In the first semester of my masters degree, I was in a graduate-level Contemporary 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 series of concerts, masterclasses, and conversations with world-class composers and performers with a message 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. 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 – Founding Executive Director