For Julia Heinen, performing music written by living composers is a special experience. The chance to work directly with the composer, crafting the music the way the composer hears it and bringing that vision to life for an audience is extraordinary.
This led Heinen, a California State University, Northridge professor of clarinet, and Daniel Kessner, a CSUN professor emeritus of music, to start the Tempo Ensemble at CSUN a decade ago. To this day, the ensemble includes faculty and alumni who are passionate about contemporary music and are dedicated to preserving it.
“For contemporary music, there are solo pieces and a lot of works written for ensembles,” said Heinen. “Since I go out and play solo concerts around the world, it’s hard to travel with seven people. So, we do it [on campus]. We actually end up with a lot of composers who come here to hear them.”
The Tempo Ensemble, which stands for The Epicenter Musical Performance Organization, performs contemporary music, works spanning the 20th and 21st centuries. Heinen is the only founding member still teaching on campus. The Tempo Ensemble includes woodwinds, strings and percussion instruments.
The ensemble performs two concerts a year, one in fall and one in spring, with occasional special performances. The next performance will be Feb. 10. To choose a work for the spring performance, the group asks students and professional composers to submit their works at the beginning of April. By the first of August, all musicians receive their music, usually four to eight works, and they begin rehearsing together 20 days before the program.
“We’re all friends, we like playing together and we enjoy the challenge of working on contemporary music,” said Heinen. “We actually enjoy getting together to plan the season. It’s a great thing to work on new music, especially music that hasn’t been played before, and discover the beauties that lie in it. You get to learn something truly from the inside and watch it blossom. Every concert is always fantastic music.”
Contemporary music, although included in the CSUN music curriculum, is not performed as often as older pieces, such as those by Beethoven. When students are studying an instrument, there is a body of music they spend most of their lives playing. When students have mastered those works, then they can decide to move on to contemporary music.
“I love it and they love it,” said Heinen. “What really inspires me is when [students] want to do contemporary music and they’re not afraid of it because they see us doing it.”
The Tempo Ensemble musicians are:
Julia Heinen, clarinet (CSUN faculty)
Dave Shostac, flute (CSUN faculty)
Nancy Roth, violin (CSUN alumnus)
Lorenz Gamma, violin (CSUN faculty)
Erika Kirkpatrick, cello
Francoise Regnat, piano (CSUN emeritus faculty)
John Mangussen, percussion (CSUN faculty)
Glenn Price, conductor (Former CSUN faculty)
The Feb. 10 program at CSUN’s Cypress Recital Hall will include six works of music, including “Two Visions” by Daniel Kessner.