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Claire Chase Wins 1999 Presser Music Award, Launches Project to Expand Flute Repertory in 2000

Story and photo by Michael Chipman

 

 

 

 

Claire Chase, a senior flutist from Leucadia, California, recently received the 1999 Presser Music Award -- a $5,000 grant from the Presser Foundation to commission, perform and record new chamber music for flute. Chase, who studies with professor of flute Michel Debost, will use the grant to fund the commissioning of new works by four composers (including one Oberlin Conservatory student and a Con alum), an April, 2000 performance of those new works with conductor Timothy Weiss, associate professor of wind conducting, and a recording of that performance.

"This project is a synthesis of everything I am interested in and everything I aspire to be professionally," says Claire Chase,. "My interests include expansion of the flute repertory, collaboration with living composers, promotion of chamber music, and the recording process."

According to Chase, the Presser Foundation each year allots $5,000 to Oberlin for student projects. Faculty members sponsor interested students, who then submit project proposals to a committee which selects the most dynamic project for funding.

"The general theme of my project is the promotion of flute music of the 21st century, which is why we will perform them during spring semester 2000" says Chase. "I commissioned new works from two composers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD): Harvey Sollberger and John Fonville. Both are on flute and composition faculty at UCSD. I studied with John Fonville when I was a kid. They are both great musicians and composers. I went to all of their concerts growing up."

Chase says Sollberger and Fonville belong to -- and have each been the artistic director of -- SONAR, the premier contemporary music ensemble at UCSD. "I have been a devoted fan of their concerts for years," says Chase. I approached them in February of last year and asked if they would be interested in doing a project for a relatively small amount of money, and they agreed to it because they are interested in my project and in new music, especially at this historically important time -- the beginning of the 21st century."

In addition to Fonville and Sollberger, Chase commissioned new works for flute from Huang Ruo, a senior composition major from China, and Matthew Quayle (BM '99), a masters degree student at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. "All but one of the composers have decided on the instrumentation for their pieces," says Chase. "I provided them with a pool of instrumentalists, all of whom are dedicated to the project, from which they could draw to compose the pieces."

Those instrumentalists include:

  • Claire Chase, flute
  • Brent Hages (BM '00), oboe
  • Campbell MacDonald (BM '99), clarinet
  • Dave Bowlin, violin, a senior from Moline, Illinois
  • Wendy Richman, viola, a former Obie, currently at the Cleveland Institute of Music
  • Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello, a senior from Mt. Vernon, New York
  • Nikki Bartnikki, string bass, currently at Hart College Conservatory
  • Catherine Barrett, harp, a senior from North Egremont, Massachusetts
  • Phyllis Chen (BM '99), piano, currently at Northwestern University
  • Dave Schotzko, percussion, a senior from Aitikin, Minnesota

Timothy Weiss will conduct the new works on April 21, 2000 in Warner Concert Hall. A recording will be produced as a culmination of all events. "All four composers will be present at the performance," says Chase. "The UCSD guys will come out with financial help from the new music division, the conducting department and other helpful sources. We will host the composers for 2-3 days, and they will offer coachings and master classes. I'm also organizing a chamber music master class for composers and performers with Fonville and Sollberger where we'll play some of their music.

"It is a huge undertaking but it's exciting for me to work with two composers of whom I have been a fan for many years and who are important figures in the flute world. And it's great to have the pieces conducted by Tim Weiss -- the die hard contemporary music director at Oberlin."

Chase hopes these pieces will eventually enter the flute repertory but says this project is really just the beginning of a much larger project -- "the rest of my life."

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