'Iron Composer" Returns to Baldwin Wallace

By Mike Telin

On Friday, September 4 at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, the creativity of five composers will be tested when they have five hours to write a brand new piece of music in order to win the coveted titled of Iron Composer. Competition director Joe Drew said that this years contestants are all accomplished composers and college-level teachers whose musical styles are quite varied. “We try to select as diverse a group as possible. We are putting on a show, and it wouldn’t work if we had a group of composers who all write in similar styles, or who would all have a similar response to the stimulus of the challenge.”

What is that challenge? On Friday at 9:00 am in the Chamber Hall, the five finalists will be assigned an instrumentation and a secret musical ingredient that must be incorporated into their work. Past challenges have paired piano trio with a Monet painting, pipe organ with 19th-century music boxes, and brass trio with audience participation. After five hours, the composers must submit a score and parts for their finished piece. Their work will be performed and judged during a free public concert at 8 pm in Gamble Auditorium. Following the performance, prizes will be awarded, and the title of Iron Composer will be bestowed.

This year, competition organizers received 205 submissions from composers around the globe. “During the initial vetting I only looked at the musical scores,” Drew pointed out. “This year we had nearly twenty that we ranked very high, and that was when we began to look at the composers’ bios and websites and listen to their other works.”

And who are the five finalists? This year’s competitors include Kristen Broberg, associate professor of composition at the University of North Texas, Dorothy Hindman, assistant professor of composition at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, Ryan Keebaugh, assistant professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University, Rica Narimoto, a lecturer at Aichi University of the Arts, Kanazawa University, Japan, and Tawnie Olson, adjunct professor of composition at the Hartt School of Music.

That makes four women and one man in the 2015 group. “It’s funny because composition is still such a male-dominated field,” Drew said. “But when the initial sort was completed, and I looked at the group of the highest-ranked compositions, I was stunned by how many women there were. And as we began to look closer at their portfolios, it became clear that this would be the year for women.” Read the entire article at ClevelandClassical.com
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