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Challenging tradition

New Music Raleigh engages audiences through unique interactions

by Suzanne McKeon

One visit to New Music Raleigh’s Web site, and it’s quickly apparent that this isn’t your parents’ classical music group.

Described as a collective of dynamic musicians dedicated to presenting outstanding performances of music by living composers, New Music Raleigh (NMR) fills a gap in the area’s vibrant music scene, serving as a catalyst for the creation and presentation of new music. It provides a unique and distinctive point of view of music, and allows audiences to participate in experimental experiences that can simultaneously enlighten, entertain, and educate the curious musical mind.

Whether it’s through offering works of well-established or up-and-coming composers or cross-genre collaborations, NMR’s classically trained musicians create concert experiences that challenge tradition, engage and inspire diverse audiences, and give voice to today’s most innovative and relevant modern music.

Lively harmonies
Since its founding in 2009, NMR has presented music by John Luther Adams, Paul Lansky, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, Steve Reich, Belinda Reynolds and Judith Shatin, and has collaborated with celebrity indy rock outfit Lost in the Trees. Craig Jarvis of The News and Observer has referred to the group as “classical music that you actually might call hip.”

“We believe in supporting living composers,” says Shawn Galvin, who co-founded the group with his wife, Karen Strittmatter Galvin. “Not only is their art important to modern living, but it’s also implicitly connected to our futures as musicians. We feel that the relationship among composer, musician, and community should be common and available for everyone to experience.”

By presenting this music in unique venues throughout the area — from the annual SPARKCon festival in downtown Raleigh to performances at Kings Barcade and Burning Coal Theatre Co. — as well as through collaborations with other artists, NMR offers a fresh musical perspective by providing captivating yet casual concerts in which the audience and performers are connected. In its full first year, NMR has proved to be one of Raleigh’s most forward-thinking arts organizations.

“We hope that Raleigh will be known as a place where great composers, musicians and community members work together to create great music for the next generation to love,” Galvin says.

In September, NMR returns to Burning Coal Theatre as part of “A New Music Parade,” a series featuring a collaboration with the North Carolina Opera.

“We’re performing Philip Glass’ ‘The Fall of Usher,’ ” says Eric Mitchko, the opera’s general director. “We chose New Music Raleigh to work with because they are just the perfect group for this. It’s going to be very cool.”

Collaborations like these continue to reinforce NMR’s commitment to its mission.

“We aim to serve as a catalyst for the creation and presentation of new music for our community,” Galvin says.

Suzanne McKeon is vice president of marketing and audience development for the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh. To learn more, call (919) 733-2750 or visit


Taking the stage

New Music Raleigh, a collective of musicians dedicated to presenting performances of music by living composers, will be at Raleigh’s Burning Coal Theatre Co. Sept 18. For more information on the group, visit