WATCH NOW: UNI’s new music festival to celebrate living composers | Local News

CEDAR FALLS – Forget any preconceptions about “new music”.

It’s not “new age” or a revival of “new wave” music from the 1970s-80s. New music is really just that – newly composed music by living composers, and it now has a place to be heard.

Starting Thursday, a free three-day public new music festival will be held at the University of Northern Iowa. Guest composer and performer Molly Joyce, accordionist Branko Džinović and UNI teachers and student performers will be featured.

The concerts will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Bengtson Auditorium at Russell Hall, Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m., both in Davis Hall at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the UNI campus.

The three festival concerts are free and open to the public.

“New music is such a hard thing to define. It’s music that was written recently, but the composers and genres are a really wonderful mix that could be inspired by everything from Bach to hip-hop,” said faculty percussion teacher Kramer Milan. A range of influences, art, aesthetics and appeal will be heard throughout the festival.

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Milan is joined by UNI faculty artists Sang Koh, Assistant Professor of Violin, and Daniel Swilley, Assistant Professor of Music, to coordinate the second annual festival.

The three festival concerts are free and open to the public. Thursday’s concert will feature teachers, performances and compositions by guest artists Joyce and Džinović. On Friday and Saturday, the concert will feature guest artists, faculty and student musicians.

Last year’s first festival was virtual due to the COVID pandemic. With in-person concerts, organizers said it would be “on a larger scale,” Koh said.

These performances will serve as “an experience and exploration of new sounds, tangible and intangible”, agreed the organizers.

New music doesn’t get the same attention or exposure as classics or standards. Typically, concertgoers hear music composed 50 to over 100 years ago and rarely get to hear “fresh, vibrant new music,” Swilley noted.

“Events like this festival showcase the diverse output of living composers – the art of our time,” he said. “And they’re all solid, well-rounded pieces. Some may be off-the-cuff in nature, but all are polished statements.

“The UNI New Music Festival is an eclectic assortment of new music. No matter what gig you go to, you’ll have a taste — or ears — of music to enjoy.

Milan accepted. “This festival has something for everyone – music for voice, accordion, electronics, large and small ensembles,” he said.

Molly Joyce


The work of composer and performer Molly Joyce focuses on disability as a source of creation. She was injured in a car accident and uses a vintage electric toy organ she bought on eBay, which suits her impaired left hand and engages her performance and compositional disability. His critically acclaimed debut album, “Breaking and Entering”, featuring toy organ, vocals and electronic sampling, was released in 2020.

Accordionist Džinović is known as an award-winning musician, improviser and composer who is described as “a dangerously active volcano” and his playing as “ingenious”. He holds a master’s degree from the private Anton Bruckner University for Music, Theater and Dance in Linz and a doctorate in musical arts in performance from the University of Toronto. He frequently co-produces and composes for other artists, writes soundtracks for films and records for the BBC and others. As a soloist and chamber musician, he has toured across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Branko Džinovic photo.jpg

Branko Dzinovic


The organizers applauded the support they received from the UNI administration and the UNI School of Music for the festival and the new music itself. “A lot of new music is created on campus, and it’s a place and an opportunity to perform their songs for the first time in front of an audience,” Milan explained.

Last year’s first festival was virtual due to the COVID pandemic. With in-person concerts, organizers said it would be “on a larger scale,” Koh said.

The festival is also designed to offer a glimpse into “the future and the potential of music in the future, especially when it can be created, shared and enjoyed by anyone. This work extends beyond the boundaries of UNI,” explained Koh.

For more information, contact Caroline Francis (319) 273-2028,

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