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Ann Arbor hosts 50th anniversary celebration of experimental music festival

Composers gather
Makepeace Tsao
Tsao Family
Members of the original ONCE festival gather at a loft

Musicians, composers and academics from around the country will be in Ann Arbor this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of theONCE festivals.

Five composers from Ann Arbor - Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, George Cacioppo, Roger Reynolds, and Donald Scavarda - created the ONCE festival because they wanted their music to be heard and they wanted to push the boundaries of contemporary music.

Mark Clague is a music professor at the University of Michigan. He says the 50th anniversary celebration will include lectures, exhibits and concerts – including music from ONCE founder Donald Scarvada.

"One of the things that Don Scavarta does," explains Clague, "is he take the squeaks of the clarinet that you would hear as a mistake, and then he has the clarinets practice those squeaks and learn how to control the squeaks. And so by harnessing what had been an error and then advancing it as a musical event, it really advances the whole notion of what music can be."

That piece is called Matrix for Clarinetists.

Four of the five original ONCE composers will be at the ONCE MORE festival, which runs now through Thursday.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.