Giving Voice to New Music

The quest for new knowledge comes in many forms. In the performing arts, that quest—through creative activity—distinguishes faculty members and allows them to make their own unique path in the field of performance.

For Sam Houston State University music professor Tony Boutté, a passion for the work of new music composers guided that path. The New American Voices project, founded by Boutté in 2014, is an initiative that develops and performs works for voice through creative collaborations.

“As artistic director, I am driven by a desire to connect singer and composer in a way that promotes deeply personal and innovative work,” he said.

Boutté’s endeavor has resulted in the creation of over 50 new pieces of music, and facilitated the collaboration of over 20 teams of composers and singers.

“It’s important for young singers and composers to work together, since they are the future of music,” Boutté said. “So the earlier these connections can be made, the richer and more meaningful the outcomes, in regards to new musical composition and performances.”

Through New American Voices, students in SHSU School of Music are able to make connections with other like minds and grow as creative artists by witnessing the results from collaborations.

“It really is like a laboratory. We put two people together and see what that combination yields. This kind of work helps to open the mind of each participant in new and exciting ways,” Boutté said.

Since its inception, Boutté has seen successful progress and achievement. Most recently, New American Voices presented the world premiere of its new commission by composer Shawn Crouch in collaboration with Aperio —Music of the Americas. The work (“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”) was presented in SHSU’s Gaertner Performing Arts Center and Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston.

New American Voices was also recently named a winner in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Art Song Composition Prize for a work commissioned by SHSU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. In June, Boutté will perform the winning song cycle (“Parlour Songs” by Zachary Wadsworth) with the composer at the 2020 NATS National Conference in Knoxville, TN.

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