performed as a brass band snare drummer for various national and international events, including the “Shakespare 400” jazz funeral in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and the 2022 NCAA Final Four “Fan Fest”.
In his spare time, he enjoys a myriad of amateur hobbies including cooking (and eating), data analytics and spreadsheets, branding/graphic design, audio/video/motion graphics production, poker, and tabletop and video games.
Currently Associate Professor of Composition & Theory at Tulane University, MAXWELL DULANEY received his Ph.D. in Composition & Theory from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Marty Boykan, Eric Chasalow, and Yu-Hui Chang. As an acoustic and electro-acoustic composer, his compositional philosophy is rooted in the study of multitudinous elements of sounds and finding new and informed ways of developing compositional structures out of them. Dr. Dulaney has been commissioned by, and collaborated closely with, soloists and ensembles including Orlando Cela, Chris Finkel, New York New Music Ensemble, the Xanthos Ensemble, and Grammy Award-winning harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy. Recent projects include a commission by ECCE Ensemble, In Ricordo di una Anima Antica for cello and clarinet in B-flat, and the commission of The Old Harp for the Ningbo University Orchestra.
Recent concerts include a performance of The Old Harp by the Randall College Orchestra in Lynchburg, VA. Future projects include a new piece for solo flute for Orlando Cela, which will be performed at DePauw University in Greencastle, IL and at Coup d’oeil Art Consortium in New Orleans, LA, and a new work for ECCE Ensemble to be performed during their 2015-16 season. Dr. Dulaney has been published in the SCI Journal of Musical Scores, Vol. 45 and his music has been recorded on Rainbow Classical label by the ensemble Mikrokosmos.
Stephen Montalvo (b. 1984) is an active composer and performer of acoustic and electronic music, as well as an audiovisual installation artist, based in New Orleans, LA. Through his music, he explores concepts related to resonance and rhythmic interplay and draws inspiration from social, ecological, and political concerns. His works have been performed throughout the United States, and internationally at the Osaka University of Arts Electronic Music Festival, by artists and ensembles including the Portland Percussion Group, Rhythm Method String Quartet, Bent Duo, Carlos Cordeiro, Talea Ensemble, Omaha Percussion Ensemble, and numerous scholastic groups. Additional collaborations include audiovisual installation projects for LUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête, hosted by the New Orleans Arts Council, as well as with the Virtual Krewe of Vaporwave.
As a percussionist, Stephen has participated in performances with the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Midland Odessa Symphony and Chorale, Texas Medical Center Orchestra, and the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance. He currently performs nationally with Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium as well as in New Orleans with various local performers.
Stephen holds a Master of Arts in Music Composition from Tulane University where he studied with Maxwell Dulaney and Rick Snow and a Bachelor of Music from West Texas A&M University, where he studied percussion with Susan Martin Tariq and composition with Joseph Nelson and Robert Denham. Current affiliations include the Society of Composers and the Vic Firth Education Team as a Scholastic Educator and Marching Percussion Specialist.