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New music, at last

Now that you've finished composing your first symphony, how can you get people to hear it? Composers across the country have been exploring that very question for years.

Here in the Rogue Valley, groups such as SyZyGy have held concerts featuring new chamber music pieces by Pacific Northwest composers.

In the summer of 2007 a group of composers in Southern Oregon came together to form the Southern Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Composers/USA.

The new group is now ready to present its first concert. The event will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Wesley Hall at the First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland.

Featured performers will be the Rogue Valley Wind Quintet, which will present works by I'lana Cotton, Mark Jacobs, Stephen Truelove and R. Barry Ulrich, all local composers. The pieces represent a variety of contemporary chamber music styles.

Rogue Valley Wind Quintet musicians include Penny Lee Austin, flute; Kristin Kessler, oboe; Marla Kasdorf, clarinet; Linda Harris, horn; and Kathy Staller, bassoon.

The members of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Composers/USA share a common desire to promote and celebrate new concert music in the Rogue Valley.

Other composers in the chapter include Ken Deveney (president), William Ashworth, Federico Behncke, Jenifer Jaseau and Mark Knippel. The group has been holding informal monthly listening sessions with members bringing music to share and discuss.

SyZyGy will continue, Deveney said, but it will be under the auspices of the Southern Oregon Chapter of NACUSA. SyZyGy will give a concert on March 15.

Speaking of advantages of joining NACUSA, Deveney said, "It's the 'getting together we can do more' sort of thing. We're sharing the work load. There are enough composers now. We listen to each other's music."

In November, the group produced a reading/recording event for works-in-progress at Southern Oregon University involving most of the member composers and several university music students and faculty.

"We've had one recording session so far," Deveney said. It was more to hear them (the compositions) than to have a polished performance."

Founded by Henry Hadley in 1933, NACUSA is one of the oldest organizations devoted to the promotion and performance of American concert hall music.

The organization has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco Bay Area, Baton Rouge, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas. Each NACUSA chapter typically sponsors several concerts each year which feature music by its members and other contemporary composers.

"It's to disseminate word about new music and try to build an audience," Deveney said.

Tickets for the Feb. 23 concert are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door.

See www.nacusasor.org or call 488-5506.

Rogue Valley Wind Quintet (left to right): Kathy Staller, Penny Lee Austin, Marla Kasdorf, Linda Harris and Kristin Kessler, will perform new works by local composers. - Photo courtesy of I'lana Cotton