Connecticut-based composer Jessica Rudman has had her music performed across the US and abroad by groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, the Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra, and the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. She has received awards from Boston Metro Opera, SCI/ASCAP, the College Music Society, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and others. Her recent commissions include works for the Riot Ensemble, the Blue Box Ensemble, bassist Gahlord Dewald, and the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra. Jessica has taught at The Hartt School, Central Connecticut State University, and Baruch College. She is currently the Director of the Young Composers Project and the Chair of the Creative Studies Department at The Hartt School Community Division. Jessica is also an active music theorist and arts advocate, serving on the board of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. She holds degrees from the CUNY Graduate Center, The Hartt School, and the University of Virginia. Jessica was selected for the 2016 EarShot Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Readings & Competition for her piece Still I Rise! She answered these questions for SoundAdvice. The readings are free and open to the public on Friday, September 23, 7PM at the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts.
Composer Jessica Rudman
American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding our your piece had been selected for the 2016 Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Readings and Competition?
Jessica Rudman: When I first found out, I was completely surprised! I had just finished a day of teaching at a summer composition workshop for pre-college students when I got the news and had to hold myself back from yelling or jumping up and down in excitement outside the building. I enjoyed the happy energy for about a night and then channeled it into getting the piece ready for the readings. Now that the score and parts have been sent off, I can’t wait to come out to Indianapolis to work with the orchestra and the mentors!
ACO: Your piece is named after Maya Angelou’s eponymous poem Still I Rise! What drew you to this poem and the subject of perseverance against adversity as the inspiration for your piece?
JR: I love poetry and am often inspired by text, even in purely instrumental works. I began Still I Rise! when I was at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (a wonderful place for creativity and productivity!) and sketched out a large chunk of the music very quickly. After that initial burst, I had a general idea of the shape and emotional content for the piece but wanted a more concrete direction, so I started searching for some additional inspiration. When I read Angelou’s poem, it immediately resonated with the music I had written so far. I was drawn not only to the vivid language but also to the poem’s irrepressible spirit and message. I think most people can relate to the idea of overcoming adversity whether it be social or other, and I wanted to explore that universal theme in my composition.
ACO: Aside from being an accomplished composer, you are an active arts advocate, serving on the board of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. Can you talk about the ways you are currently celebrating the music of women composers, and the ways you hope to in the future?
JR: I’ve been involved with the Women Composers Festival of Hartford in various roles since 2005. As part of the board, I help produce an annual Festival featuring concerts, talks, workshops, and reading sessions. We present music by historical and living composers from across the U.S. and abroad, and commission new works as well. We are planning to continue offering the festival but are also hoping to extend our outreach and advocacy activities throughout the year.
In addition to my work with the WCFH, I also try to encourage young women to compose. I teach composition through the Hartt Community Division, and am working to build the program in a way that shows all students have the potential to write their own music. For the most part, this is done through subtle means – making sure that publicity materials reflect a diverse study body, exposing students to the music of women composers in listening assignments, etc. – but also through informal mentoring.
Lastly, participating in concerts and various service or outreach-related activities gives me an opportunity to meet students and community members, many of whom may not be familiar with contemporary concert music. They see that there are living composers, including women, who are working today. I strongly believe the personal connection can help to change people’s perception of what a composer should be and to show that composition is a possible career path or creative outlet for music lovers regardless of external factors like gender.
ACO: What are you most looking forward to about the readings?
JR: I am very excited to hear not only my piece but those of my fellow participants brought to life by the ICO. Working with such high-caliber musicians, mentors, and colleagues is an amazing opportunity, and I am looking forward to absorbing all of the feedback and applying it in my future work as a composer and teacher!
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.
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