By Contributing Writer MARTHA BRYANT
Forty years ago, a group of Angel Fire residents invited some professional musicians to visit. Today, the festival they created, Music From Angel Fire, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. From the east coast, the west coast, and from the heartland, these musicians have been meeting in northern New Mexico to make music for you.
Nine concerts will be presented, from August 17 to 31: six in Angel Fire, two in Taos, and one in Raton. Musicians will perform works of some of the classical composers whose names you know: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart. But they’ll also present works by living composers. Mostly, they play chamber music; music presented by small groups of musicians.
This year, Andy Akiho is composer-in-residence. Andy will present the world premier of his composition created specifically for Music From Angel Fire, on Wednesday, August 23, in Angel Fire. Andy is a big deal in the world of contemporary music. His compositions have been nominated for a handful of Grammy awards, and in 2022, he was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize in Music — an award that selects one winner and two finalists. Andy plays an instrument you may not know: the steelpan, also known as a steel drum. A few days after the premiere concert, he will give a demonstration and discuss his inspiration as a composer. That program is free and will be held at the United Church of Angel Fire on Friday, August 25, at 1:30 p.m.
Music from Angel Fire is not just for professional musicians. Each year the festival brings young musicians from prestigious conservatory programs. This year, eight conservatory students will come from Juilliard and Curtis. These young artists play side-by-side with the professional musicians presenting concerts in quick succession, an important part of their music education. They also practice what musicians call “playing it forward.” The young artists from New York and Philadelphia go into schools across northern New Mexico. Through the Music in Schools program, they present a brief concert. And in the long-standing tradition of music, they share what they know to inspire a new generation of young musicians.
This August, with the support of a Questa Chevron Grant for Good 2023 and the Taos Community Foundation, the young artists will present a concert for students at Alta Vista Elementary & Intermediate School.
Why does Music from Angel Fire reach out to young students? Because that’s where almost every musician gets a start. Even for those who take up music but then choose a different career path, research shows that K-12 students who take music have better attendance, better grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school. Many use music as an entry to college where music scholarships ask students to play in the band or orchestra, but allow them to study in the field of their choice. In a college ensemble, you’ll see a few music majors, but also students who major in everything from anatomy and computer science to engineering and zoology!
Music from Angel Fire is pleased to send the Music in Schools program to Questa and invite you to attend any of the concerts and lectures between August 17 and 31. Please go to www.musicfromangelfire.org for details.