As a pianist, Stacey Barelos specializes in the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly the music of living composers. Her solo release, The Midwest American Piano Project, which features works by living composers with ties to the American Midwest, was released by Albany Records in 2008. The American Record Guide said “Stacey Barelos…plays with authority and poetic nuance, her beautiful tone captured vividly in this warm recording…” Regarding her performance of Henry Cowell’s Dynamic Motion and the Five Encores to Dynamic Motion, Gunther Schuller said, “It was by far the best performing of Cowell’s piano music I’ve heard in a half a century – or perhaps ever.”
Much of her research, dedicated to helping performers and teachers with the music of Henry Cowell, can be found on her website, http://www.cowellpiano.com. Her CD of piano music by Cowell was released by Centaur Records in 2012.
As a composer, Stacey’s works have been performed across the U.S. and in Europe and Australia. Recent premieres include thread, stitch, weave, bind for string ensemble inspired by the work of Sheila Hicks and showcased at the 2016 Omaha Under the Radar Festival and The Piano is Stressing Us Out written especially for the audience at her 2015 TEDx Omaha talk. Her works can be heard on the Albany and Blue Griffin labels.
Currently, Stacey teaches piano, theory and composition at the Omaha Conservatory of Music and is the Education Director for the Omaha Under the Radar Festival. For more information, see her website, http://www.staceybarelos.com.
What sparked your interest in toy piano?
I have been composing and playing new music for almost twenty years. One of my specializations is with the music of Henry Cowell, someone whom I believe would have a special kinship with the toy piano today. Cowell’s music and his approach to it include the same child-like wonder as much in the toy piano catalogue.
As a performer, I specialize in music with extended techniques or that incorporates other instruments such as percussion or voices. When I first started hearing serious toy piano music many years ago, I was intrigued. As it gained in popularity, I found myself continuing to come back to the sounds of the instrument, collecting everything I could find. Three years ago I decided to take a leap and purchase my first toy piano. It has been a labor of love ever since. While I am just beginning my toy piano career, I have commissioned three works and have received funding to compose my own set of toy piano pieces. The more I learn, the more I want to play. As I add more music (and more toy instruments!) to my repertoire, I am ecstatic to be a part of this movement and look forward to continue to contribute to the world of toy piano music.
What do you hope to achieve artistically or educationally from your participation in the festival?
As a toy pianist based in Omaha, Nebraska, I sometimes (okay, often) feel removed from the toy piano world. I hope to attend this festival and be immersed in all things toy piano and beyond.
First and foremost, I want to learn from specialists in the field. What are the trends in toy instrument music? What are people doing around the country and the world? What other repertoire is available? Who else is composing toy piano music?
Secondly, I hope to connect with other performers and composers. I am part of a team of women that run a new music festival in Omaha and would love to hear and see more about what this festival offers. Do we face similar challenges? What can I learn from your fabulous festival?
Lastly, this festival seems unlike any that I have attended in the past. While I have been to so many of the available new music festivals and conferences, this festival seems to offer not only a rare voice, with its focus on toy instruments, but also gives a voice to diversity, something often lacking in the new music world.
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