Greg Fritze Wins Gold Medal at World Music Contest

Brenda Pike
September 10, 2009
Composition Department chair Greg Fritze not only composed the winning piece, but performed as part of the symphony as well.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

The Sociedad Artístico Musical de Magallón, a Spanish symphony from the province of Zaragoza, won a gold medal at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, the Netherlands this August with a piece commissioned from Berklee Composition Department chair Greg Fritze.

The Kerkrade World Music Contest has been called the "musical Olympics." The competition is held every four years, drawing ensembles from all over the world, who win gold, silver, and bronze medals in their divisions.

Fritze's accomplishment is twofold: not only did the tuba player write "Magallón: Instrumento de Civilizaciones" for the symphony, but he also performed it with them.

"I've written for three ensembles now specifically to compete," Fritze says. "The first big piece was for a conductor friend of mine, Rafael Sanz, in 2001. He wanted me to write a piece for his group to go to the Certamen [Internacional de Bandes de Musica] in Valencia. It was the first time that they were going into this category, so going into it they didn't expect to do well. It turns out they won first prize. It was like the 1969 Mets.

"Ever since then, there have been a lot more composers writing special music for the Certamen. Before that they were doing mostly orchestra transcriptions, but when I write a piece for a group, I can bring out their strengths and showcase the ensemble. I've written three pieces now, and they've all won first prize for their group."

Fritze's relationship with Spanish symphonies goes back two decades, to his collaboration with conductor Francisco Carreño in 1989. He traveled to Spain to meet Carreño four years later and felt an immediate connection to the area. Since his initial visit, he has traveled to Spain at least once a year, sometimes three or four times, including for two sabbaticals and a Fulbright Grant. "They like my music," says Fritze. "About 20 groups have played my music there."

As chair of the Berklee's Composition Department, Fritze has also brought many Spanish composers to Berklee as guest artists, including Bernardo Adam Ferrero, Francisco Tamarit, Rafael Sanz, Miguel Vercher, and Francisco Bueno. In October, Carreño will be coming to perform a concert with faculty and present a clinic for students.

Fritze's connection with the area has made him especially helpful in plans for a future Berklee campus in Valencia, which Fritze says will prove to be an excellent center for global, contemporary music education.

"It'll be very exciting to go to Valencia, because it's a very musical environment," says Fritze. "There are 530 music societies—basically every town has a music society, some have two. It's a social club that sponsors a concert band; some have a chorus, some have an orchestra, a few of them have jazz bands now, too. A lot of these societies have their own buildings, and some of them have a bar, open all day. There's always something going on. Music education is done mostly by these societies."

However, "they need to expand into more areas of the music field: music technology, music business . . . ," Fritze opines. "Berklee will help with that a lot. And Berklee students doing a semester abroad in Spain will get an opportunity to see a very rich culture there. It'll be very good for both sides. I'm very excited."