GVSU's New Music Ensemble to perform at National Parks

Musicians set to help celebrate 100 years of service

By Ashlyn Korienek | 6/6/16 12:21am

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GVL / Courtesy - Amanda Pitts New Music Ensemble

by Amanda Pitts / Grand Valley Lanthorn

After 18 months of planning and preparation to travel 3,500 miles, Grand Valley State University’s New Music Ensemble will set off for a National Parks Tour starting June 29.

As part of the National Park Service’s centennial, celebrating 100 years of service for U.S. National Parks, the New Music Ensemble (NME) will trek from the Badlands National Park to the Grand Teton, and perform at the Wind Cave National Park and Yellowstone along the way.

Performing music written within the last 30 years, the ensemble was founded in 2006 by Bill Ryan, who has worked at GVSU since 2005.

In his time with the NME, Ryan has produced three recordings nationally recognized on top year-end lists by the New York Times, Washington Post and many others.

The recent public exposure on the NME has attracted focus from talent-seeking producers, as the song “C Remixed” on their second album was featured on an episode of MTV’s show “Teen Wolf” in July 2013.

“I wanted to create a chamber ensemble that focused on recent classical music, to compliment what was already happening in our department,” Ryan said. “Through this tour, I’m hoping to give audiences the opportunity to see the parks in a new way. Not only as beautiful locations to visit, but to see them as creative sources for artists.”

For the tour, eight compositions were commissioned to interpret these iconic parks, created by composers including: Betsy Biggs, Rob Deemer, Alexandra Gardner, Patrick Harlin, Jeff Herriott, Molly Joyce, Phil Kline and Paula Matthusen.

Incorporating nature into her composition, Ryan said Matthusen traveled to Wind Cave National Park to record the sounds of the caves. In addition, Gardner’s song “Vixen” plays the eruption patterns of the Vixen Geyser of Yellowstone National Park.

In January 2015, the ensemble submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts anticipating its ability to fund the tour. By the fall of 2015, the grant was awarded to the NME, allowing final arrangements to be planned.

“I have not been on any of the previous National Park Tours, but I am eagerly looking forward to it,” said Reese Rehkopf, a pianist in the ensemble. “I am most proud of our ensemble’s desire to pursue this tour, even though some of us have to miss work or wait to take summer classes.

“For us, this is an awesome opportunity to experience the touring life and to share our love for music.”

With a background in music for nearly 12 years, Rehkopf joined the New Music Ensemble in the fall of 2015. To prepare for his first tour, Rehkopf said they've practiced four to five hours a week, but that's just the bare minimum.

“I independently practice the repertoire until I am completely comfortable with playing my part of the piece, while keeping my ears receptive to my fellow members,” he said.

The National Parks tour will end July 12, where the musicians will return to Allendale. All concerts are free and open to the public.

The New Music Ensemble is open to any students majoring in music, and musicians are commissioned as needed.

“The National Parks Tour is unique, as we’re playing contemporary classical music in front of audiences who are most likely unfamiliar with the genre as a whole,” Rehkopf said. “We’ll be performing outdoors most of the places we go, which I expect will be an exhilarating experience.”

For more information on the New Music Ensemble and future events, visit www.newmusicensemble.org.

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