New Music Ensemble concludes tour of national parks

GVL/Courtesy - Bill Ryan, NME Zion National Park

GVL/Courtesy – Bill Ryan, NME Zion National Park

Ben Glick

After two years of planning and a 4,000-mile trek, Grand Valley State University’s New Music Ensemble wrapped up its circuit of several national parks in the Southwest.

Beginning on April 29 at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, the NME visited several iconic landmarks including the Great Sand Dunes and the Grand Canyon. The tour ended in Colorado Springs, Colo. on May 4.

The NME describes itself as being devoted to playing music by living composers and what they view as the most significant music of modern time.

For that reason, the NME commissioned composers, such as Armando Bayolo, David Biedenbender, Dan Rhode, Thad Anderson and ensemble member Ashley Stanley to compose arrangements that complement the American Southwest.

According to their website, the NME delivers a beautiful tribute to the seemingly endless landscapes of the West.

Joshua Dreyer, a music performance major specializing in percussion for the NME and a recent GVSU graduate, described just how well the performances were received.

“We are performing works that we commissioned from composers in response to the national parks in the West,” Dreyer said. “So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Audiences have been large and very interested in the project.”

This recent success underlines the organization’s long string of successes since the NME’s founding in 2005.

The NME has gained national recognition for its live performances. The ensemble has been profiled in publications such as Newsweek, The New York Times and Billboard Magazine. The ensemble has also been featured on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” “All Things Considered” and WNYC’s “Radiolab.”

This public exposure and applause from critical outlets has also attracted attention from media seeking out the group’s talent. Some may recognize that a track from the NME’s album “C Remixed” was used in an episode of MTV’s hit show “Teen Wolf” in July 2013.

In addition to concerts performed on campus, the NME has performed at Carnegie Hall, New York’s Poisson Rouge, New Music Detroit’s Strange Beautiful Music marathon and at Chicago’s Millennium Park.

The NME is not a club or campus organization, but a course offered by the GVSU music department. While it is open to any students who are majoring in music, the ensemble is filled on an as-needed basis.

Dreyer attributes the success of the group to its founder, GVSU associate professor Bill Ryan, and his teaching style.

“I believe its success is based on a couple of things,” Dreyer said. “First, the ensemble has something unique to offer. It’s an exciting repertoire that not all music departments offer. Dr. Ryan is very motivated and inventive. He is also a good motivator. The result is a very hard-working ensemble that offers something you don’t get to hear every day.”

For more information on the New Music Ensemble and future events, visit their website at

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