Red Fish Blue Fish. Photo credit: Irene Haupt
Red Fish Blue Fish. Photo credit: Irene Haupt

Two of the happiest experiences I’ve had as a composer were back to back summers (’98 and ’99) at JUNE IN BUFFALO. Held at SUNY Buffalo in upstate New York, the weeklong festival is a chance for ‘emerging’ composers to hear their music performed by top notch musicians and to have it critiqued by master composers.

By the end of the festival, they’re likely to have gotten a good tape of their piece, met performers and new music ‘movers and shakers,’ listened to nigh a hundred hours of contemporary fare, gathered tons of ideas for new works of their own, and made some lifelong chums among the other emergent creators. To this day, I keep in touch with many folks I met at JiB.

This year’s festival runs from Monday, June 1 through Sunday, June 7. The senior composers are MARTIN BRESNICK, BERNARD RANDS, MATTHEW ROSENBLUM, HARVEY SOLLBERGER, and festival director DAVID FELDER. Ensembles include the Buffalo Philharmonic, Slee Sinfonietta (JiB’s in-house new music orchestra!), Meridian Arts Ensemble, Verge Ensemble, and the New York New Music Ensemble.

SUNY Buffalo has recently boosted its online presence in the new music community. The university’s Robert and Carol Morris Century for Twenty-first Century Music has launched a website offering programming from the past two years of JiB and other SUNY Buffalo new music activities. Alongside this is an addition to the blogosphere, entitled Edge of the Center.

There’s plenty to be excited about this year, but next year’s festival celebrates twin anniversaries: the thirty-fifth anniversary of JiB’s inception and its twenty-fifth since David Felder resurrected it from hiatus. Should be a loaded week!

David Felder. Photo credit: Irene Haupt
David Felder. Photo credit: Irene Haupt

While it’s been a while since I’ve gone to JiB, I have a few suggestions for attendees.

1) Bring extra copies of scores, parts, and recordings

2) Make enough business cards to share with performers, composers, etc.

3) That said, don’t force any of the above on anyone. Unlike some venues, the spirit at JiB is more about ‘building a new music community’ and less about ‘sharp elbowed angling for commissions.’

4) Bring non-perishable food: power bars, H2O, etc. Between lectures, seminars, rehearsals, concerts, and socializing, opportunities to eat are few and far between.

5) Leave yourself far more time to get out of the dorm than you think will be necessary. That place is a labyrinth!

6) Be polite to your performers and to the JiB staff. The week is a gauntlet: they are unbelievably busy!

7) Be a good colleague to your fellow composers. If you have something to say about their music, be constructive. Don’t use the masterclasses as an opportunity for one-upmanship.

8 ) Keep open ears. You may not like a certain style now, but getting a chance to hear all sorts of music at JiB may provide stimulus for projects or avenues of inquiry that you can’t yet foresee.

9) Don’t expect to get any new music written. The festival’s days start early and end late. Soak in the sounds. Get out and meet people.

10) Enjoy – you’ll never forget June in Buffalo.