Contemporary Musical Arts: Celebrating 50 Years of Cross-Genre Collaboration

CMA Open House September 22

During the 2022-2023 academic year, New England Conservatory is celebrating 50 years of Contemporary Musical Arts: NEC’s unique cross-genre program founded by Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake in 1972. You might be wondering: what exactly is Contemporary Musical Arts? 

When the program was founded, it was called “Third Stream,” in reference to the fusion of European classical music and modern American jazz traditions, along with the incorporation of other global music traditions; this groundbreaking program later evolved into the department more recently known as Contemporary Improvisation

As the program marks 50 years of exciting innovation, inspiring faculty, and notable alumni, it is transforming once again with a fresh name, Contemporary Musical Arts (CMA), as it looks to the future. While the name of the department has evolved, the core ethos of experimentation, boundary-crossing, and multiculturalism endures.

Led by co-chairs and NEC alumni Hankus Netsky ’76, ’78 MM, and Eden MacAdam-Somer ’13 DMA, NEC is celebrating this milestone anniversary with a year of dynamic performances with faculty, students, alumni, and special guests – and it’s already off to a great start, with September seeing a variety of exciting concerts highlighting the unique world of CMA. 

CMA Open House Irish Fiddle
CMA Open House Piano
CMA Open House Students September 22

As the new school year began, Contemporary Musical Arts showcased their dynamic work with a variety of events, including an Opening Night program in Jordan Hall featuring CMA faculty, and an Open House & Open Mic Night for the NEC community.

Farayi Malek CMA Opening Night September 22
Ran Blake September 22
Balla Kouyate CMA Opening Night

Alumna Satoko Fujii ’96 GD, an accomplished avant-garde pianist, accordionist, and composer, returned to NEC to lead an Improvisation Workshop. 

Satoko Fujii Improvisation Workshop September 22 - Spotlight
Satoko Fujii Improvisation Workshop September 22

The CMA department has many concerts, events, and celebrations in store for this upcoming year. Catch a preview in this NEC Alumni Spotlight on Hankus Netsky and Eden MacAdam-Somer, and please stay tuned to NEC’s digital channels for more to come on the history, and future, of the CMA department. We can't wait to share this year's events and latest innovations with you! 

Want to experience more?

If you would like to watch a full-length concert with the Contemporary Musical Arts department, check out “Ritual" from June 2022, where faculty member and pianist Anthony Coleman curated a program inspired by contemporary rituals in modern life, featuring new student works and performances centered in Jewish, African, Ukrainian, Korean, and American folk traditions, starring special guest, Ukrainian folk musician, improviser, and composer Julian Kytasty.

Watch more videos from the CMA department at NEC's YouTube channel. 

Read "Contemporary Improvisation: A Revolution in Music Education," from NEC's 2022 Magazine, which features a timeline of this unique program over the years.

Words by Katie Ingegneri, NEC; Photos by Andrew Hurlbut, NEC

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