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Longy Student, Alum, and Scholar-in-Residence Receive Local and National Honors

By October 26, 2023October 30th, 2023News

October 26, 2023 

From the White House to the GRAMMYs and public radio, members of the Longy community are receiving local and national recognition this October.

“As a conservatory that’s preparing students to make a difference in the world through music, we’re thrilled to see members of our community recognized for the excellence of their craft and the impact it has on communities in the Boston area and beyond,” said Longy President Karen Zorn.

WBUR Recognizes Rising Boston Artists
The WBUR series The Makers highlights 10 creative artists of color who are making an impact on the local arts scene. The honor includes both a written profile on the WBUR website and a story heard on WBUR’s local programming. This year’s class of Makers includes two musicians who have studied at Longy.

Arson Fahim is an Afghani composer and pianist who arrived at Longy just two weeks before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August 2021. During his first few months in Cambridge, Fahim poured his anguish for his country and his fear for his family’s safety into his compositions. He eventually arranged and performed one of his works, “Broken Mountains,” for a Concert in Solidarity with Afghan Musicians, a fundraiser he organized with other students in March 2023. He’s currently curating an album of works by Afghan musicians who are in hiding.

“I want my music to be a way for me to fight for social justice,” Fahim explained to WBUR’s Andrea Shea. “…and actually ‘fight’ is a good word because that’s how I feel about my instrument — I feel like I’m on the front line of a war against barbarity.”

Danny Rivera, a 2023 Longy graduate, was honored by WBUR for his work in re-examining Black spirituals. First sung by enslaved African people in the fields and as signals in the Underground Railway, spirituals have been sung for generations in worship and in concert. Rivera’s interest in spirituals is driven by an understanding that, while the songs describe past experiences, they also resonate deeply with what’s happening in the world today. In a 2022 recital at the African Meeting House, Boston’s first Black church, Rivera and several collaborators presented a thought-provoking evening of spirituals called “Songs of Free Men,” that reinterpreted these works through contemporary Black experiences.

“I feel the need to set the tone for my generation,” Rivera said in an interview with WBUR. “It’s not enough for you to come in and just sing music that makes you feel good. If you really want to be a contributor to the sound, you have got to know the history and what makes us who we are.”

A White House Honor
On October 20, Dr. Bill Banfield, senior scholar-in-residence at Longy, received the President’s Call to Service Award, which honors individuals who have contributed more than 4,000 hours of community service in their chosen field. The ceremony featured a written commendation from President Biden and Vice-President Harris along with feature performances by the Boston Arts Academy Choir, the saxophonist Najee, and Dr. Banfield’s own Imagine Orchestra.

A native of Detroit, Dr. Banfield began his career as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools and has taught a class called the “Theology of American Popular Music” at colleges across the country. As a composer, author, and educator, he has served as a judge for the Pulitzer Prize for music and as a researcher for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He established the Africana Studies department at Berklee College of Music, where he is now a professor emeritus. And he is currently working to open the Jazz Urbane Café in Roxbury’s Nubian Square, which will host local and national performing artists.

A GRAMMY Nomination
Gonzalo Grau, a Longy faculty member in Composition and Theory, has been nominated for a Latin GRAMMY in the Best Classical Contemporary Composition category. This is a composer’s award for original compositions written in the last 25 years and released or recorded for the first time during the past year. Grau was nominated for his piece “The Wanderer,” a track on the recording Aroma A Distancia (Live from Paliesius, Lithuania) performed by the quartet Brooklyn Rider. This is Grau’s third GRAMMY nomination.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Grau is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, arranger and music director. He leads two projects of his own: “Plural” (Latin jazz-flamenco-Venezuelan fusion) and “La Clave Secreta” (salsa fusion), nominated for the 2008 GRAMMYs in the Best Tropical Album category. As a recording artist, Grau has participated in over eighty productions that bridge both classical and popular music worlds. In 2019, he was nominated for two GRAMMY Awards in the categories of “Best Arrangement Instrumental and Vocals” and for his participation in the album Dreamers (by Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider). In 2020, Gonzalo was commissioned by the Orchestra of the Americas to write a double concerto for violin, cello, and orchestra, to be premiered in 2023 by Johnny Gandelsman and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2021, he was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel to compose a concerto for Venezuelan cuatro and orchestra.