Hey all! My name is Sammi Gilbert, and I’m the new intern here at NMPAS. I’m a 19 year old sophomore Contemporary Music Major at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. This year marks the first double digit anniversary of my time as a classical flute player, and I thought it would be cool to share some of my experience as a music major with those who support the ever evolving world of music. I personally identify as a classical musician, and I have for my entire musical career. My school, however, is extremely contemporary. It’s an entirely different world than the one I’m used to. As such, it’s been an interesting journey to find a leg to stand on and to hold my own in a department of musicians that easily blow my own skill out of the water.
     As in any music school, students go through a rigorous curriculum of music theory classes. At SFUAD, we add an emphasis on transitioning from listening to music, to being able to  actually notate it and understand the structure behind it. This emphasis doesn’t add much to my experience, as I am one of the students who has been reading and playing sheet music for years; however, it does add an interesting emphasis in terms of how chord structure applies to an ensemble setting, and how even a melodic instrument must understand its relationship to block chords. It also allows for an element of discovery about the strengths and weaknesses of each musician. The focus on the very basics provides a much stronger foundation for all musical education, not just the areas I’m already strong in. SFUAD also adds classes based the recording world and music technology. The focus becomes one of broadening horizons and working towards artists’ ability to pursue a goal of either a recording career or just learning how to create a unique sound on their own.
     The most interesting parts of the experience for me have come from my background in music compared to the rest of the students. Very few of us come from a classical background. Even fewer come here specifically to keep focusing on it. As such, my goal has been to learn how to make that classical focus something that can exist in a contemporary context. I get the added experience of working with teachers who help me to apply what I’m learning in something like a studio context, to what I do. So far, I have focused on live, un-amplified sounds that are used in symphonic ensemble and solo contexts. As such, my experience becomes less about learning how to notate individual rhythms and pitches, and more about learning to hear them and to internalize them. My focus becomes learning to branch out and to apply the tonality of a Bach Sonata to a basic Turkish Rast. My work as a student also turns to finding ways to get my peers involved with what I do, just as I get involved in their work. This semester that focus has turned to promoting the newest group we’ve been attempting to create- Collegium XXI. Collegium is meant to offer students with a background in classical music or composition a place to grow and see how “contemporary” meets “classical”, as well as a playground for modern student works. This ensemble would lead to the formation smaller chamber groups and unique instrumental pairs, in order to explore the rich culture and library that make up the world known as contemporary classical music. Going forward, this will include management of the ensemble, as well as looking into organizing events, and finding any way possible to bring classical music to an elevated level within the school.
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