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New Music Ensemble to perform at five national parks

  • Sarah Dowell warms up before a performance at Badlands National Park during the New Music Ensemble's 2016 national parks tour.

Posted on June 13, 2018

The student members of Grand Valley's award-winning New Music Ensemble will travel 5,000 miles over the course of 17 days to perform at some of the most famous national parks in the U.S.

The ensemble commissioned five composers to write original compositions for the tour inspired by the natural beauty of the selected national parks, which include Voyageurs, Glacier, North Cascades, Olympic and Mount Rainier. These pieces, funded through the National Endowment for the Arts, will be performed at the parks through interactive and educational performances.

Bill Ryan, New Music Ensemble director, said the tour will not only benefit the student musicians, but will also help show the importance of the National Parks system through music.

“Students will get a taste of the life of a professional musician — long hours traveling, performing in different venues each day, learning how to take care of themselves and learning how to continue to perform at a high level even when conditions aren't perfect,” said Ryan. “I am hoping that our concerts will enhance the audience's overall park experience by illustrating to them how incredible landscapes can inspire composers.”

Composers for the commissioned works include Kristin Kuster, Rachel Grimes, Alexander Miller, Michael Laurello and Jennifer Jolley. Additionally, a new arrangement of music by filmmaker and composer Ethan Newberry will be performed, along with a composition by John Jansen that uses natural objects from the parks as instruments.

Rounding out the program will be music from the ensemble’s two previous national park tours by composers Ashley Stanley, David Biedenbender, Adam Cuthbert, Zoe Keating and Niko Schroeder.

Below is the full schedule of performances. All concerts will be free and open to the public.

Voyageurs National Park (International Falls, Minnesota)
June 27 at 1 p.m., Rainy Lake Visitor Center

Glacier National Park (West Glacier, Montana)
July 1 at 8 p.m., Apgar Amphitheater

North Cascades National Park (Sedro-Woolley, Washington)
July 3 at 2 p.m., North Cascades Visitor Center
July 3 at 7 p.m., Newhalem Amphitheater

Olympic National Park (Port Angeles, Washington)
July 5 at noon, Lake Crescent Lodge Amphitheater
July 5 at 7:30 p.m., Kalaloch Amphitheater

Mount Rainier National Park (Ashford, Washington)
July 7 at 12:30 p.m., Paradise Inn
July 7 at 7 p.m., Ohanapecosh Amphitheater

The New Music Ensemble promotes contemporary classical chamber music, with a special focus on music of the past 20 years, through commissions, tours, recordings, educational events, workshops and videos.

Since the ensemble formed in 2006, the group's three other critically acclaimed recordings have appeared on “best release lists” by The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Weekly and Time Out Chicago. In 2017, the New Music Ensemble was included in NPR's list of the "100 Best Songs of 2017" for the song "Glass Surface" from the group's album "Return." Some of the ensemble’s recordings have also appeared in film, on television shows on MTV, Showtime, and at more than 75 film festivals around the world.

Ryan said the tour continues the ensemble’s focus on advocating for “the music of our time.” With these newly created pieces, the ensemble has commissioned 69 works since 2006.

“I think there is no more important figure in music than the composer, and we do everything we can to serve as their advocates and put them at the forefront of contemporary music culture,” said Ryan.

For more information about the New Music Ensemble, visit