Carolina Performing Arts and UNC Music Department Collaborate on Compose Carolina Series

Carolina Performing Arts, in conjunction with the UNC Music Department, will host its second annual Compose Carolina Series in July, which will feature the work of members of the UNC community virtually.

The series will consist of four sessions, each featuring original musical scores written by UNC students or alumni with varying genres and styles. The sessions will also include interspersed conversations and question-and-answer sessions with the performers, which will be moderated by a faculty member from the music department.

Three former composers are participating in the series as well as a group of undergraduate student composers and musicians, said Cat Zachary, communications coordinator for the music department at UNC.

The theme of the series is “In The Now”, which composers are encouraged to perform freely.

Zachary said that due to the isolation resulting from the pandemic, a great deal of creativity has emerged over the past year and that the compositions for the series will show how people have grown up and how their view of the world has changed.

She also said that Compose Carolina is a great opportunity for student composers to gain experience from a wider audience, as the undergraduate program only has a dozen students.

“It’s really important for us to recognize the work our students are doing,” Zachary said. “To give them this biggest online platform where they can really show what they’re doing, this is a really fantastic opportunity.”

Alex McKeveny, a senior amount specializing in music and business administration and a Compose Carolina artist, said a professor had contacted him to participate in the series and was intrigued by the concept.

McKeveny also said he’s been used to the show’s virtual format since participating in it last year, but the flow of the conversation online is more difficult.

UNC graduate Stewart Engart, another Compose Carolina attendee, said there are some advantages to the online format, which he noticed being part of other virtual performances during the pandemic.

Engart said he was able to meet fans of his work in a previous performance, then he listened to their music and made a connection in a way made possible by online communication.

The downside to virtual concerts, he said, is the lack of gratuity after a performance.

“It’s interesting because your play ends, and you’ve worked on it for hundreds of hours, and then there’s an emoji in the chat, and that’s the response to your play,” Engart said.

But he said he was excited about the upcoming series as he looks forward to meeting new people and reconnecting with the UNC community.

He also said he was honored to be on the same stage as the other two former composers, Cristina “Trinity” Vélez-Justo and Alex Van Gils, as he admired them during his time at UNC.

Jess Abel, Marketing and Communications Manager at Carolina Performing Arts, said the series lets audiences get to know the background and inner workings of music.

She said after each performance, audience members can ask the artist questions and listen to a teacher who is familiar with the subject comment on the play.

“It allows us to see the process unfold in a very organic way, and it also allows the audience to be very close to what the artist is thinking,” Abel said. “Immediately after the play starts, you can interact, which is new to us in the virtual realm.”


@DTHCityState | [email protected]

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