American classical composer, conductor and lecturer Eric Whitacre will be the featured composer for the 2008 Festival of Contemporary Art Music (FoCAM) at WSU’s School of Music.
FoCAM is an annual event celebrating contemporary classical music showcasing new original compositions by students, faculty and a visiting artist. The 2008 festival will be held Feb. 7-9 on the WSU Pullman campus.
The festival will include a campus visit by Kevin Olson and will coincide with the School of Music’s inaugural American Choral Music Festival. All performances are free to the public.
 
Piano pedagogy lab
Olson is an active pianist, composer and faculty member at Elmhurst College near Chicago. In addition to conducting public school workshops, a teacher’s clinic and a master class, Olson will attend WSU School of Music’s Piano Pedagogy Lab School (PPLS) student recital of original compositions at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in Kimbrough Concert Hall. 
 
Choral music festival
The new American Choral Music Festival, developed by WSU’s School of Music choral director Lori Wiest and funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, includes a new commissioned work for the WSU Concert Choir by professor Charles Argersinger and its premiere performance on Feb. 7 at the FoCAM Faculty Composer’s Concert.
 
The festival also will include: workshops and open rehearsals on Feb. 8 and 9 with WSU Concert Choir, WSU Madrigal Singers, UI Vandaleers, UI University Chorus, and WSU Wind Symphony with guest composer and conductor Eric Whitacre; a 3 p.m. concert on Feb. 9 in Bryan Hall featuring performances of American Choral Music; and the culminating concert at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9.
In addition to the on-campus activities, the WSU Concert Choir will take the American Choral Music Festival on tour this spring, performing in public schools around Washington.  Musical selections will feature work by established American composers Whitacre, Dominick Argento, Robert Shaw, Alice Parker, Libby Larsen, Randall Thompson, Moses Hogan, Norman Luboff and Aaron Copland.
Contemporary art music
FoCAM at WSU opens at 11:10 a.m. Feb. 7 with a recital of new student compositions in Kimbrough concert hall.
A faculty composer concert featuring new compositions by Argersinger, Ryan Hare, and Gregory Yasinitsky will be performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 7 in Bryan Hall Auditorium.
Whitacre will conduct a program featuring his choral works at a public concert performed by the WSU Concert Choir, WSU Madrigal Singers, University of Idaho Vandaleers, UI University Chorus and WSU Wind Symphony at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 in Bryan Hall Auditorium. In addition to his performance, Whitacre will speak to students and faculty during his campus visit.
“The opportunity to work with world-renowned composers is one of the most outstanding features of the Festival of Contemporary Art Music,” said Wiest, WSU associate professor of music. “The students are very excited to work with Eric Whitacre and to learn more from him about the art of composition and his ideas regarding his own compositions and the performance of them.”
An accomplished conductor and clinician, Whitacre has become one of the most performed choral and symphonic composers of his generation.
“Eric Whitacre’s music is innovative and emotionally powerful,” said Argersinger, WSU professor of music, creator and director of FoCAM. “He manages to balance the need for fresh, contemporary musical language with the necessity of writing with what musicians call ’good voice leading’ — melodic lines of largely stepwise motion which are relatively easy to hear and sing.”
Whitacre received his master’s degree in 1997 from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Oscar-winner John Corigliano, the 2007 FoCAM guest composer.
 
He was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award in the category of Best Choral Performance for his a cappella music collection “Cloudburst and Other Choral Works” (Hyperion Music, 2007). His compositions have received awards from the Barlow International Foundation; the American Composers Forum; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and the American Choral Directors Association.
Whitacre recently received the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award for most promising musical theater composer for “Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings,” a cutting edge musical combining trance, ambient and techno-electronica with traditional choral, cinematic and operatic elements.
As a conductor, Whitacre has appeared nationally and abroad with professional and educational ensembles performing his musical works. He has served as chorus master for the Nevada Symphony Orchestra and has been guest conductor with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Gregg Smith Singers and the Miami Children’s Chorus.