Norwegian Composer to Premier New Work at Southern Vermont College

March 19, 2014

Composer Bjørn Bolstad Skjelbred of Oslo, Norway, will present his world-premiere new work, “ConVergEnce,” at Southern Vermont College on Wednesday, March 26. A concert, with classical guitarist Eric Despard, cellist Michael Gilbert Ronstadt and bayanist Rocco Anthony Jerry, will begin at noon in Hunter Hall’s Greenberg Atrium with a reception to follow. Admission is free and open to the public.

“ConVergEnce,” written for cello and bayan, was commissioned by a 60,000 kroner grant from the Norwegian Composers Fund. The work explores the similarities and differences between the two instruments. The bayan is used with ever increasing frequency in contemporary classical music. Along with a host of idiomatic techniques such as bellows ricochet and tone bending, the bayan has been used by many leading contemporary composers including Arne Nordheim, Magnus Lindberg and Sofia Gubaidulina.

In addition to “ConVergEnce,” Skjelbred’s classical guitar solo, “Moves,” will be performed by guitarist Despard, along with Magnar Am’s “On the Banks of the Eternal Second” by all three musicians and Wolfgang Plagge’s “Fractals” by bayanist Jerry. This concert at SVC is the first in a seven-concert tour, spanning Vermont, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

As a composer, arranger, improviser and teacher, Skjelbred is experienced in several genres and musical environments with a list of works containing more than 50 titles and where music for other arts and music for young musicians are largely present. He has performed in several European countries, United States and Canada as well as Nordic countries. Among his collaborators are Norwegian percussionist Eirik Raude, the Swedish ensemble The Pearls before Swine Experience, The London Schubert Players, the Norwegian vocal group Nordic Voices and the Danish flutist Marianne Leth. Skjelbred is also involved in the jazz/pop/rock music scene as an arranger, songwriter and musician and released the CD ‘urban songs’ with the quartet Urban Visions in 2005.

Skjelbred has a master’s degree in Composition from the Norwegian State Academy of Music.

Heralded as a “talented classical guitarist” by the “Times” of Trenton, guitarist Despard has performed extensively throughout North America as a soloist and with various chamber ensembles. His dynamic solo concert programs include “The Latin Guitar” featuring Spanish, Latin and South American guitar composers and “World Guitar” featuring music and transcriptions of composers from around the world.

In addition to solo concerts, Despard performs with various jazz, blues and rock groups through the Northeast. Currently, Despard is the Music Director at Southern Vermont College where he teaches music history, music theory, concert jazz band, choir and related performance classes. Also, he is an Affiliate Artist at Middlebury College and an instructor of guitar at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Despard holds an undergraduate degree from the Hartt School of Music and a graduate degree from the Yale School of Music.

For two decades, Ronstadt has entertained audiences throughout North America on cello, guitar and voice. An exceptional musician-composer conversant with a wide range of styles, he executes captivating solo performances and participates in duo and trio situations with a diverse group of young musician-songwriters including Lisa Biales and David Trotta.

His talents have been tapped for concert and studio work by artists David Bromberg, Linda Ronstadt, Muriel Anderson and Craig Bickhardt. Ronstadt is a much sought-after studio musician appearing on more than 50 albums. Writer Dan Buckley of “The Tucson Citizen” noted his “amazing command of the typical and exotic sounds of the cello, a true virtuoso and a man of instinctive musicality.”

Ronstadt has a master’s and bachelor’s degree of Music in Cello Performance and studied under esteemed pedagogues Yehuda Hanani, Nancy Green and Dr. Gordon Epperson.

Jerry is captivated by the use of the accordion by contemporary classical composers and focuses his energy in working with composers on new works for the instrument. Jerry performs on a bayan. He has given solo concerts throughout the United States including New York City; at the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC; and Philadelphia. He has performed with several chamber groups including the Downtown Ensemble and the Flexible Orchestra. His new works have been premiered by Daniel Goode, Conrad Kehn, Peter Machajdik, Robert Young McMahan, Max Simoncic and Christian Wolff. In 2004, Jerry worked with Hollywood film composer Arthur B. Rubinstein and performed accordion in the premier run of Rubinstein’s new musical “He Who Gets Slapped.”

In 2007, Jerry began the Accordion Ensemble Project, which was awarded an SOS Grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2008.

For more information on the concert, contact Despard at edespard@svc.edu.