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Grand Valley New Music Ensemble director wins national award

  • New Music Ensemble Director Bill Ryan

Posted on February 04, 2010

Grand Valley New Music Ensemble director wins national award 

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Awards and accolades continue to mount for the New Music Ensemble at Grand Valley State University, which will give two free local performances this semester. Most recently, a national award recognized efforts of the ensemble's director Bill Ryan.

The American Composers Forum, the national leader in new music services, awarded its 2009 Champion of New Music Award to Ryan for his extraordinary commitment to bringing new music into the lives of young students and to a wider public audience. This annual award is given in recognition of someone who has made significant contributions to the musical life of the nation. In addition to directing the ensemble, Ryan produces GVSU's Free Play concert series and teaches music composition.

Founded in 2006 by Ryan, Grand Valley's NME has quickly gained national attention for its work, including two critically acclaimed CDs. Their most recent, "In C Remixed," was picked as a top-ten classical release of 2009 by the Washington Post and Time Out Chicago, while their first, "Music for 18 Musicians," was just named one of the top five classical recordings of the decade by WNYC public radio.

The ensemble has an innovative upcoming performance in collaboration with music and dance students. The special event, on February 28, at 5 p.m., in the Studio Theatre, in the Performing Arts Center, Allendale Campus, will be open to the public with free admission.

In conjunction with the GVSU Art Gallery exhibit, "Enduring Traditions," featuring Southwest Pueblo Indian pottery, student composers have written 30-60 second compositions in response to the exhibit. All 35 works will be choreographed by students in the dance department. NME will perform the works, students will dance, and images from the gallery will be projected. Several faculty judges will choose three winning works for cash prizes, plus there will be an "audience favorite" prize.

Another NME performance at the Grand Valley Performing Arts Center will feature music by Houston composer Rob Smith, on March 30, at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater. The ensemble will perform several works by Smith, including the world premiere of his composition "Kicking & Screaming." Smith is an associate professor at the University of Houston where he directs the Aura Contemporary Ensemble and teaches composition. He also serves as artistic director of Musiqa, a Houston-based contemporary chamber ensemble.


The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble was launched onto the national stage in 2007 with a stunning at-dawn performance of Steve Reich's landmark work, "Music for 18 Musicians," at the 25th Bang On a Can Marathon at the World Financial Center in New York. This was followed by a critically acclaimed recording of the work, named on numerous "Best of 2007" lists, including those by the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Weekly, Calgary Herald, Time Out New York and New York Magazine. Proclaimed "The story of the year in classical music" by public radio station WNYC, the CD reached #1 on the iTunes and Amazon classical charts, and spent 11 weeks on the Billboard charts.

Released in late 2009, their follow-up CD is a recording of Riley's "In C," plus 18 remixes by luminaries including Zoe Keating, Mason Bates, Glenn Kotche, DJ Spooky, Nico Muhly, and Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang. It has received critical praise nation-wide, and was most recently featured on an episode of WNYC's Radiolab.

The ensemble has been profiled in numerous publications and featured on NPR's Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. Recent events included a performance at the College Music Society National Conference in Atlanta, as members of the all-star ensemble assembled by the Kronos Quartet to perform on the "In C" 45th Anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall, and a high-energy CD release performance at New York's Le Poisson Rouge.

For more information about the New Music Ensemble, contact Bill Ryan at (616) 331-3087, or visit


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