Crane composer awarded $10,000 NEA grant
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 11:53 am

POTSDAM -- Local composer Dr. Gregory Wanamaker, a professor of composition at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music, has been awarded a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence Grant.

The $10,000 in NEA funding will support the commissioning and presentation of a collaborative work with renowned visual artist Carrie Mae Weems through the Society for New Music in Syracuse. The new musical work will be scored for a large chamber ensemble and Dr. Wanamaker will conduct free workshops at area universities and education centers in conjunction with its premiere.

The proposal was approved by the NEA after a competitive process.

"I am honored to be a part of this project and am grateful to live in a country where the creation of new works is still supported with both public and private funds," Dr. Wanamaker said.

He is a professor of composition and theory at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music, where he has been teaching composition, theory, counterpoint and literature since 1997.

Since its founding in 1971, the Syracuse-based Society for New Music has acted as a catalyst for the continued growth of the Central New York musical community by commissioning new works, through advocacy, by featuring regional composers alongside guest composers, by providing regional musicians an opportunity to perform the music of their peers in order to gain new skills and techniques which they then share with their students, and by bringing new music to as broad an audience as possible, through performances, broadcasts and cable TV. It is the oldest new music organization in New York State outside of Manhattan.

A native of Skaneateles, N.Y., Dr. Wanamaker first came in contact with the Society for New Music in 1994 when founding members Neva Pilgrim, a soprano celebrated for her work in the performance of contemporary classical music, and clarinetist David Abrams performed his "Mid-Winter Waking" on two of their summer concerts. At the time, he was a doctoral student at the Florida State University School of Music.

"Their performance was an inspiration, and I knew I wanted to continue to work with them and the Society as a whole in the future," Dr. Wanamaker said. "Neva called me last February to ask if I was interested in a commission for the Society's 2011-12 season and suggested that the Society could fund, in part, a collaborative project with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts."

Pilgrim suggested that he collaborate with renowned visual artist Carrie Mae Weems.

"Carrie Mae Weems' works are beautiful, provocative and powerful, focusing on family relationships, gender, racism, sexism and politics. We actually have not met in person yet, and we haven't yet decided on a theme for the project, but I look forward to seeing what we come up with," Dr. Wanamaker said.

Gregory Wanamaker's music explores and extends the unique timbral qualities of instruments and voices while maintaining lyric and dramatic characteristics commonly associated with works of earlier eras and contemporary popular music. Recent reviews of his award-winning music in Fanfare Magazine, American Record Guide, and Audiophile Audition have described various works as "compelling," "skillful," "outstanding," "cutting-edge" and "a technical tour de force."

The recipient of numerous commissions from performers around the world, Wanamaker's award-winning music has been performed throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and Asia, and can be heard on the Albany, Innova, Summit, White Pine, Mark Custom and KCM record labels.

More information about his music, including audio samples of his work, may be found on his website at www.gregorywanamaker.com .