5 Questions for Composer Monica Pearce

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Monica Pearce, originally from Prince Edward Island, is a composer of new classical/contemporary music with a particular affinity for solo and chamber music, opera, and musical theatre. After completing her Bachelor of Music at Mount Allison University with a focus on piano and composition, studying with David Rogosin (piano) and Ian Crutchley and James Code (composition), Monica completed her Masters of Music in Composition at the University of Toronto with the mentorship of Alexander Rapoport and Gary Kulesha. She currently studies composition independently with Linda Catlin Smith.

Monica co-founded the emerging composer collective the Toy Piano Composers in 2008 with Chris Thornborrow, where they, along with Elisha Denburg, are the Artistic Directors. The Toy Piano Composers are currently in their eighth season and have presented over 100 new works in 20 concerts, with support from the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council and the SOCAN Foundation.

Pearce’s work has been performed by the Array Ensemble, eklektikos ensemble, TorQ percussion quartet, junctQín keyboard collective, Sneak Peek Orchestra, Tonus Vivus Ensemble, Avant Guitars, Digital Prowess, and Tandem Percussion. Monica was the composer-in-residence for the 30th Anniversary of Canada Music Week in Prince Edward Island. In 2012, she was named winner of the Heliconian Choir and Orchestra’s New Music Competition for Emerging Female Composers for her piece “You Know Me” (based on the poem by Gwendolyn MacEwen). She also received the Canadian Music Centre’s Toronto Emerging Composer Award Honourable Mention for her project “it plays (because it plays)” for the junctQín keyboard collective. In December 2013, she received the honourable mention for her toy piano solo work “clangor”, which was premiered by Margaret Leng Tan at the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival in New York City. Most recently, she was the composer-in-residence for the O.K. Quoi?! festival in Sackville, New Brunswick, where she created a community soundscape project entitled “Sounds of Sackville”.

Monica Pearce is also the Executive Director of The Music Gallery, Toronto’s Centre for Creative Music, and sits on the boards of the Canadian Music Centre (National and Ontario Region) and Musicworks Magazine.

Monica Pearce will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
Back in the summer of 2008, I found a used toy piano on Craigslist and I thought it would be the perfect graduation present for myself. At the same time, I was talking with my friend Chris Thornborrow about starting a composer collective. These two things converged in a wonderful, magical way, and we created the Toy Piano Composers. We are now in our eighth season, having presented over 120 premieres, for all different forces – and the toy piano continues to be a symbol for the group. Besides my work with the Toy Piano Composers, I continue to be attracted to the toy piano’s unique sound in my own creative work – its metallic, fringey tone, its transportable size, and its playful connotations.

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
The prospect of meeting up with like-minded toy piano performers and composers was just too tempting to pass up. Plus, Canada is…quite cold in January.

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
Chris Paul Harman. He is a Canadian composer based in Montreal and he uses toy piano in a lot of his orchestral and chamber works. His use of the toy piano timbre within his orchestration is so imaginative and evocative. Big fan!

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
It’s hard to say – I think people didn’t realize it would have the kind of sustained concert life it’s had within contemporary music in the last decade. It’s becoming more standardized as an instrument and more and more composers are writing for it (and more and more performers specializing in it). I think its future as a concert instrument is very bright, with lots of creative music coming its way.

In the future, I also hope someone starts making proper cases for them for transport. That would be very smart.

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
I heard that Tampa Bay was huge during prohibition, and that one of Florida’s oldest breweries is in Tampa. I’d like to check that out!



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