Usually, the Chameleon Chamber Players listen to unfamiliar pieces before trying to play them. But this year, the five-member advanced ensemble had a chance to approach music differently thanks to a gift of funding for Concord Academy’s new composer-in-residence, Stefanie Lubkowski.
A Connecticut native who now lives in Cambridge, Mass., Lubkowski wrote a three-movement piece called “Murmurations” for the Chamber Players and is including the students in the process of composition. “When I first got the appointment, I decided I’d write a multi-part piece with a short prelude that they could work on right away,” said Lubkowski. She used students’ reactions to guide the rest of her composition, sometimes changing plans after she had heard the piano quintet bring her music to life.
At one point, uncertain how long a series of chords should be at the end of the piece, she invited students to weigh in. “Strangely, I thought it was a matter of making the chords longer, but the students suggested making them shorter, which turned out to be exactly right,” Lubkowski said. “It became this really interesting compositional moment.”
As CA’s composer-in-residence, Lubkowski works with the Chameleon Chamber Players (a group directed by Meghan Jacoby) and teaches individual lessons in composition. Including students in the process speaks to one of her main professional goals: to help young people see composition as a dynamic process.
Michaela Trieloff ’19 is a member of the Chameleon Chamber Players who is enjoying the chance to be part of creating new work. The viola player found it difficult at first to play music she had never heard and said Lubkowski helped by describing to students what sort of sounds the music is intended to evoke. “She said it should sound like the movement of birds,” Trieloff remembered.
Trieloff now finds it exciting to be working on an original piece, which will be performed later this spring. “It’s cool,” she said. “I’ve never been part of the process before.”
Lubkowski, who holds a doctorate in composition from Boston University, got her start as a composer at a young age. As a child, she liked developing unusual sounds on her mother’s Wurlitzer organ and, later, exploring electronic music in her high school’s studio. Now, when not teaching or composing, she is active in Boston’s music scene. She works in development at the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and serves as executive director of the Equilibrium Concert Series.
In addition to inviting students into her own compositional process, Lubkowski hopes to be an ambassador for the work of other living composers and is working on a resource playlist for her students. “Contemporary classical music by living composers is some of the most exciting material out there,” she said. “You may be surprised by how much you like it.”