Huntley Middle School music teacher Marybeth Kurnat is excited to be selected to take part in a unique and prestigious opportunity this summer. She is one of just 13 composers from nine states and four countries to be accepted for a choral composition fellowship that will take place in California. Kurnat is the only composer from Illinois and the only full-time public school teacher to receive a fellowship from the Choral Arts Initiative (CAI).
The Choral Arts Initiative announced that after a record number of composer applicants than any year previous, those selected will participate in their annual PREMIERE|Project Festival. According to CAI, the festival will feature 13 world premieres by the composer fellows. The festival will take place at Concordia University Irvine’s newly upgraded Borland-Mankse Center and the Charlie and Ling Zhang Orchestra Hall from June 27-30, 2023, with the concluding performance on the final day.
The PREMIERE|Project Festival is a unique opportunity for composers to work with the singers of Choral Arts Initiative, one of Southern California’s premier choral ensembles and recipient of the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming.
Kurnat looks forward to the experience and exposure gained from being selected as a fellow. “The festival provides a platform for composers to complete their compositions in a workshop setting with a professional chorus, receive guidance from renowned composition faculty, build their network, and gain exposure to the latest music in the choral field,” she added.
“My degree is in music education, and I am largely self-taught in the area of composition,” said Kurnat. “The fact that I got in against other applicants with master’s and doctoral degrees in composition is a really big deal.”
The foundation of the festival is dedicated to the creation and performance of new choral works. It allows emerging composers to work with professional singers and gain valuable experience in the choral music industry. Kurnat noted that she only recently got back to composing about a year and a half ago. “I’ve become deeply motivated to create again. The music community is making a concerted effort to program more music by women, and an opportunity like this will get your name on the map. Hearing your own music performed live for the first time is possibly the most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had, so I can’t wait to hear this new piece I’m writing for the festival.”
More about Marybeth Kurnat
Marybeth Kurnat is an emerging voice in choral music in the Chicago area. Her recent work, “I, Lover,” was the 2021-22 Winner of True Concord’s Stephen Paulus Emerging Composers’ Competition, and received its world premiere in Tucson, Ariz., this past January. Her compositional style, especially her harmonic language, is heavily influenced by her musical foundations as a jazz saxophonist. Her work as a composer and arranger also includes music for jazz ensemble, concert band, chamber music and commercial a cappella.
Marybeth earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. She teaches instrumental and vocal music at Huntley Middle School and DeKalb High School, and is a local representative for the Illinois Music Education Association. In addition to teaching and composing, Marybeth writes poetry, and maintains an active performance schedule as a freelance soprano. She is a member of the St. Charles Singers, Chicago Choral Artists, and the Grant Park Music Festival Chorus. She is a longtime resident of DeKalb, Ill.
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