Two Fresno State poetry students and five music composition students have been selected as finalists in the fourth annual Art Song Festival competition which will take place on Feb. 26 and 27 on Zoom.

Poetry finalists Victoria Monsivaiz and Bradley Samore and composition finalists Micah Byers, Brent Lee, Steve Parker, Allen Gallego and Zack Pierce will work with vocalists to perform their original songs during the festival. The audience will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite, and the winners will be announced following the performances.

“It takes three artists to bring an art song to life: a poet, a composer and a singer,” said Dr. Maria Briggs, assistant professor of voice at Fresno State and festival coordinator. “We are the only festival that gives a meaningful platform to all three and encourages young, talented artists from all the three disciplines to engage with this genre through competitions, lectures, performances, discussions and masterclasses.”

The festival attracts top national and international guest faculty who work with the participants for two days. This year’s faculty are Canadian Gerald Finley, bass-baritone, who now lives in London; Australian Dr. Anke Hoeppner, soprano; Dr. Julia Nielsen, soprano from San Francisco; and Kurt Erickson, a composer from San Francisco.

Festival highlights include:

  • Poetry and composition finals, 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, on Zoom.
  • “In conversation with Gerald Finely” presentation and Q&A, 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, on Zoom.
  • Vocal competition showcase with audience and judge’s prizes, 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, on Zoom.
  • “Studying Voice at Fresno State” information session, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, on Zoom.

Registration for all scheduled festival events is free.

In the poetry category, the two finalists are:

  • Victoria Monsivaiz, Fresno State. Monslvaiz is a senior at Fresno State majoring in English and will be graduating at the end of this 2020-21 academic year. After studying abroad in Jaén, Spain, she hopes to travel the world while working for a literary magazine, and become a published author in poetry or fiction.
  • Bradley Samore, Fresno State. Samore is in the MFA creative writing program at Fresno State. He plans to work as a social worker or mental health counselor and learn more about gardening and ecology.

The five finalists in the composition category will be setting the winning poems to music. The finalists are:

  • Micah Byers, Fresno State, Byers is currently pursuing his master of arts in music composition at Fresno State. Byers teaches music for Fresno Unified School District while maintaining an active freelance career in music for media. Upon graduating, he aspires to teach commercial music at the collegiate level and develop music programs for incarcerated youth.
  • Brent Lee, Fresno State, Lee is studying music composition. Lee admires the music from the Castlevania video game franchise. It inspired him to learn how to write music for both films and video games, industries he would like to compose for in the future.
  • Steve Parker, CSU Bakersfield, Parker is finishing his senior project at California State University, Bakersfield, a thesis and an original guitar accompaniment to a 16th-century madrigal by Giulio Caccini. He is awaiting graduation in May of this year. He plans to attend grad school in the fall, majoring in composition.
  • Allen Gallego, Fresno State, Gallego is a composition and French horn student at Fresno State. Raised in Bakersfield, he received his associate’s degree in music and fell in love with composition.
  • Zack Pierce, CSU Bakersfield, Pierce is studying music at California State University, Bakersfield, focusing on viola performance. Alongside, he is studying composition, jazz and musicology/ethnomusicology. Upon graduation, he plans to pursue careers in performing, composing, arranging, teaching and recording.

An “art song” is a composition in the classical music style, which includes musical accompaniment and a singer. This year’s Fresno State Art Song Festival competition began in early 2020 with calls for student poetry submissions and composition applicants. A panel of judges selected the finalists. Vocal competition finalists will be selected during the festival masterclasses.

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