Jacksonville Symphony Welcomes Courtney Bryan, Mary Carr Patton Composer-in-Residence

Courtney Bryan

The Jacksonville Symphony has recently announced that Courtney Bryan will join its artistic team as Mary Carr Patton Composer-in-Residence for the 2018-2019 symphony season. The intricate process of selecting a composer-in-residence started four years ago when soon-to-be appointed Symphony President & CEO Robert Massey sat down with newly selected Music Director Courtney Lewis in a small café in New York. Although the two talked about a wide variety of new ideas they wanted to bring to Jacksonville, something that the pair stood firmly on was having the opportunity to put a face to the symphony’s introduction of new music to Jacksonville.
Two years later, the search officially began when Massey, Lewis and a small artistic committee researched a large number of composers throughout the nation. From there, the selection was narrowed down to ten composers that the committee found had compositions and artistic ideas that aligned with what they wanted to bring to the Jacksonville audience. Interviews were conducted, and after a year of research and discovery, the committee selected Courtney Bryan as the first composer-in-residence since Courtney Lewis began his music directorship.
Bryan is a native of New Orleans, and, according to The New York Times, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests.” Bryan says her musical interests started taking form at the age of four, when she would sit at the piano and string together small passages of notes to make simple tunes. By the age of five, she had definitely started the art of composing, even though she admits her five-year-old self didn’t know the word for her musical actions. It was not until she begun taking piano lessons a little later in life that her teacher introduced her to the word “compose.” Bryan credits that teacher, and her dedicated parents, for encouraging her in the pursuit of writing music. Bryan’s music is a fusion of various musical genres, including jazz and other types of experimental music, as well as traditional gospel, spirituals and hymns. Focusing on bridging the sacred and the secular, Bryan’s compositions explore human emotions through sound, confronting the challenge of notating the feeling of improvisation. Recently, the Jacksonville Symphony performed her work from 2016, White Gleam of Our Bright Star. The piece takes its title from James Weldon Johnson’s song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” It’s a meditation on both the beauty of America and the enormous challenges we face today to allow everyone in our society equal access to that beauty.
While Bryan is in Jacksonville, she will take on a mentoring role in educational and community engagement programs throughout the 2018-2019 season as well as have her music performed around the city. In April 2019, the Jacksonville Symphony will premiere a commissioned work by Bryan inspired by the majestic bridges of Jacksonville and the interconnectivity they bring to all communities throughout the city.
Bryan has a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory, a master’s from Rutgers University and a DMA from Columbia University with advisor George Lewis. She has also completed an appointment as postdoctoral research associate in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Bryan is an assistant professor of Music at Tulane University’s Newcomb Department of Music, and serves as a board member of the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans (MASNO), Composers Now and New Music USA.Bryan’s work has been presented in a wide range of venues, including Lincoln Center, the National Gallery of Art and Blue Note Jazz Club, as well as the Bethany and Abyssinian Baptist Churches. Although she recently started teaching full-time at Tulane University, Bryan still finds time to actively compose. Upcoming commissions include compositions for the Jacksonville Symphony, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Ensemble Pi, Aperture Duo and Davóne Tines. Bryan will also be working on collaborations with writers Sharan Strange and Ashon Crawley, and artists Amy Bryan, Alma Bryan Powell and Tiona McClodden. The Jacksonville Symphony is excited to welcome Courtney Bryan and looks forward to the education and musical opportunities she will bring to the city of Jacksonville.

Author: Arbus

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