UChicago Contemporary Music Programs Featured in UChicago Magazine

Augusta Read Thomas headshot


The UChicago Music Department was recently featured in UChicago Magazine's article "Something new," which explores the department's sixty year history of making and sharing contemporary music. 

Writer Kelley Tatro traces this history back to 1964, when the Music Department invested substantially in new music by recruiting New York composer and conductor Ralph Shapey, who both taught composition and created a professional new music ensemble: the Contemporary Chamber Players. CCP was renewed as an ensemble called Contempo in 2004 under the direction of composition professor Shulamit Ran. Fourteen years later, current Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition director Augusta Read Thomas transformed Contempo into the Grossman Ensemble -- the current resident ensemble.

The Grossman Ensemble, composed of thirteen professional musicians from the Chicago area, expands on the roots planted by Shapey and Ran. Under the direction of Thomas, the ensemble emphasizes community building and provides student composers with the crucial opportunity to hear their work realized: "[Thomas] notes how both bring together composers at every career stage, from distinguished guest composers to postdocs to graduate students to undergraduates—'so everybody is learning from everybody.'”

In addition to professional-level new music, Tatro highlights other opportunities offered by the Music Department that help current composition students build successful careers: intellectual exchanges with musicology faculty, assistance identifying outside recording and publishing opportunities, and regular lessons with top-notch composition faculty, among many other resources. In 2022, composition students Paul Novak and Justin Weiss (with faculty input from percussionist John Corkill) also resurrected a group call the New Music Ensemble, originally directed by conductor Barbara Schubert. The ensemble gives students from all corners of the University a way to participate in the the creation of new and recent music.

The full article by Tatro deeply explores this rich history of centering contemporary music in music-making at UChicago. It includes quotes from interviews with Ran and Thomas, as well as former and current students Eun Young Lee (Associate Professor of Composition, Boston Conservatory), Kari Watson, Paul Novak, and Justin Weiss. To read it, click here