Binghamton University receives grant to support music ensemble residency

BINGHAMTON, NY — The Binghamton University Music Department has received a nationally competitive grant to sponsor a residency with the Fifth House Ensemble, a Chicago-based group that specializes in emerging artist training, arts-integrated programming and civic practice.

Binghamton University’s Music Department received one of 39 grants, totaling $240,000, through the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s ArtsCONNECT touring program.

In November 2019, Binghamton University music students enjoyed master classes with the Fifth House ensemble, performed alongside them and experienced their own compositions come to vibrant life in the concert hall. The department plans to expand on its relationship with the ensemble, whose three-day visit was “a smashing success,” said Associate Professor of Music Daniel Thomas Davis.

“A vibrant group of graduate and undergraduate composers wrote pieces for the ensemble. They also collaborated with our choral ensemble, the chamber singers,” he said, noting that Assistant Professor of Music William Culverhouse, the director of choral activities, played a key role in the visit.

In addition to performing with a 16-member student group as part of their residency, Fifth House led workshops, including one on grant-writing that proved immediately beneficial: Three student teams ended up becoming finalists for the SUNY PACC Prize for Performing Arts, Creation and Curation.

SUNY PACC provides experience in designing arts programs with an emphasis on meaningful public engagement. Student participants undergo a proposal, pitch and documentation process similar to what is required of professional artists and curators, although the live pitch competition is postponed until the fall due to the pandemic.

The details of Fifth House’s visit are still under development, although Davis hopes the ensemble will be able to conduct an in-person visit in the spring. Plans include creative arrangements of video game music, workshops focusing on community engagement and, of course, performances with student composers and musicians.

“It’s an invaluable opportunity for student musicians to work with professional artists,” he said.

The grant is particularly welcome now, when many artists have been hard-hit by the ongoing pandemic and the cancellation of performances. The performing arts world relies on nonprofit support, and the pandemic has posed a great deal of uncertainty about the future, Davis said.            

“It’s particularly welcome at the moment,” he said of the grant. “We’re looking forward to getting creative with how we structure their residency in these unprecedented times.”