Violist and composer Jessica Meyer

Violist and composer Jessica Meyer has been working with local students as they create a new musical piece being performed at Star Hall on Friday, Feb. 8. [Photo courtesy of Moab Music Festival]

Jessica Meyer believes we all have a musical composer within us, and she has been working with local student musicians as they compose a new musical ensemble to be performed at Star Hall on Friday, Feb. 8.

Meyer is a world renowned violist, composer and music educator. She is in Moab with Moab Music Festival’s Winterlude series of concerts, events, and educational outreach. She has visited orchestra students with the BEACON Moab Strings Program, Grand County Strings and Moab Advanced String Institute to help them create and learn their own piece of music together.

“Even if you’ve been playing violin only a week, you have access to different sounds on the instrument and can make decisions about them,” she said.

Meyer explained the process for the group composition, which includes “emotional prompts.”

“They’re going to get into small groups and find their particular inspiration, whether it be joy or loneliness, or anger or happy,” she said. “[The students] figure out what sounds they can make on their own instruments to express those things and then combine them together in different ways in their performance.”

The performance piece begins at 7 p.m. at Star Hall. It will be followed by a solo performance by Meyer.

The Moab Music Festival Winterlude kicked off on Tuesday, Feb. 5, with an interview and live performance by Meyer at KZMU Community Radio. The following evening, Meyer gave a solo performance at Star Hall. When she performs solo, Meyer uses a loop pedal to layer sounds and create an orchestral effect. Vocals and percussive sounds are used to create the range of sounds.

“When I write for the looper, I’m deeply inspired by anything from blues to flamenco to Appalachian fiddling,” Meyer said.

The last concert event in the 2019 Winterlude series will be a performance by guitarist Tengyue Zhang at Star Hall on Feb. 24, starting at 7 p.m.

Zhang has won international music competitions and has performed in venues all over the world. Lately he has been tweaking his performances to be more accessible to people who may not be very familiar with concert guitar.

Rather than playing two long formal pieces, Zhang has been breaking his concerts up to be more like “playlists” with variety and flow.

“I play all selections and form them in such an order that is very interesting from beginning to end,” Zhang said.

He compared it to a six-course meal, with each “course,” or piece, adding its special satisfaction while also complementing the performance as a whole.

Zhang has been on a U.S. tour since Dec. 1. He will continue to perform in cities across the country through May.

His schedule is demanding, but he tries to find time to enjoy his travels; in Florida, he played golf for the first time, and learned to ice skate in Michigan. He looks forward to the hiking opportunities in Moab, and said he hopes his performances will open a door for new listeners.

“People who have never heard a concert guitar before, I strongly encourage them to come,” he said. “I will try my best to entertain them. I feel like they should at least come once, right? To know what concert guitar is.”

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