By Linda Pang
The New Music Concert Series at Delaware County Community College (DCCC) will kick off its ninth season on Oct. 1 with “America Now: Living Composers,” featuring a solo performance by cellist Jason Calloway.
The program will also include his performance of “One Toe Under…,” a new composition by composer and sitar musician, Richard Belcastro.
The 41 year-old artistic director of the New Music Concert Series and DCCC assistant professor of music described “One Toe Under…” as a composition about his childhood and general fear of the monsters under the bed.
“I had convinced myself that as long as I had one toe under the blanket, I was still safe,” said Belcastro with a chuckle. “No matter how hot it got.”
Calloway, 38, is currently a professional cellist in the Amernet String Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence at Florida International University in Miami.
A graduate of The Juilliard School and the University of Southern California, he has performed worldwide, including Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
Calloway performed in the series’ 2011-2012 season, as part of a duo with his sister, Rachel Calloway, a mezzo soprano. He added that he enjoyed the intimacy of the performance venue at Marple Campus and looks forward to returning.
“It has always been one of the great thrills of my career to be able to both collaborate with living composers as well as to create a performance practice for them, and the present engagement is no exception,” Calloway said.
According to the DCCC website, the concert series “highlights the expansive musical experience available in the 21st century, presenting virtuosic musicians from around the globe” for students of the college and residents of Delaware and Chester counties.
“It’s an opportunity to listen to a world of music that they’re not accustomed to or familiar with,” Belcastro said.
This ideal is apparent in Belcastro’s own preference for the sitar, which Merriam- Webster defines as “an Indian lute with a long neck and a varying number of strings.” Belcastro added that the instrument was made famous in the United States by Ravi Shankar’s work with The Beatles.
“In order to listen to something else [besides pop music], you have to seek it out or somebody has to expose you to the fact that it exists at all,” Belcastro said. “So this series helps everyone involved—the community and the students, to find that exposure.”
From 2001-2009, Belcastro was the executive director of the “Chamber Music Now!” series in Philadelphia.
As the grant funding for that series ended, he looked into starting something similar at DCCC.
The concert series was then founded in 2009 as a faculty project in partnership with the Division of Communications, Arts, and Humanities.
“I think it’s wonderful that we offer it to the local community and the students on campus because it’s something that is not readily available in this immediate area,” said Caitlin Flaherty, 33, arts supervisor and gallery director.
Flaherty works with the artistic directors of each program to help schedule events and assist with day-of logistics, manage ticket sales, and create contracts for the artists, performers, jurors, and others involved.
Belcastro and Flaherty both separately added that a pipedream would be to have a dedicated performing arts building and performance space to expand into a larger production and presentation company.
“But small steps are figuring out how to get grant funding and grow the number of high quality artists we can bring in for collaborative events,” Belcastro said. “Guest artists can cost quite a lot of money and we need to find that money elsewhere since we are not going to take it out of tuition or charge huge fees or ticket prices.”
The series is free for DCCC students, faculty, and staff.
According to Belcastro, when the series first started, artists were friends or professional contacts.
But as the series has grown, interested performers will now contact him with samples of their work.
Past performances have included: Ovidiu Marinescu, cello & Richard Belcastro, sitar; Inscape; International Contemporary Ensemble; Ju-Ping Song, pianist; The Fourth Wall; William Lang, trombonist; Amernet String Quartet; and SO Percussion.
“Repetition is something the series will continue to do,” Belcastro said. “Part of that is building an audience, people who remember them from last time will come back and tell their friends.”
Additional performances in 2017 will include ZOFO, a piano duet featuring Eva- Maria Zimmerman and Keisuke Nakagoshi, on Oct. 22 and NakedEye Ensemble on Nov. 12.
“Anything we do beyond the classroom—not just simply taking classes and teaching… there’s a quality of life that comes from expanding your horizons and being exposed to different approaches and different ideas,” Belcastro said. “Art is a great way to do that and this series allows our students, in many ways, the first chance to do just that.”
Contact Linda Pang at email@example.com