This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

MODFEST 2012 performers JACK Quartet. Photo courtesy JACK Quartet, by Justin Bernhaut.

Alumnae/i Help Celebrate MODFEST's 10th Anniversary

On January 19, Vassar kicks off the 10th anniversary of MODFEST, the college’s “exploration of the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries.” More than two weeks of events featuring painting, sculpture, dance, drama, film, literature, poetry, and music will bring together students, faculty members, and guest artists.

For the third year in a row, four alumnae/i—all recipients of Vassar’s prestigious W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts—will return to campus to share their work and reflect on their fellowship experiences. This year the college welcomes back photographer Serge J-F. Levy ’95, poet Carol Ann Davis ’92, author Andrew Porter ’94, and composer Alexandra Gardner ’90.

For Gardner, it is a return to the place where her life as a composer began. “I was always interested in music. I grew up playing piano and singing in my school chorus. But I had no intention of going into the field of music when I started at Vassar,” she says. “I wanted to be a visual artist, but that changed quickly my freshman year when I signed up for an electronic music class.” Working with synthesizers and computers—making her own sounds and putting them together into an original composition—was “like painting with sounds,” she remembers.

Alexandra Gardner

Gardner (pictured, left) changed course and became a composer. In 2002-2003, she received the W.K. Rose Fellowship. “It came at exactly the perfect time. I was interested in traveling to Europe to expand my musical experience,” she explains. With the help of the Rose Fellowship, Gardner moved to Barcelona, where a music technology center at one of the local universities allowed her to work in its recording studios. She loved the experience so much that she stayed on in Barcelona even after the fellowship ended.

By the time she returned to the United States two years later, Gardner had enough material for a CD, Luminoso, released by Innova Recordings, the independent record label of the nonprofit American Composers Forum. That recording opened the door for other musical opportunities. “As far as I’m concerned, the Rose Fellowship keeps helping out in surprising ways!” says Gardner.

She has returned to Vassar on several occasions—to give presentations to composition students, to participate in a concert of Vassar composers at Reunion one summer, and for a performance of one of her works honoring Professor Emerita of Music Annea Lockwood when she retired.

At the upcoming W.K. Rose Fellowship MODFEST event on January 23, Gardner will feature two works: The Way of Ideas, a quartet for flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, and electric blue pantsuit, written for violin and electronics. “They’re both bright, exciting pieces and also representative of the different types of work I do,” she says.

Alexandra Gardner photo courtesy the subject, by Molly Sheridan.

– Peter Bronski

January 2012

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