Contemporary classical music can be a hard sell to lovers of the Three Bs — Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, or other composers from centuries past.
Maybe it's because they don't have much chance to hear what's being written in the 21st century by a new generation — accessible, intriguing works from stars such as Jennifer Higdon, Michael Daugherty, Steven Stucky, and David Lang.
So a new, nationally syndicated radio program from WGTE-FM and Bowling Green State University's College of Musical Arts is good news for cutting-edge music and its fans.
New Music from Bowling Green, a 13-week series concocted by Brad Cresswell, music director of WGTE, and BGSU contemporary music experts Mark Bunce and Kurt Doles, promises to bring the work of today's composers to the public ear through recordings from BGSU's renowned archive of live contemporary music performances along with recent interviews with the composers.
"New music is the future of classical music," said Jeffrey A. Showell, dean of the College of Musical Arts at BGSU. "The radio series will go far in introducing it to listeners, both sophisticated and new, in a way that makes it both accessible and enjoyable."
The local launch will be at 1 p.m. Oct. 6, on FM 91.3.
According to WGTE, some 25 stations in 15 states have committed to airing New Music from Bowling Green via the WFMT Radio Network, the Chicago-based clearinghouse for dozens of classical shows, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago's Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Michael Barone's Pipe Dreams. WFMT also plans to offer the show to the European market.
Cresswell, an award-winning radio producer, tenor, and composer, will host the hour-long show. Before producing radio shows, he was performing in live concerts and recitals around the Americas, sometimes contributing his own art songs and chamber music.
"While I haven't had the time to compose during the last several years, my experience with it definitely gives me some insight into how composers think," Cresswell said.
"I worked with a lot of living composers when I was singing, including Sir Michael Tippett, Philip Glass, Dominick Argento, Bright Sheng, Luciano Berio, Anthony Davis, Judith Weir, etc. All of that, in turn, helps me make the case for their works to the listening public."
Listeners can catch the broadcast on the radio or online. "We can't offer it as a podcast or online archive, due to the complexity and additional expense involved in securing mechanical rights to the recordings," explained Cresswell.
The idea for the show was spawned in meetings at BGSU in 2012. Newly arrived on campus, Showell, a violist with master's and doctorate degrees from Yale University, was determined to raise national awareness of BGSU, particularly its vibrant contemporary music scene.
While Cresswell focused on production, Showell sought and found supporters to cover the show's $50,000 price tag.
Through its MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, BGSU brings in renowned contemporary composers for its October New Music Festival, its Music at the Forefront concert series, and other special events. The college is nearly unique in offering a Doctor of Musical Arts in Contemporary Music degree.
BGSU alumna Jennifer Higdon is a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winner who got her start as a composer there.
"I was actually a flute performance major at BG, studying with Judith Bentley, who is a big believer in contemporary music," Higdon said. "I remember my very first lesson: I went in and she immediately assigned me a contemporary work to learn. This was a regular part of my training...as everyone in her studio experienced.
"On top of that, we all had the benefit of the New Music Festival, which exposed us to a lot of new music."
Three episodes of the series will focus on Higdon and her body of work.
BGSU composers Marilyn Shrude and Christopher Dietz are highlighted in other episodes, which also include music by visiting composers, students, and a concert by the BGSU New Music Ensemble recorded live at New York City's celebrated new music cabaret (Le) Poisson Rouge.
Composers who have performed and lectured at BGSU will be featured as well, including the composer and conductor Samuel Adler, multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans, Pulitzer Prize winners David Lang, Steven Stucky and Shulamit Ran, University of Michigan composition professor Michael Daugherty, and Christopher Theofanidis, who recently wrote the challenging 7-minute piece "Birichino (Prankster)" for the semifinal round of the 2013 Van Cliburn Piano Competition.
Showell says, one of the episodes is set to be broadcast live from this year's 34th annual New Music Festival, which will bring the MacArthur "genius"-award-winning composer George Lewis to campus, along with other composers and performers.