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Jacobs composition student receives Student Composer Award from BMI Foundation

Brendan Kelley Faegre was standing in his kitchen, talking to his roommate, when his cell phone rang. Caller ID showed the number as "unavailable."

"I sighed and said to my roommate, 'It's probably a telemarketer,'" said Faegre, a master's student in music composition at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. The unidentified caller was actually Ralph Jackson, president of the BMI Foundation, who was calling to tell Faegre he had been named one of the year's BMI Student Composer Award recipients.

"He said, 'Hi, this is Ralph Jackson, president of the BMI Foundation. How are you doing today?' I knew immediately. I said, 'I'm okay, but I think I'm about to be doing a lot better!'"

Faegre is one of just nine young classical composers to receive the honor this year; he received the award -- which includes scholarship money -- at the 57th annual award ceremony in May.

The Jacobs School has had at least one BMI winner in 16 out of the past 18 years.

Faegre, Brendan
Brendan Faegre

A Portland, Ore., native, Faegre received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., in 2007. He said he first became seriously interested in music when he played drums in a rock band in high school.

"As we began writing original songs, I got involved in the composing process and got hooked," he said. "I wrote electronic music on my own for a while, and in college, I started studying classical percussion and composition, and taking music theory classes. I didn't know too much about Western Classical music before that, so I was fascinated by this massive new musical world to explore."

Faegre is the recipient of the 2009 ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Fellowship for study at Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Delwen and Genevieve Jones Music Scholarship, the Old Town Music Scholarship and the Puget Sound President's Scholarship. He was awarded first place in the Beethoven Club 2009 Student Composition Contest for his "The Circular Ruins," which was performed by the Luna Nova New Music Ensemble at the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival in Memphis, Tenn.

His music has been performed at the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music in Maine, in Boston by the Juventas New Music Ensemble, at the 2006 SCI National Student Conference in Arizona, by the Puget Sound New Music Society and at IU. He has performed with the Tacoma Symphony and the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra, and has served as the principal percussionist in the Puget Sound Orchestra and Wind Ensemble.

His BMI award-winning work, Tihai, for unpitched percussion quartet and vibraphone, was premiered in 2008 by a student ensemble at IU's Jacobs School. Tihai was inspired by Faegre's four months studying tabla and rhythm in Pune, India, with Ramdas Palsule and Suresh Talwalkar.

"It's a translation and adaptation of the rhythmic tools and systems of Hindustani Classical music to my Western Classical composing," he said.

Currently, Faegre is at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, where he spends time composing every day. "It's been very productive, but I've also discovered some mental limits," said Faegre, who initially tried to compose for six hours each day of the festival.

"It was 5 p.m., and the only thing I wanted to do was go to sleep," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to find these limits though and perhaps push them a little. I'm also living with an incredibly talented oboist and bassoon player, so I'm writing some duets for them, in addition to my ongoing, larger projects."

Next up: Another year at the Jacobs school, "trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can, write a lot of good music and work with some amazing performers." His composition teachers include Don Freund, Claude Baker, Michael Gandolfi, Gregory Youtz and Robert Hutchinson. He has studied percussion with Amy Putnam, jazz drumming with Tim Rap and tabla with Pandit Ramdas Palsule.

After completing his master's program at IU, Faegre hopes to go to Norway and study composition with Lasse Thoresen.

And next time he gets a call from an "unavailable" number, he'll pick it up. "Needless to say, I've since gotten over my aversion to blocked numbers."

For more information on Faegre, see http://www.brendanfaegre.com/.