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yMusic residency proves transformative for students

UW-Eau Claire music students have had the unusual opportunity to engage with members of yMusic as part of a residency program on campus involving three multiple-day visits to campus during the 2018-19 academic year.  yMusic is a unique and virtuosic chamber group of six instrumentalists (a string trio, flute, clarinet and trumpet) who met while studying at Juilliard and operate in a space where “pop and classical worlds” overlap.  yMusic has been hailed by NPR’s Fred Child as “one of the groups that has really helped to shape the future of classical music.” 

Central to the residency is the composition of original works for yMusic by five Blugold music students, as well as by Chiayu Hsu, the composition faculty member.  yMusic has worked with all six of these composers on each visit.  During the final visit, which is April 22-24, yMusic will be recording these original compositions at the state-of-the-art recording studio at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.  This innovative and collaborative project is intended to mark and celebrate the opening of the new performing arts center. 

The hope for the yMusic Residency was to reach as many students across the department from composers to performers with high-level, transformative experiences usually reserved for grad students.

Describing this unique opportunity, Dr. Hsu said, “It is a rare opportunity for students to work closely with professional musicians at this high caliber, not to mention that yMusic will also record all six compositions written for them. This recording will best serve students for their portfolios for their school or job applications.  It also made a tremendous difference when this residency was divided into three visits which allowed composers to receive feedbacks from the musicians while work was still in progress. It is also unique that the residency culminates in a final performance of six brand new works by UW-Eau Claire composers.” 

The residency has been well-received and extremely successful.  Members of yMusic voiced surprise after hearing the student compositions for the first time and realizing that this was the work of undergraduate students. In similar residencies yMusic has worked with graduate students in large prestigious music schools.

The student composers are Joe Krause (Bachelor of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Composition), Parker Layton (Bachelor of Music in Applied Saxophone), Ben Phillips (Bachelor of Music in Composition), Levee Stadel (Bachelor of Music in Composition), and Robbie Weisshaar (Bachelor of Music in Applied String Bass).  Students found working with members of yMusic to be comfortable, and they enjoyed watching their rehearsal process of getting the compositions performance ready.  The opportunity to have multiple readings of their compositions, allowing the students to explore and implement feedback, has been invaluable.  The experience challenged students to communicate intentions in a more direct and professional manner.  Describing his experience, Joe Krause said, “Working with yMusic on my own piece, as well as listening to my friends working with them on theirs, taught me something important about the nature of composing: we're not writing music, we're writing instructions. They helped us understand how to clarify our intentions through our notation and provided lots of insights about the pieces.”  Ultimately, working with versatile musicians at such a high caliber has served as a transformative experience for all.

yMusic’s final visit will involve a concert on Monday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Riverside Theatre in Haas Fine Arts Center.  It is free and open to the public.  The program will open with performances by four student chamber groups that have been coached by members of yMusic.  Then yMusic will perform the six original compositions written for them.  This residency and recording project were made possible because of the generous support of the UW-EC Foundation and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.