Music 360 kicks off with Sam Jones

Hannah Bartman

The kickoff for the roughly weeklong Music 360 Festival: Looking Back, Reaching Forward began on Wednesday, Feb. 25 with a masterclass taught by Seattle Orchestra’s former composer in residence Dr. Samuel Jones. The festival features a variety of musical collaborations all centered around the music of Dr. Jones. The events will include a keynote address by music critic Walter Simmons, a Fridays at Four recital, a Whitman Chamber Singers and Orchestra concert, and a question-and-answer session with Simmons and Dr. Jones himself. The festival will conclude on Sunday, Mar. 1 with a concert by the Walla Walla Symphony.

“This whole festival represents rewarding collaborations from so many perspectives: students with faculty, orchestra with the choral group, performers and composers with musicologists, and, not least, Whitman College with the Walla Walla Symphony,” said Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Amy Dodds in an email.

The festival’s theme, Looking Back, Reaching Forward, is in reference to the composition style of Dr. Jones and what musicologists would define as the Neo-Romantic Movement. According to Assistant Professor of Music Douglas Scarborough, the popular trend of music during the 20th century was to feature atonality, or music that did not revolve around a central key. Composers such as Aaron Copland whose music was more harmonious and melodic were scoffed at by academics. In the past 50 years, however, this love for harmony has slowly been seeping back into the accepted and popular vein of music, and Dr. Jones falls under that category.

“[Dr. Jones and Simmons are a part of] this little niche [of Neo-Romantics], and we figured we would pull these people together and at the same time introduce it to the community and students who are learning about this struggle with harmony,” said Scarborough.

One of these students who is learning and performing a vocal solo is junior Randy Brooks. Brooks was alerted in the summer about the opportunity to perform in the festival and learn firsthand from Dr. Jones, and he jumped at the chance.

“I found myself during the process of learning his music intrigued by how he challenges a listener’s expectations in his melodic lines by using a musical style we are accustomed to hearing but twisting the direction somewhat to create aural interest. It is music that I have really enjoyed learning,” he said.

This festival began in the hands of the Walla Walla symphony as long as a year-and-a-half ago when the symphony planned their event schedule for this year. From there, conversations between Whitman staff resulted in scheduling Dr. Jones to visit and inviting Simmons, who specializes in reviewing Neo-Romantic works in his home of New York to campus. These conversations eventually spread and a network of musicians within Whitman, passionate about learning from such a distinguished and local musician, collaborated together to create this first ever week long music festival.

“Composers thought we had done everything we could do with harmony … but there’s an infinite variety and now we’re finding that out,” said Scarborough. “There is more to be said and that’s what I want people to learn. Music has an infinite ceiling and that’s what I like about it the best. As soon as you think you’ve thought it all, someone comes up with something else.”