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  • Adjusting to pandemic, FeNAM turns to 'music video' approach

    Rogue Music Project, a Sacramento collective, will provide one of this year's featured performances for the 43rd Festival of New American Music. (Photo courtesy of Rogue Music Project/Tony Nguyen)

    By Ahmed V. Ortiz

    The show goes on for the Festival of New American Music (FeNAM), which in its 43rd edition will be like none before, yet comfortably familiar.

    The upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic threw FeNAM into question, said Tim Stanley, a School of Music lecturer who co-directs the festival with Associate Professor of Music Scott Perkins. But only for the briefest moment.

    “We considered canceling for about 30 minutes,” Stanley said.

    “I had to recalibrate how I was going to be an artist this year.”

    With performances before crowds unfeasible, all concerts and select other events will be streamed on the FeNAM website. And the festival’s lineup of master classes and artists’ forums, which provide students critical direct interaction with artists and composers, live on as Zoom events.

    Stanley said it was important that the festival endure to help sustain artists, who are paid for FeNAM appearances and whose schedules have been deeply affected by the pandemic.

    “We put everything on hold,” said Omari Tau, artistic director for Sacramento collective Rogue Music Project. Their performance, recorded days earlier from the Crocker Art Museum’s main gallery, streams at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8.

    Most of the quintet have sustaining regular jobs, including Tau, who teaches at Cosumnes River College. But Carrie Hennessey, the group’s soprano who relies on a performance schedule, had hers rolled to 2021. Tau also lamented the toll exacted on his “artist self” – the lost connections with shuttered organizations. “I had to recalibrate how I was going to be an artist this year.”

    The absence of traditional stages, Perkins said, has left an opportunity for performers to shoot what essentially are music videos. Some have hired videographers for the event.

    “They’ve come up with some really creative solutions, including things that can’t be done live,” he said. “I’m eager to see how they’ve adapted.”

    In a nod to the 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women, almost all the composers featured are female or identify as female. Hannah Lash, whose works Hub New Music will feature in the Gala Performance at 7 p.m. opening night Sunday, Nov. 1, will deliver the festival’s keynote address at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 and give a master class at noon Tuesday, Nov. 3.

    The Local Voices concert, showcasing Sacramento State’s place in regional arts by putting Sacramento-area musicians and composers in the spotlight, is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5. And the Collegiate Performers Competition, in which players vie for a cash prize and are judged by a panel of the festival’s guest performers, is at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

    New York-based loadbang, which also performs in the Gala, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, presents “Broken Language,” an exploration of the intersection of language and music that Perkins called a “spin-off” of last year’s “The Sound of Science,” which connected that discipline to music. “Broken Language” will feature works by Eve Beglarian, Chaya Czernowin, Paula Matthusen, Angelica Negrón, Heather Stebbins, and ZongYun We, with a complementary panel discussion from 11-11:50 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.


    WHAT: Festival of New American Music

    WHEN: Nov. 1-8

    WHERE: Online at

    ADMISSION: Free for campus community and the public

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