At 40, New American Music festival is aging well

Sacramento State Newsroom

Sacramento State’s nationally recognized Festival of New American Music (FeNAM) celebrates its 40th year with a lengthy list of acclaimed composers, many performing their own works.

This year’s FeNAM runs Nov. 3-9, 11-12 and features the best of new American music in a series of free concerts, most performed at Sac State.

New American music is loosely defined as any music written after 1980 by a composer of American citizenship. After that, the format is pretty open.

The musical lineup includes guitarist David Tanenbaum, Nov. 5; the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), Nov. 9; the Daedalus String Quartet, Nov. 11; and pianist Gilbert Kalish, Nov. 12.

Tanenbaum also will be featured in the opening gala at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, in Capistrano Concert Hall. He will be joined by line upon line Percussion and the Sacramento new music ensemble Citywater, with guest harpist Jennifer Ellis.

“We have more composers that will be in residence this year,” says Professor David Wells, FeNAM co-director, noting that this year’s list stands at 21, significantly more than the 12 who participated in 2016.

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank will deliver the keynote address at noon Tuesday, Nov. 7, in Capistrano Concert Hall.

“She is really a world-class composer with commissions from orchestras all over the country,” says Professor Stephen Blumberg, the festival’s artistic director.

Her mother's ancestry is Peruvian/Chinese, and her father is a Lithuanian Jew, a mixed heritage Frank explores through her music.

FeNAM represents the culmination of a summerlong special project Frank directed and is the subject of a documentary production [by PBS filmmaker Aric Hartvig]. Frank has been shepherding young, emerging composers through the creative process, and the young artists will have their works for marimba duo performed at 8 p.m. Nov. 8, by Mayumi Hama and Chris Froh.

Many of the performers also are composers. The five members of ACME will present individual works written by each of them.

Blumberg says he isn’t surprised by FeNAM’s longevity. It was founded 40 years ago by piano Professor Gene Savage and had been around for 20 years when Blumberg came on board. “It was already an institution at that point,” Blumberg says. “I had hopes it would just keep going forever. So, we’ll see.”,-performers-celebrate-40-years-of-fenam.shtml

Gabriela Lena Frank