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Acumen Spring 2014

Sametz at Yaddo

Steven Sametz is creating a choral work in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary killings of December 2012

Steven Sametz, professor of music, joined a select group of artists in late February when he spent three weeks on a residential fellowship at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to work on his latest choral composition.

Sametz was selected by a panel of writers, artists, composers and filmmakers. While at Yaddo, he worked on a piece tentatively titled “A Child’s Requiem.” The project is a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary killings of December 2012, for which Sametz also received the 2013 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize. As part of the project, he is working with schools in the Lehigh Valley and around the nation to develop a libretto drawn from children’s responses to tragedy and loss. Sametz says he plans to reprise the work at Lehigh and to develop an exhibition of artwork from young children, expressive of their thoughts on loss, which will be displayed at the time of the performances.

“Going to Yaddo promotes the kind of environment that fosters creativity,” says Sametz. “It’s an incredible luxury. Your job is to just find your creative impulses. It’s ideal because it frees you from the myriad things you have to do in the course of a day.”

Yaddo is an artists’ community located on a 400-acre estate in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Its mission is to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment. Founded in 1900 by the financier Spencer Trask and his wife, Katrina, herself a poet, the community has hosted such noted writers as Truman Capote and composer Aaron Copland.

Yaddo offers residencies to professional creative artists from all nations and backgrounds working in one or more of the following media: choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture and video. Artists may apply individually or as members of collaborative teams of two or three persons. They are selected by panels of other professional artists without regard to financial means. Residencies last from two weeks to two months and include room, board and studio.

Sametz, who has earned increasing renown in recent years as both composer and conductor, is the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and director of Lehigh University Choral Arts, one of the country’s premier choral programs. He also serves as artistic director for the elite a cappella ensemble The Princeton Singers and is the founding director of The Lehigh University Choral Composer Forum, a summer course of study designed to mentor emerging choral composers. In fall 2013, he was named a Fulbright specialist.

“So many great things have recently come my way: the Sackler Award, being chosen as a Fulbright specialist, the Yaddo residency and the very exciting opportunity to present and direct my choral symphony at Carnegie Hall this coming fall as part of the Lehigh sesquicentennial. All of this work is based on what we create here with our students; it’s a lab for the arts.” 

Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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