FeNAM Sarah CahillPianist Sarah Cahill is FeNAM’s keynote speaker this year. (Christine Alicino)

A dynamic pianist and keynote speaker, a new co-director, and a little more jazz highlight the 39th annual Festival of New American Music (FeNAM), Sacramento State’s free, 10-day celebration of this expansive musical genre.

“New American music” covers a wide range of musical styles, from atonal, to experimental, to new classical, to jazz, and much more. And this year’s FeNAM (csus.edu/music/fenam) does its best to represent it during its Nov. 4-13 run, part of Sac State’s Arts Experience (no concerts are scheduled Nov. 11 in deference to Veterans Day).

Pianist Sarah Cahill, returning to FeNAM for the third time, is this year’s keynote speaker.

“In addition to being a highly acclaimed pianist specializing in new American music, Sarah Cahill is a writer, producer, and radio personality who always has her finger on the pulse of new music,” says Festival Artistic Director Stephen Blumberg.

Critics have described Cahill as “fiercely gifted,” and she has performed at the San Francisco Symphony’s Soundbox, and New York venues Le Poisson Rouge and Roulette. She delivers the keynote address at noon Monday, Nov. 7, at the Capistrano Concert Hall, then performs the closing concert, “A Sweeter Music,” with video by John Sanborn, at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, also at the Capistrano Concert Hall.

The opening concert features Sandbox Percussion, Earplay, and bassoonist Paul Hanson. Also performing is newly formed trio TriMusica, featuring Sac State’s Sandra McPherson, clarinet; and John Cozza, piano; along with UC Davis cellist Susan Lamb Cook premiering Blumberg’s “Aura.” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, at the Capistrano Concert Hall.

This year’s FeNAM also welcomes David A. Wells as co-director. He replaces Keith Bohm, who served 10 years with the festival, exchanging co-director and director duties with Blumberg.

Wells, who plays the bassoon, says when he arrived at Sac State he was thrilled to learn about FeNAM and even perform in it. “I think it’s fantastic to have kept it going for all this time, and when the opportunity presented itself to be more of a part of it, I jumped at it.”

One idea Wells brought to the event was to add a little more jazz. While it always has had something of a role in FeNAM, Wells wanted to bring a little more of that genre to the celebration, providing more of an opportunity to include the University’s strong Jazz Program and get more of its students involved.

One of this year’s jazz contributors is New York’s Wee Trio, featuring vibraphone, bass, and drums. “Which is kind of an oddball combination, but one that seems to work well,” Blumberg says.

Blumberg adds that another eclectic group that relies on improvisation is Riverrun. “They play something that’s kind of a world-music-influenced jazz/rock style,” he says. They perform at noon Nov. 9, at the Capistrano Concert Hall.

Splinter Reeds is a fairly new group, but bases its lineup on the longtime Calefax Reed Quintet from the Netherlands, with oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, and bassoon. They’ll premiere a new piece at FeNAM by Bay Area composer Ken Ueno.

Other performers include the all-women’s Cassatt String Quartet; the popular local group Citywater; and Mana Quartet, a saxophone quartet that first performed at FeNAM in 2014.

Flutist Laurel Zucker and pianist John Cozza perform a concert at the Crocker Art Museum at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13.

The Festival Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. Their concert will include a piece by Sacramento State Orchestra Director Leo Eylar performed by percussion Professor Daniel Kennedy and Artie Storch, principal percussionist for the Skywalker Symphony and a regular extra percussionist for the San Francisco Symphony. Other School of Music faculty members in concert include saxophonist Bohm and violinist Anna Presler with a solo performance that includes electronics.

For more information about the festival, and a complete schedule, visit csus.edu/music/fenam or call the School of Music at 278-5191. – Craig Koscho