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Contemporary Music Festival

Previous Festivals | Fisher Tull | Newton Strandberg

53rd Annual SHSU Contemporary Music Festival
April 9-11, 2015

Please check back soon for more information!

Previous Festivals

  • 1st Annual: 1961-62 Peter Mennin and Charles Kent
  • 2nd Annual: 1962-63 Kent Kennan
  • 3rd Annual: 1963-64 Vincent Persichetti
  • 4th Annual: 1964-65 Sandor Veress
  • 5th Annual: 1965-66 Halsey Stevens
  • 6th Annual: 1966-67 Carlisle Floyd
  • 7th Annual: 1967-68 David Amram
  • 8th Annual: 1968-69 Alvin Etler
  • 9th Annual: 1969-70 Samuel Adler
  • 10th Annual: 1970-71 Paul Creston
  • 11th Annual: 1971-72 Ben Johnston
  • 12th Annual: 1972-73 Warren Benson
  • 13th Annual: 1973-74 Morton Subotnick
  • 14th Annual: 1974-75 INTERACTION: Paul Posnak, David Sells, Ericko Sator, Ethan Sloan
  • 15th Annual: 1975-76 David Burge
  • 16th Annual: 1976-77 Karel Husa
  • 17th Annual: 1977-78 David Cope
  • 18th Annual: 1978-79 Michael Hennagin
  • 19th Annual: 1979-80 Joseph Schwantner
  • 20th Annual: 1980-81 Donald Erb
  • 21st Annual: 1981-82 Newton Strandberg
  • 22nd Annual: 1982-83 Marvin Lamb
  • 23rd Annual: 1983-84 Daniel Pinkham
  • 24th Annual: 1984-85 Fisher Tull
  • 25th Annual: 1985-86 Thea Musgrave
  • 26th Annual: 1986-87 Sesquicentennial Celebration of Texas Composers
  • 27th Annual: 1987-88 Anthony Iannaccone
  • 28th Annual: 1988-89 Three Texas Composers: William MacDavis, Cynthia Folio, Mary Jean van Appledorn
  • 29th Annual: 1990-91 Elie Siegmeister
  • 30th Annual: 1991-92 Michael Colgrass
  • 31st Annual: 1992-93 Ron Nelson
  • 32nd Annual: 1993-94 Fisher Tull
  • 33rd Annual: 1994-95 Michael Schelle
  • 34th Annual: 1995-96 Dan Welcher
  • 35th Annual: 1996-97 Karel Husa
  • 36th Annual: 1997-98 Leslie Bassett and Martin Mailman
  • 37th Annual: 1998-99 Jack Gallagher
  • 38th Annual: 1999-2000 Region VI SCSI Conference
  • 39th Annual: 2000-01 Newton Strandberg
  • 40th Annual: 2001-02 Cindy McTee
  • 41st Annual: 2002-03 Michael Horvit
  • 42nd Annual: 2003-04 Fisher Tull
  • 43rd Annual: 2004-05 SHSU Composers: Past and Present
  • 44th Annual: 2005-06 Donald Grantham
  • 45th Annual: 2006-07 John Luther Adams
  • 46th Annual: 2007-08 David Dzubay/SCI Region VI Conference
  • 47th Annual: 2008-09 Peter Garland
  • 48th Annual: 2009-10 Kyle Gann
  • 49th Annual: 2010-11 Stefan Weisman and Michael Byron
  • 50th Annual: 2011-12 Carter Pann
  • 51st Annual: 2012-13 Mark Applebaum
  • 52nd Annual: 2013-14 Bent Frequency

Fisher Tull (1934-94)

Fisher Tull

In 1957, and barely 23 years old, Fisher Tull (known as Mickey to his friends), came to Sam Houston State University where he became a beloved professor, mentor, and colleague to many. From 1965 to 1982 he served as Chairman of our music department and was instrumental in creating an award winning school of music. In 1984 he was named a Piper Professor, a title that carried a prestigious award for excellence in teaching. In the same year, he was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music. His accomplishments reached far beyond his importance as a composer, to include his exceptional teaching, his receptive temperament, his creative genius, and his constant desire to see his students succeed.

He was born in Waco, Texas on September 24, 1934. After graduating from Waco High School in 1952, and after a brief interval as a professional musician traveling with a commercial dance band, he attended The University of North Texas in Denton where he received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education in 1956 and a Master of Music in Music Theory and Trumpet Performance in 1957. He studied trumpet with John Haynie and his primary composition teacher was Samuel Adler. He was appointed as the first staff arranger for the lab band at UNT and also worked with Dallas area dance bands. While a student, he held teaching assistantships in trumpet and arranging. In 1956, he was appointed director of a second lab band that was created at UNT. During this year he married Charlotte. They have two children: Tim, born in 1958, currently a professional musician serving as librarian for the Houston Grand Opera and percussionist with the Houston Ballet, and Jennifer, born in 1959, currently working as a lawyer in Austin. In 1964 he left SHSU to continue his studies, earning a Ph.D. in Music Composition from The University of North Texas in 1965. Upon his return to SHSU, he was appointed chairman of our music department. As an administrator, he served as president of the Texas Association of Music Schools and was a member of the Board of Directors and the Commission on Undergraduate Standards of the National Association of Schools of Music.

He received many commissions including those from the National Endowment for the Arts, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Houston Ballet, Houston Music Guild, International Trumpet Guild, the U.S. Army Band, the U. S. Air Force Band, Doc Severinsen, Steve Houghton, Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma, the Sinfonia Foundation, International Trumpet Guild, National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, Tubists United Brotherhood Associations, and numerous universities.

His compositions number more than 80 including works for all mediums of performing groups such as, orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles. His works have been published by many companies including, Boosey & Hawkes, Southern Music Company, Western International Music, Ludwig Publishing Company, TRN and the International Trombone Association Manuscript Press. Some of his works have been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Brass Society, Philharmonic Brass, Millar Brass Ensemble, Doc Severinsen, and many other prestigious performers.

Fisher Tull received awards in composition from the Texas Composers Guild, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), National Flute Association, Willamette Arts Festival, the Friends of Harvey Gaul, the Ostwald Award from the University of Maryland, Artists Advisory Council of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Arthur Fraser Memorial. He was granted the Distinguished Men of Music medal by Kappa Kappa Psi, and was awarded the Orpheus Award by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. In 1993 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the UNT College of Music, and a scholarship is awarded every year in his name to a student in the SHSU School of Music.

His musical style ranges from neo-classical to the more experimental. His music is diverse, exhibiting rhythmically vibrant melodies, sonorities reminiscent of Bartok and Hindemith, borrowings from liturgical music, and his obvious skill in the craft of Baroque counterpoint. Two popular styles of Post-War American music include the fascination with rhythm and the focus on neo-romantic melodies and lush harmony. His music demonstrates fluency of both styles, showing his versatility in and command of musical language. He often spoke about his absorption with the reproduced sketchbooks of Beethoven and Stravinsky and in 1984 he wrote that he carried a ‘multilingual concept’ into his compositions.

“Some of my works are neo-classical, some are quite romantic while others are rather experimental. At this time [1984] I have no interest in electronic or computer-generated music because I still enjoy the humanistic aspects of interaction with performers, both as a composer and as a conductor.”

He spoke about how he knew he wanted to be a musician when, at the age of nine, he found his first trumpet under the Christmas tree. He confesses that he was late coming to the composition of ‘serious’ music [his term] and was hesitant at the age of 29 as he began to step out of jazz, with which he was fluent, into the world of ‘legitimate’ music [his wording, again].

Fisher Tull was an innately gifted musician in so many aspects of our broad field of music. He was also a born teacher. His ease in the classroom and his clarity of thought, and the presentation of that thought, endeared many students to his gracious manner. His way of explaining the complex, sparking interest in us, and giving us the confidence to pursue our own ambitions has been invaluable in its worth.

Inside his creative mind he was the first to be humble and grateful to his friends and family. In 1984, he included in his personal notes for our Contemporary Music Festival, a published tribute to his wife Charlotte, which is still imbedded in my memory. She continues to enhance our School of music in numerous ways and we are grateful to her for her ongoing support.

“ ...I must recognize the unquestioning support of my parents during my juvenile years and, in my adult life, the uncommon sustenance and understanding from my wife, Charlotte, who has endured all the hours of my cloistered labors without a hint of complaint, and who always sows positive seeds when my garden threatens to become fallow.”

He taught undergraduates and graduates alike and instructed us in so many ways in our growth as musicians. His kind demeanor and loving teaching spirit instilled in us a love for learning, creating, and ultimately, teaching. He remains a hero in our hearts and an inspiration in our lives. As a teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend, we salute you Mickey, and pay tribute to you today.


Newton Strandberg (1921-2001)

Newton Strandberg

Newton D. Strandberg (1921-2001) was born in River Falls, Wisconsin and raised in his youth in mid-America, Iowa. He first attended North Park College (now North Park University) in Chicago and later, in 1983, was awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the school. He studied piano and composition with Anthony Donato at Northwestern University, receiving a Bachelor of Music Education in 1942, a Master of Music in Piano Performance in 1947, and a Doctorate of Music in Composition in 1956, the first music degree of its sort to be awarded at Northwestern.

He furthered his studies in composition with the well-known composer and innovator, Henry Cowell at Columbia University and the most influential teacher of our American composers, Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau. He received numerous awards and commissions, and was honored with contemporary festivals featuring his music exclusively. He served on the faculty of several universities including Denison University (1947-49), Samford University (1950-54 and again in 1956-67), and Northwestern University (1954-56). In 1967 he joined the faculty of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where he remained until his retirement in 1997.

Among his compositions, are works for orchestra, piano, organ, chorus, wind ensemble, and a variety of eclectic chamber ensembles. Strandberg’s witty and adventurous personality is reflected in much of his music often resulting in humorous or unusual titles and texts. His versatile style incorporates rhythmic vitality, surprising orchestrations, beautiful harmonic and melodic moments, and a true sense of originality. Although never purposely interested in Americana, by his own admission, he was interested in African and Asian music and the ethnic influences found in the great 20th-century composers such as Stravinsky, Bartok, Messiaen, and Copland. Although modern and original to its core, his music has never abandoned triadic harmonies entirely. Strandberg was deliberate in his musical style and, in 1982, articulated his philosophy:

My life has never been spent in the environment of New York City or Paris. The accessibility of trends in thought and ideas have always trickled down to me. These ideas I would read about or perhaps I would see a snatch of a score, but the real live aural experiences have been most modest. So, even though the triad has not been forsaken by me, I consider my style for the most part indeed eclectic. I write within the bounds of the twelve chromatic tones. I model and experiment with shape and design that leads to my own conclusions of form. I have aversions to some compositional practices that I think have been overworked but I still use them in a manner that I hope an auditor (including myself) will find refreshing.

My first-hand knowledge of his warm and sincere character confirms his candid musical approach to composition. His music is, like his person was, energetic, refreshing, engaging, and original.

Sheryl K. Murphy-Manley
School of Music, Assistant Professor, Musicology
Sam Houston State University

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