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IU Southeast professor aims to bring classical music to younger generation through record label

Jan. 9, 2013

When the IU Southeast Music Department started the New Dynamic Records label in 2006, its founder’s dream was to bring new classical music into the mainstream by showcasing living composers and unique ensembles.

Six years and eight records later, IU Southeast music professor Erich Stem is doing just that by moving emerging groups into the spotlight and giving art music a new spin for a younger audience.

“You put music out there that pushes the envelope and the younger generation seems to grab that and own it,” he said. 

To date, New Dynamic Records has released eight albums featuring 28 premiere recordings (that were never recorded before) by 23 composers from around the world -- with a total of 44 living composers in its catalog.

The groups featured on the label include Cadillac Moon Ensemble, counter)induction, Prism Quartet and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, as well as individual artists like saxophonist Cory Barnfield and pianist Krista Wallace-Boaz.

The IU Southeast-owned record label typically produces one album per year and is the only label of its kind. It has a unique focus on recording and commercially releasing art music by living composers. The label funds all of its projects from start to finish, supplies in-house sound engineers, a producer, editors and graphic designers for cover art. In addition, Stem and his colleagues help with promotion once the record is finished.

“We simply tell performers to bring their instruments, their love for recording and their energy, and we’ll do the rest,” Stem said.

The process of bringing an album to fruition takes almost three years from the early stages of selecting an artist or group, to the final step of promoting the release, Stem said

Four on the Floor
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Kentucky Center Chamber Players

The latest release, "Four on the Floor" by the Kentucky Center Chamber Players, debuted Nov. 1. It includes a mixture of emerging and well-known composers, as well as a unique collection of first-time works commissioned by the group themselves.

Kentucky Center Chamber Players

Erich Stem is a featured composer on the new Kentucky Center Chamber Players' album, and IU Southeast music professor Joanna Goldstein is a member of the group. 

“Our label is about discovering new works and getting them out there,” Stem said.
Stem is a featured composer on the album, and IU Southeast music professor Joanna Goldstein is a member of the Kentucky Center Chamber Players. It was Stem and Goldstein’s first artistic collaboration outside of the classroom.

While New Dynamic Records searches for and receives requests from artists across the country, all the CDs have a bit of IU Southeast flavor. In addition to recording on campus and occasionally featuring an IU Southeast faculty member, each CD cover is designed by an IU Southeast student artist. Students in the music department’s sound engineering program also help produce the sessions.

The opportunity for students to assist in the record label productions was part of the original goal of the project, Stem said.

“We wanted to give learning experiences to students in an applied learning kind of way,” he said.

The idea of young people engaged in classical music was intriguing to Stem. He originally tried to attract the 17-to-25 age range, which is statistically the most musically experimental age group, he said. With some of the recent artists like Cadillac Moon Ensemble -- a young group themselves -- Stem noticed that the audiences for their performances were skewing younger, averaging in the 30-to-40 range.

“I would say we’ve been successful in that area,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good responses from people.”

To help cater to a different audience than the typical classical music fan, New Dynamic Records is trying some out-of-the-ordinary ideas. For example, its next album will trade traditional liner notes to multimedia liner notes and include mini-documentary videos on the recording and production sessions.

The label is also trying to increase its YouTube presence, which has more than 15,000 views.

Other goals include forming a new music ensemble that could hold live performances locally. These ambitions are a way for the label to sell its CDs, but they also ensure that new music is reaching new fans, Stem said.

“We’re going to figure out nontraditional ways to get music out.”

Sixth Sense
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From the album "Journey," featuring Cory Barnfield and Krista Wallace-Boaz.

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