Ethos NewSounds coordinates festival with Latitude 49

  • Fredonia’s Ethos New Music Society presented a concert by Latitude 49 this past Thursday in Rosch Recital Hall. (Angelina Dohre/Photo Editor)


Special to The Leader


Latitude 49, a six-person band originating from the University of Michigan, payed Fredonia a sonic visit.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, the band arrived at Mason Hall offering students a master class focusing on music composition. The next night, Latitude 49 performed a concert in Rosch Recital Hall, but this was no ordinary concert.

The band performed pieces that were composed by living people. Even more so, the pieces performed were focused around the theme of violence and its emotional outcomes.

“The Cellist of Sarajevo” by David Wilde is a piece inspired by the events of the violent Siege of Sarajevo. It is about a musician, Vedran Smailovic — an actual Cellist who played this piece despite the risk of getting killed in Sarajevo in 1992. Max Geissler from Latitude 49 played it on Thursday night.

Rachael Smith, a senior music composition major with a concentration in the viola and president of the student organization Ethos, shared her thoughts.

“Music has the ability to both hurt and heal, and I think we take that for granted . . . it’s something like, ‘oh, we hear music on the radio,’ but really it’s something more integral to our lives,” she said.

There is a big difference between radio music culture and actual live performances.

More deeply, Smith describes the meaning behind the club’s name.

“The Greeks had this term ‘ethos,’ which is where we get our name from . . . music has the ability to be a coping mechanism, but I think it can do so much more, giving us the opportunity to speak without words,” she said.

The band was formed during college, and they call themselves Latitude 49 because most of the members are from the approximate location of the latitude 49 line on the U.S-Canadian border.

Rob Deemer, the head of music composition and associate professor here at SUNY Fredonia, is also the faculty advisor for Ethos NewSounds.

“Over the last 20 years or so there are a number of student-formed chamber ensembles that have

been quite successful

. . . This group is an example of what we hope our students here at the School of Music may want to pursue as an option for a career,” he said.

While some students are pursuing careers as music teachers, the other half are performers. Deemer pointed out that a collaborative musical process can lead to bigger things in life.

The musicians of Latitude 49 consist of Jani Parsons, Chris Sies, Andy Hall, Andy Hudson, Timothy Steeves and Max Geissler. These musicians are deeply involved in their work. They not only try to focus on an abstract theme, but more specifically the composers. The significance of the pieces is that there is a collaboration and relationship between the band and the composer.

“What we are really passionate about is the work of living composers,” said Steeves.

Since the composers are alive, not only can the band relate sonically, but also on a mutual communication level. This mutual connection can be lost if a composer is dead.

“We try to understand what’s in the score, what the composer’s intentions are, but know it to the extent that we don’t have to think about every single thing . . . that’s where the real fun is, if [you’re] just reading and trying to stick together then it isn’t fun,” said Parsons.

Isn’t everyone trying to have fun? Well Latitude 49 was having lots of it with the students of the Fredonia School of Music. Their next theme will be centered around love.

If you missed out on this festival, no worries. Ethos will be coordinating another event close to the end of February with many more to come.

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