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Composer gives back to community

Composer W. Jay Sydeman will publicly celebrate his last three years of work with three nights of informal discussions this Tuesday, April 13 and June 1.

Since 2001, he has spent about four hours daily archiving his compositions from the past 50 years. Those 600 works are in all mediums and include 10 orchestral pieces, 400 chamber music pieces in varied instrumental combos, 60 choral pieces, art songs and sonatas.

A former composition department chairman at Mannes College of Music in New York City, Sydeman was a major figure in the East Coast 1960s avant-garde scene and is one of the country’s most published composers.



In 1988, he moved to Nevada City and formed Twin Cities Chamber Players and the Auburn Youth Symphony. Sydeman moved here, he acknowledged last week, because of the many artists already living here.

Sydeman, along with Howard Hersh and Terry Riley, formed the Nevada County Composers Cooperative in the 1990s.




So far, Sydeman has filled 15 CDs with his works from the past five decades and jokes he has material left for 25 additional CDs.

The 75-year-old is still writing; he can’t say “no” to commissions or creating pieces for new Composers Cooperative events.

Admission is free to all three informal discussions as a way for the composer to thank community members for their support: “This is my gift back for all the good years I’ve had,” Sydeman said graciously.

The discussions are sponsored by the Nevada County Composers Cooperative.

“This will be an opportunity for residents to become more aware of what the cooperative is doing, which is bringing new musical thought to this area by local professional composers through concerts, mixed media presentations and Sound and Vision festivals throughout the year,” Sydeman said.

The discussions will include the technical aspects of the compositions and the anecdotal situations in which they first were performed. Wine and cheese will be served.

“I’m very excited to be able to present my life’s works while I’m still here. That’s a unique opportunity,” Sydeman added. “I like the idea that this is a payback for all the good years I’ve had composing and I want to offer this to my own community.”


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