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Two Composers Selected for First Emerging Composers Partnership Program

We are excited to announce that we have selected two composers to collaborate with in our first Emerging Composers Partnership!  Ben Hjertmann will compose a new work for TCP to premiere in the spring of 2014, and a new work by Jonathan Pfeffer will be premiered in the 2014-15 season. Each composer will engage in a collaborative commissioning process with us that will involve multiple meetings and reading sessions with the ensemble as they are composing the new piece, and each will receive an honorarium and recording of their work.

The selection process was very competitive, with approximately 50 emerging composers submitting applications in this first year of the program.  We  plan to accept applications for the next round of the Emerging Composers Partnership in the fall of 2014.


About the composers:


Ben Hjertmann is a Chicago-based composer and vocalist.  Ben composes and performs with the avant-folk trio the Grant Wallace Band and surrealist-pop band Kong Must Dead.

Hjertmann has collaborated with numerous chamber groups Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, New Thread Saxophone Quartet, Friction Quartet, Spektral Quartet, Borromeo Quartet, Anubis Quartet, Callithumpian Consort, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and many others.  His large ensemble music has been performed by UT-Austin, Louisiana State, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Kansas State, Lawrence, Northwestern, U-Nebraska at Lincoln, and NYU, Texas Tech, among others.  In 2013, Hjertmann formed a consortium of 34 wind ensembles and individuals in which the students of participating ensembles work closely with the composer throughout the process of creating a new work.

His music has been featured at Fast Forward Austin, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinics, the conference of the College Band Directors National Association, and the South by Southwest NonClassical showcase.   Hjertmann has been a resident artist at the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Shell Lake Arts Center.  He was a 2013 fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute, and a 2011 fellow at the Other Minds Festival.

His work appears on Spektral Quartet’s debut album “Chambers”, released by Parlour Tapes+, and pianist Nick Phillips “American Vernacular” album released on New Focus Records.  In 2013 he released a self-produced album of chamber metal called Angelswort.

Ben received his Doctor of Music in Composition degree from Northwestern University in 2013.  His dissertation research focused on microtonal harmonic structures derived from sum & difference tones. He received his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Illinois Wesleyan University. Ben teaches  music technology at Northwestern University and composition for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.


Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer is a Philadelphia-based composer, baritone, and multimedia artist operating on the peripheries of contemporary music, DIY punk, and performance art.

As leader of confrontational cubist pop ensemble Capillary Action, Pfeffer has released three full-length albums and toured the globe countless times. He has made appearances at the Willisau Jazz, Primavera, and Incubate festivals, as well as basements, living rooms, kitchens, and illegally occupied warehouse spaces alongside Tony Conrad, Rhys Chatham, Zs, Mike Watt,Les Claypool, and Deerhoof, among others. Pfeffer has also lectured on compositional and philosophical matters for everyone from grad students at Rice University to kindergarteners at Johnson Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In addition to composing for film, theatre, and various chamber ensembles, Pfeffer’s main focus is a solo guitar, voice, and video incarnation, which abstracts autobiographical narratives into harmonically and emotionally ambiguous “story-songs.”

In 2012, Pfeffer was commissioned by the American Composers Forum to realize Bodega, a piece for percussionists Ricardo Lagomasino (Deleted Scenes) and Eric Slick (Dr. Dog), synth artist Jeff Zeigler, featuring rappers Lushlife and YIKES the ZERO.In 2013, Pfeffer was commissioned by Emmy-award winning producer/director Kevin Alexander to compose the music for Hunter&Game, a feature-length mockumentary about a fictitious Brooklyn electro duo (due 2014) and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to realizeAlektorophobic, a piece for Chicago pianist Julian Chin and New York-based MIVOS Quartet.


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Emerging Composers Partnership: 2014

TCP Emerging Composers Application 2014

(click on the above link to download a pdf of the current application)

TCP is excited to accept applications for the third season of our Emerging Composers Partnership!  The goal of this project is to connect young composers with professional performers in a meaningful collaborative experience.  Hands-on collaboration is essential for the success of a composer writing for percussion because of the vast array of instruments and endless range of possible techniques employed to play them.  With the demand from soloists, chamber groups, large ensembles, and educational institutions for new and artistically meaningful works for percussion ever increasing, we believe that composing for percussion is vital to the success of a contemporary composer. This project will expand the repertoire for percussion quartets, allow composers to gain exposure through the highest quality performance, and provide the Chicago contemporary music scene with premieres of works from the brightest rising stars in the composing community.

Emerging Composers Partnership 2014-15 is supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds visit this project page.



The Project

– Third Coast Percussion (TCP) will choose a composer to collaborate in the composition of a new work for percussion quartet
– TCP will workshop the new work with the composer leading up to its Chicago premiere

– An honorarium will be provided to the winner, however no travel or housing costs will be provided

– Instrumentation of the new work is limited to 4 percussionists, and duration of the piece will not exceed 15 minutes (see specific details listed below)

– Application deadline for the 2015-2016 season is October 31st, 2014 (see specific application requirements below)


The winning composer(s) will:

· Compose a piece for TCP to be premiered at a mutually agreed upon date in the 2015-2016 concert season. The work will not have been performed before in any context.
· Receive a high quality live performance recording from the premiere of the new work to be used by him/her upon approval of TCP.
· Attend (3) three workshop rehearsal sessions with TCP in which the sketches of the new work can be explored with the ensemble
· Attend the premiere performance of the work on a TCP Chicago Concert Season concert
· Help TCP in promotion for the premiere performance
· Receive an honorarium of $1000

Third Coast Percussion:
· Agrees to perform the new work on a Chicago season concert, HOWEVER holds the right to delay the premiere performance for any reason
· May choose more than 1 composer to work with in one given season
· Will provide the winning composer(s) with a live performance recording or a recording of the work performed in the Third Coast Percussion studio.
Application Guidelines:
Applications will only be considered if ALL guidelines are met.
The deadline for score submission is October 31st, 2014.

There is no entry fee.

Each composer must submit ALL of the following material in order to be considered:

·      One recording representative of compositional style.  May be MIDI or live, but a live recording is encouraged when possible.

·      One score representative of compositional style.  A score containing writing for percussion is not required, but is encouraged.  Please submit scores in pdf format.  Do not submit Finale or Sibelius files.  Physical scores will not be accepted.

·      Completed questionnaire (included in application pdf at top of this page )

·      One page resumé including: education, previous composition experience, highlighted major performances of works, other pertinent information


and may submit ANY of the following optional material:

·      one additional representative recording (marked “additional recording”) and/or one additional score (marked “additional score”)

·      One page artistic statement that outlines your goals as an artist and your compositional style

·      Letter of recommendation addressing musicality, professionalism, previous compositional experience, and likelihood of success in this project


All application materials must be submitted electronically and should be e-mailed to:

[email protected]


Please reference the Q & A section at the end of the application for further information.

Previous E.C.P Composers
2013-2014 season: Ben Hjertmann
2014-2015 season: Jonathan Pfeffer
We look forward to receiving and reviewing your submissions!
– David, Peter, Rob, and Sean
Third Coast Percussion



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Our Residency Begins

TCP began its 5-year long residency at the University of Notre Dame last week.  We packed up our Chicago studio, filled a 20ft Penske truck, and headed down to South Bend, Indiana for our first 4-week stay.   We’ve settled into our new digs and have been falling in love with the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, its staff, and its audiences.  Our new home away from home is the Leighton Concert Hall.   It seats about 900, tops off at about 10 stories tall, and has about an 1800 Sq. Ft. stage. The hall is now our own personal incubator for a month.

We are work-shopping new rep for our 13-14 season, recording a new album for New Amsterdam Records, bringing in composers Timo Andres and Glenn Kotche to collaborate on new commissions, creating new outreach programs for the South Bend community in collaboration with the UND Engineering faculty and students, and performing and interacting with University students and other area students to bring the arts and our music closer to our new community here.

All Photos © The University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Our first show was last Wednesday, performing on the DeBartolo Center’s ANDkids World Film Festival.   We presented a program of silent film – “The Invisible Men” from 1906 was performed with Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s score for percussion quartet and TCP created its own original score for Albert Lamorisse’s famous 1956 film “The Red Balloon”.

This 30 min. film was a blast for us work on and we even created some ways for the children in the audience to be part of the performance.  We had the kids build some of their own bell instruments, shakers, and kalimbas in a pre-show event, many of which were used as foley instruments throughout the film.  Perhaps the best was the paper-bags -100’s of paperbags being blown up and popped in a concert hall is, as it turns out, a pretty amazing sound:).   As always, we had everyone come up on stage after the show to check out all  of our instruments.


We want to give a big shout out to some of the wonderful people we’ve worked with during our first week:  Sarah Prince, Doug Hildeman, Joshua Ingle, and Tony Costantino for all of their talents and assistance with our tech and production including all the audio, video, and lighting for the ANDKids Festival.  I’ll never forget asking Tony about getting a spotlight for our sign holders on the side of stage.  He just pulled out his iphone which is connected to the entire system,
leveling and positioning the light in about 5 seconds……. we definitely aren’t in our studio anymore:).


The ANDkids show wouldn’t have been a success without our collaboration with Sean Martin, DeBartolo’s Community Engagement Program Manager, who assisted us with designing, building, and working with all of our young audience members with the toy bells, kalimbas, and shakers for “The Red Balloon.” Many thanks to him for creating such a fantastic and memorable experience for the audience as well as the performers:).

Also instrumental with our audience interaction in “The Red Balloon” were Ted Barron and his daughter Lucy who volunteered to hold up the cue signs during our performance.

And, of course, this residency would not have happened without DeBartolo’s Executive Director Anna Thompson.  Her passion for the arts, music, and our ensemble is inspiring and we’re excited for all of our future experiences here at Notre Dame.


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Unknown Symmetry: A Biography of Our Band

Our newest CD, Unknown Symmetry, is days away from being released!   Our sophomore album has been about 4 years in the making, and in many ways it is a history of our group from the beginning to the present.  Fans of TCP might be scratching their heads now – Didn’t we release our sophomore album last season(The Percussion Music of John Cage, 2012)?

…It’s complicated.

Our first EP, Ritual Music, was tracked in a large rehearsal room off-hours – it was all very DIY.   In 2009 we were looking around for more swanky places to record and spent time tracking in some local Chicago studios.   At that point we weren’t even sure what was actually going to be on the next album.   We had a bunch of rep that we had been touring that season and were asking ourselves the same question we always seem to end up at: “how can we make a thematic album with a bunch of non-related repertoire?”  Perhaps more importantly in the 21st century, “Does an album release even NEED to be thematic?”

The first 2 works we recorded for our new disc aren’t even on the album.   We showed up at a small studio on Chicago’s north side with our cars full of gear to track Cage’s Third Construction and Manoury’s marimba duo from Le Livre des Claviers.   Third Construction ended up being re-recorded for our latest MODE records release, and the Manoury was re-recorded in its entirety in 2010.  That recording, with all of its crazy sixxen, is in the can and coming out next year…… I told you this was complicated.

While the audio of that early session has never seen the light of day, it led us to some of our closest colleagues and collaborators.    We knew Greg Beyer wasn’t too far away from Chicago and, needing a session producer for the tracking, we called him up.  We had never worked with him before, but it was an amazing experience that has turned into many years of creative activity together.  Since then, Greg has gone on to produce many of our recordings and has also been part of all our sextet repertoire (Grisey, Rihm, Manoury, etc.).    Greg also introduced us to the greatest engineer in the world who has been part of every recording project since.

With the music we play, finding a great engineer is tricky.   Things weren’t working out in 2009 and, after spending a day in the studio with us, Greg mentioned his colleague Dan Nichols at Northern Illinois University.  We went out there that next summer to spend a few days with him and ended up tracking Christopher Deane’s Vespertine Formations which you’ll get to hear on the album.   What makes a great engineer great?   All I can say is that, beyond having amazing ears, Dan understands the sound of percussion instruments more than most professional percussionists.  He has the ears, the technique, the gear, and is always excited for the most off-the-wall projects we bring to him.  We have many fond memories of him: stringing up U-channeling with us, building individual foam houses for us and our wind chimes 😯 , crashing next to his chinchillas…..  One of his hand-built microphones, the “binaural sphere”, has routinely been considered for new album titles.  But I digress…

As soon as we found our engineer, we got set up to record an entire album of John Cage’s music for MODE records, and our original “sophomore album” got pushed back on the timeline.  Soon after that we were recording an entire album of Philippe Manoury’s percussion music and after that we recorded Augusta Read Thomas’ Resounding Earth for a release on the New Focus label this next fall.   Since the beginning of our work on Unknown Symmetry, TCP has managed to record 3 other full-length albums (4 if you included the soon to be released “Music for 18 Musicians” with Ensemble Signal).

Unknown Symmetry is an album that was recorded in pieces, in-between other projects.  If we had a few days off, we’d run up to DeKalb and record with Dan.    We never really thought of how one work fit with the next.   We felt compelled to record these works because we loved them, yet we really had no idea when or  where they’d show up as a final product.    Many of these pieces are familiar to anyone who’s seen a TCP show over the past few years.  Peter Garland’s Apple Blossom was part of our early touring repertoire and on almost every show we did during our first substantial touring in the Spring of 2009.  Clay Condon’s piece Fractalia has been on 90% of the shows I’ve played with TCP over the past season.  We played David Skidmore’s Common Patterns in Uncommon Time on a large  tour through in 2012-13, at Millennium Park last summer, and are about to tour it again in VA next month.   Christopher Deane’s Vespertine Formations is unique amongst all of the repertoire on this new disc in that it was one of the works on TCP’s very first show (aawwwhh…).  Fratres is also a bit different – if you weren’t  at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago on December 15th, 2009 at 7:30pm, this album will be the first for you.

I forgot to mention the DVD in all of this.   Unknown Symmetry is a double discrelease – 1 has the audio, the other is a video of the live performance of the premiere of David Skidmore’s Common Patterns in Uncommon Time.  I could write an entire blog on just this piece, but when I think of this album and the narrative of our group it provides, what resonates the most for me is the relationship with our close friend and supporter Sidney K. Robinson.   We met Sid at Taliesin in Wisconsin many years ago.   He’s been a key figure in many of our artistic pursuits in the past 3 years including the commissioning of this work.

The album doesn’t fit the “classical record” stereotype – it’s not a composer portrait, the pieces don’t all fall under the same aesthetics, etc.   Rather, listening through Unknown Symmetry is learning how we have grown as an ensemble – from the repertoire we have played to the colleagues and relationships we have developed over the years, to the recording process itself (some works were done with just a couple well placed microphones in a room, others were a bit more advanced).  We love this album.  Yes, it’s taken a while to finish, but if we had released our “sophomore album” way back in 2009 or 2010, we wouldn’t have wound up with disc that was so meaningful to us.

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Third Coast Percussion to join University of Notre Dame as Ensemble-in-Residence

Notre Dame!

We are thrilled to announce that Third Coast Percussion has been named ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center!

As ensemble-in-residence, Third Coast will perform on the university’s Presenting Series, engage in interdisciplinary collaborations across campus, premiere new works, conduct master classes and provide community-building outreach performances for youth in local schools.

We are beyond excited to be partnering with this incredible institution. Our new position at Notre Dame begins this summer and will continue for the next 5 academic years. We will be maintaining an active presence on campus throughout the year, though the ensemble will still be based in Chicago. Click here to read the full press release.

We have some incredible projects in the works already, including collaborations with the university’s College of Engineering and Master of Sacred Music program. We plan to tour many of these projects around the country so stay tuned for more details!

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