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Blugold alum composes new finale work for annual Holiday Concert

| Emily Wermund (story); Jesse Yang (video)

An award-winning composer based in Los Angeles has brought his musical talents back to his roots — UW-Eau Claire — just in time for the holiday season.

Kyle Newmaster, a 1999 UW-Eau Claire music education graduate, has been commissioned by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and the music and theatre arts department to compose a new finale piece for this year's Holiday Concert, set for 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 9 at Pablo Center at the Confluence.

Having performed in the concert as a student himself, Newmaster understands well the significance of the event and what it means to the university and community.

“The idea for this piece was to do something new that was all about Wisconsin, the community and Eau Claire,” says Newmaster. “The initial inspiration came from my feelings for Eau Claire, the people, and then of course the writings and poetry by Max Garland.”

Garland is a UW-Eau Claire professor emeritus of English and former Wisconsin poet laureate. Newmaster sets the poet’s work “For a Johnson County Snowfall” to music. Written specifically for the UW-Eau Claire Holiday Concert, Newmaster's piece, titled "Winter’s Song," uses texts that directly connect to UW-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley while reflecting the peaceful beauty of the holiday season.

The opening overture is slow and peaceful, representing the feeling of what is to come as winter begins. As instrumentation leads into the first poem, the feeling turns to one of joy and excitement. To capture people’s energy leading up to the holidays, the movement reflects the constantly changing landscape during winter months.

“I wanted to capture something that had the same feelings and journey as Wisconsin winters. You experience that feeling musically but also with the text,” Newmaster says.

With the Holiday Concert now in the Pablo Center, this year was the perfect opportunity to feature a new composition and commemorate a new space for this beloved tradition. The music and theatre arts department is eager to have Newmaster back on campus and bring this piece of music to life for the university and the community.

“I will always treasure my education here, the friendships, and the fact that I’m able to commission this work for the ensembles,” Newmaster says.

About the composer: 

Kyle Newmaster is originally from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He composes music for film, television, video games and live performances. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from UW-Eau Claire and a master's degree in composing for contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music. 

In 2012 Newmaster co-scored the LucasArts/Microsoft Studios XBox video game titled “Kinect Star Wars.” The score was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London with the London Symphony Orchestra. Newmaster recently composed music for director Alejandro Brugues' segment ("The Thing in the Woods") in the upcoming horror anthology feature "Nightmare Cinema" (2018). He also scored the feature film "Where Hope Grows" (2015), directed by Chris Dowling, and “The Myth of the American Sleepover” (2012), directed by David Robert Mitchell. Newmaster currently is the composer for a new television adventure series that will premiere on CBS in summer 2019.

Newmaster also is an active professional trumpet player and performs for live concerts and in recording sessions across genres. He has performed with bands such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Seth Macfarlane Big Band and has recorded for numerous TV shows and films, including "Family Guy," "Cleveland," "America's Got Talent," "The Middle" and "American Dad."

Newmaster’s recent concert music commissions include “Impressions of Cheonmachong,” commissioned by Jung-Ho Pak and the Cape Symphony Orchestra in 2015; and the 2016 commission of “Confluent Reflections” for UW-Eau Claire's centennial celebration. 

Newmaster is honored to have the opportunity to write this commission for his alma mater’s Holiday Concert. He gives a heartfelt "thank you" to Max Garland for his beautiful poetry and for allowing his work to be the inspiration for this new piece.