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Brandeis hosts 74th Composers Conference

Brandeis University has become the new home for the annual Composers Conference, a two-week long program in which musicians and composers of all ages come together to study, compose and perform.

Brandeis was chosen to host the 74th season of the conference this year, from July 29 to Aug. 12. Brandeis will also host the conference for the foreseeable future. The conference was moved after Wellesley College, the conference’s original host of 35 years, decided they wanted to start with a “clean slate” and build their own summer programs, according to Eric Chasalow, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Irving Fine Professor of Music. Chasalow is also on the Board of Trustees for the Composers Conference.

After parting ways with Wellesley, Brandeis was chosen because “this looked like a good opportunity for the organization because Brandeis is so strong in music and we have a beautiful concert hall with great acoustics,” Chasalow said, citing the university’s air-conditioned dorms and proximity to Boston as an additional plus.

The Composers Conference “offers a unique opportunity for emerging composers, professional musicians, amateur chamber players and conservatory-level instrumentalists and singers to come together as colleagues, audience, teachers and students in an atmosphere of fertile creativity and concentrated, high-level music making,” according to the conference’s website.

The conference consists of three programs: the Composer Fellows, the Chamber Music Workshop and the Contemporary Performance Institute (CPI), as well as the conference Ensemble, which professionally records the works of the Composer Fellows. Each program consists of seminars, workshops and performance opportunities.

Most years, there are at least one or two Brandeis graduate students who are chosen to be a part of the very selective conference. The Composer Fellows program, for example, receives 150 to 200 applications from all around the world for only ten spots, according to Chasalow.

The entire conference is very intergenerational, said Chasalow, ranging from young professionals to retired people to doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students. “This is great because you’ve got professionals and amateurs who are mixing and learning from one another, and you’ve got composers and performers learning from one another, and everyone becomes a…very strong community,” Chasalow said.

Now that Brandeis’ first year of hosting the conference is over, Chasalow thinks it was a success and will continue to be so. “Everyone is really thrilled with the move, they had a really good time, they really felt the facilities were great, the sound in the concert hall was great,” he said.

Brandeis is not only an ideal new host for the conference, Chasalow added, but he predicts the conference will be beneficial to Brandeis as well. The conference helps Brandeis to become more accessible to Waltham and the surrounding communities, especially since most nights of the conference there are free concerts that are open to the public.

“The conference really is part of connecting to the larger community around Brandeis… it helps our reputation as a destination for the arts, and in this case specifically for music,” Chasalow said. “I’m hoping that moving forward we get more community members coming… to the concerts as well because we give lots of free concerts.”

Additionally, the conference will showcase the university’s impressive music program, which many students might not realize Brandeis has. “We’re in a very select group of graduate programs, that includes Columbia and Yale and Princeton and the University of Chicago,” Chasalow said. “There are very, very few programs that are really considered among the very top and this is an area where Brandeis, as small as it is, is among the very best.”

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