February 8, 2011, San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are pleased to announce the appointment of internationally renowned conductor and percussionist Steven Schick as Artistic Director. For the past thirty years Schick has championed contemporary percussion music as a conductor, performer, and teacher, by commissioning and premiering more than one hundred new works by composers as varied as Brian Ferneyhough, David Lang, and Iannis Xenakis. Schick joins the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players as the acclaimed ensemble enters its 41st Season. Since its first concert in 1971,the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players have released twenty recordings, performed more than 1,000 contemporary works (including 74 U.S. premieres and 145 world premieres), and commissioned 74 new pieces from such composers as John Adams, Mario Davidovsky, Philippe Leroux, Liza Lim, and Julia Wolfe.
“The forty-year tradition of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players establishes it as one of this country’s most venerable and important ensembles for contemporary music; and the terrific musicians of the group and their commitment to cutting-edge musical ideas means that it is also an ensemble of the future,” said Steven Schick. “What a thrill it is for me to now be part of an organization that is both roots and rhizomes. We know where we’re from; where and how we’ll grow next is the exciting part!”
As Artistic Director, Schick will serve as both conductor and chief artistic administrator, providing artistic vision and leadership for the ensemble. The 2011-12 season will feature Schick’s programming for a subscription series at Herbst Theater beginning in October 2011.
In great demand as a performer, Steven Schick will make a number of appearances in New York in February. He is to perform John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit and Louis Andriessen’s Worker’s Union as part of the eighth blackbird curated Tune-In Festival at the Armory and as conductor and percussionist in The International Contemporary Ensemble’s Alice Tully Hall performances. In March, he appears in Schick Machine, an evening length solo musical theater work created especially for him by the Paul Dresher Ensemble at San Francisco’s Theater Artaud. Schick’s percussion ensemble, red fish blue fish, will be featured in the new Peter Sellars production of George Crumb’s Winds of Destiny in June at the Ojai Festival in Ojai, California and at Ojai North! presented by Cal Performances in Berkeley.
“Steven Schick is an exciting, brilliant, and extraordinary contemporary musician,” says Richard Lee, President of the Board of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. “The unanimous choice among a field of 90 candidates, Steven brings an international reputation and a lifetime of engagement with contemporary music. We look forward to his inspiring leadership of our gifted ensemble.”
Percussion has often played a central role in contemporary music and there is no doubt that percussionists are more and more moving from within the ensemble to the podium. In a recent article about this trend, New York Times critic Allan Kozinn even proclaimed that “drums are the new violins,” going on to make a point that the percussion discipline is excellent training for understanding the dense polyphonic textures of today’s contemporary music. Steven Schick is just such a case, a musician who artfully combines conducting and percussion performance to weave a unique international career. Founder and Artistic Director of the percussion group red fish blue fish, Schick is also Music Director and conductor of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, a post he has held since 2007. He makes space in his artistic life to conduct the International Contemporary Ensemble as well as to perform George Crumb in a new Peter Sellars production. Mark Swed from the Los Angeles Times described a recent performance of Xenakis’s Rebonds as featuring “the intelligence of a computer, the body of an athlete, and the pose of a dancer” and his performances of Stockhausen’s Zyklus “were enthralling” according to The Times in London. Also highly regarded for his teaching, Schick serves as Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego and as Consulting Artist in Percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. He was the percussionist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars of New York City from 1992-2002, and from 2000 to 2004 served as Artistic Director of the Centre International de Percussion de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. Steven Schick’s book on solo percussion music, The Percussionist’s Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams, was published by the University of Rochester Press; his recording of The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies by John Luther Adams was released by Cantaloupe Music; and a 3 CD set of the complete percussion music of Iannis Xenakis, made in collaboration with red fish blue fish, was issued by Mode Records. From his roots on a family farm in Iowa, Schick’s first experience with music began as a drummer in a rock band. When he entered the University of Iowa, he realized, in his words, “Contemporary percussion music was rewriting all the rules. It was the newest, most exciting, and most provocative music around. I said good-bye to the rock band (and to my parents’ aspirations to have a doctor in the family) and embraced the raw, vital sounds of percussion music.”
Described by San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman as “the area’s premier new music ensemble,” The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are a group of highly skilled musicians with an international reputation in contemporary music performance. On April 4, the ensemble celebrates 40 years with a special Gala concert featuring a guest appearance by Terry Riley and a performance of the legendary In C. A ten-time winner of the national ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, the ensemble has toured widely throughout California with performances on such prestigious concert series as the Ojai Festival, Los Angeles’ Monday Evening Concerts, San Francisco Performances, Cal Performances, the Stern Grove Festival, and the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento. The ensemble made its European debut at the Cheltenham Festival in 1986, and in 2009 performed in Nice, France for the 30thanniversary season of the prestigious MANCA new music festival. This year, the ensemble has been invited to perform on the distinguished Morrison Artists Series at San Francisco State University.
Percussionists as of late are really having an impact on the contemporary music scenes in this country. The New York Times Article article Percussionist Go From Background to Podium seems to almost predict this trend to a tee. Why do you think contemporary percussionists seem to see conducting as a desirable development in their careers? Give us your thoughts in the comments.