Composers Festival Spotlight: Greg Simon

Greg Simon

We start the week with a look at another of the resident composers for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival. Greg Simon holds a B.A. from the University of Puget Sound and an M.M. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and currently is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Michigan. Before arriving in Michigan, he served on the faculty at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Simon has studied composition with Kristin Kuster, Carter Pann, Daniel Kellogg, and Robert Hutchinson; and with Kevin Puts and Robert Aldridge at the Brevard Music Institute, where he was awarded a fellowship. His works have been performed or commissioned by the Corvallis Youth Symphony; the Playground Ensemble of Denver; the Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago; and groups in California, Washington, Oregon, West Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and more.

He has presented work at conferences for the American Band College, the College Band Directors’ National Association, the World Saxophone Congress, and the North American Saxophone Alliance, and has been featured in radio and digital broadcasts from Pendulum New Music and WFMT.

Simon has won the Edward Levy and George Lynn Prizes for excellence in composition from the University of Colorado, and received recognition for his works from the Pacific Chorale, CBDNA, the Fifth House Ensemble, and ASCAP. His piece Foolish Fire for wind ensemble, written for Loveland High School, has received more than 20 performances in ten different states since its Colorado premiere. His work also is featured on recordings by the California State University, Fullerton Wind Ensemble and the Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago.

Earlier this month, Simon was named the winner of the POLYPHONOS 2014 Composer Competition sponsored by the Seattle new music vocal ensemble The Esoterics. Meanwhile, his piece “Dragonfly,” for mallet trio, has been named the Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 TorQ Percussion Seminar Composition Competition, and will be premiered this week by the TorQ Percussion Quartet in a performance at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

A jazz trumpeter as well as composer, Simon has studied with Bill Lucas, Brad Goode, and Darmon Meader of the New York Voices. He has played with the Jodi-Renee Band, the Park Hill Brass, and others at jazz venues in Denver, Boulder and elsewhere. He is active as a proponent of new music for improvising musicians, and has performed as featured soloist in world premieres from composers Michael Theodore, Hunter Ewen, Liz Comninellis, and Kari Kraakevik.

You can hear samples of Greg Simon’s music on his website, and he also maintains an active presence on Twitter as @gregsimonmusic. .

In the embedded video window below, you can see and hear a performance of the first section of Three Portraits, a 2008 piece by Simon that he called “my attempt to combine my two sound-worlds, jazz and concert music.”

Each of the work’s three parts is inspired by and uses elements of a specific jazz standard. Part I, “Stella’s Dance,” is based on “Stella by Starlight” by Ned Washington and Victor Young. Part II, “In Memoriam,” is based on Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-me” and can be seen here; while part III, “Speaking of Love,” is inspired by “Secret Love” by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, and can be seen here.

The performances were recorded at the University of Colorado by a group including Julia Barnett, flute; Kristen Denny, clarinet; Filip Lazovski, violin; Psyche Dunkhase, cello; Christopher Hatton, piano; and Adams Collins, percussion, with Michael Boone as conductor.

In keeping with the idea of spontaneous music-making, this clip shows a performance of Simon’s “Le Bateau et Le Soleil,” created in 2008 for Iron Composer. Adapting a notion from the TV cooking competition show Iron Chef, Iron Composer is a music competition held at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio, in which five composers are given just five hours to write a piece of music. This performance by the Monument Piano Trio helped Simon’s piece win third prize, as judged by David Gompper, James Arey & Bob Fischbach.

Simon’s “27,” as performed by Andrew Allen, tenor sax & electronics

“Kites at Seal Rock,” written by Simon as part of his 2009 Piano Quintet and used as the soundtrack to the final chapter of “Black Violet Act I: The Leagues of Despair.” “Black Violet…” is an original illustrated story/live music event with narrative and art by Ezra Claytan Daniels, produced in collaboration with the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble.

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