Newly minted alumnus Michael Kropf has been on a roll lately. He received SFCM's 2015 Highsmith Award for his piece, High Spirits, which premiered in November 2015, and in 2014, his composition for chamber ensemble, Kinesthesia, received an honorable mention at the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Awards.
Kropf can add to this list of distinctions the successful premiere of his Spinning Music earlier this month, an orchestral work commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. At its premiere, the San Francisco Chronicle called Spinning Music "a brilliant, rapid-fire stretch of perpetual motion" and "a sleek and ingratiating piece."
By working with conductor Marin Alsop -- music director of both the Festival and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -- Kropf was offered an environment catered to discovery and newness. "Working with Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra was eye-opening because they attack new music with so much force and commitment," reflects Kropf. "They were bringing out elements in my music that I hadn't even been completely aware of myself, which is one of the most gratifying things to experience as a composer. Being surrounded by musicians and composers of such a high caliber was a little overwhelming at first, but everyone was so approachable and friendly that it quickly put me at ease. During one rehearsal of my piece, I was sitting in the audience, flanked by John Adams, Kevin Puts, and Chris Rouse, three composers who have influenced me greatly. I was in the middle of making a timid suggestion pertaining to bow strokes when both John and Marin started motioning for me to come up to the conductor's podium in order to address the orchestra directly. That moment kind of summed up the supportive and relaxed atmosphere of the festival for me."
The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is one of the nation's most forward-thinking and visible festivals geared towards contemporary classical music. In addition to the premiere of Kropf's Spinning Music, the Festival also performed regional and world premieres by composers such as John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Anna Clyne, Jennifer Higdon, and others. Faculty member Mason Bates' The B-Sides was also a featured work at the Festival.