Guerrilla Composers Guild Part II

This week we conclude our discussion with Nick Benavides, administrator for the Guerrilla Composers Guild (GCG) in San Francisco. The GCG is an organization dedicated to supporting composers of contemporary classical music and finding artists to perform the new compositions.

Nick is joined by fellow composer Michael Kropf, as well as performers Tori Hauk and Jessie Nucho from the Suroko duo.

We delve into a discussion about music in the Bay Area and what defines this region. Nick points out that the GCG is not necessarily about “pushing the envelope and ripping it open.”

“We don’t see ourselves as the Ballet Russe causing riots at Davies Symphony Hall. It is about cultivating talent. We run the gamut from very experimental music that might push people to be uncomfortable in their seats to music that is flowery. It’s really about honing the craft of those performers and composers. It’s really about putting a lot of faith in those artists.”

Michael Kropf sees the Bay Area as very different than New York City, often considered the epicenter of culture and art. As an undergrad, he lived in the Big Apple and then moved to San Francisco directly after.

“They are two very different scenes. New York is held up as the Gold Standard and it is a very vibrant scene. But I function better in the Bay Area because of its openness. All those things (that make New York special) exist in San Francisco without negative feelings or a feeling of conflict.”

“In New York there is always the sense someone is trying to take control of the narrative. I don’t think that’s ever been a part of the Bay Area scene.”

Jessie Nucho and Tori Hauk comment on the Bay Area’s environment for performers. Younger performers in high school are not only playing the traditional classical music, but eager to experiment.

Building audiences and community

One of the biggest challenges for any musical artist today is attracting new listeners. It is an especially acute problem in the classical music genre. But GCG is using some creative techniques to tackle the problem.

One of those tactics is to focus more on the ensembles than on the individual pieces of composition.

“It kind of works. We get people who want to see Suroko Duo. They want to see a human achievement on flute. Focus on the ensemble.”

The International Low Brass Trio performs “de Profundis” by composer Danny Clay

Another tactic is to make the performance intimate and interactive. They usually produce their events at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.

“It’s very supportive of the new music community. It’s essentially a big living room. We like to choose venues that facilitate interaction with the composers and the performers,” says Nick.

Advice for new musicians

We wrap up the show asking Nick and team to give advice to new musicians just starting out. Nick’s suggests artists work to help build opportunities for friends and build a community. By doing so, they will not only aid the community but generate opportunities for themselves as well.

Jessie from Suroko urge performers to “keep going. It takes a lot of effort to get things off the ground. It’s OK to have false starts. If you don’t give up and seek your authentic musical self, it will work.”

Tori adds that being a musicians is about 98 percent perseverance, and 2 percent talent. “Be graciously stubborn. Keep putting yourself out there and keep going.”

This week we feature in our show a wide variety of musical styles produced by the GCG. To listen, you can click here:

I Smoke My Pipe.

Three Lorca Songs

Touch

de Profundis

Hope you enjoy the music and the interview as much as we did!


Guerrilla Composers Guild Part II was originally published in BayAreaMusician on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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