21st Century Composers & Christianity

by Mark Hijleh & Frank Felice

Mark Hijleh & Frank Felice discuss trends in Christian music composition.

Mark Hijleh, Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers (CFAMC) founder and president from 1994-2010, studied composition with Karel Husa, Morris Cotel and James Mobberley. He spent 21 years as a music professor and academic leader at Houghton College, where he taught theory and composition and conducted the orchestra in addition to his activities in the broader realm of arts and sciences, including three years as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. He is the author of The Music of Jesus: From Composition to Koinonia and Towards a Global Music Theory. Among the honors he received as a composer was first prize in the 2002 NATS Art Song Composition Competition. Several of his works are published by Classical Vocal Reprints and Zimbel Press. This past summer, Hijleh began a new post as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at The King's College in New York City.

Frank Felice is an eclectic composer who writes with a postmodern mischievousness: each piece speaks in its own language, and they can be by turns comedic/ironic, simple/complex, subtle/startling or humble/reverent. Recent projects of Felice's have taken a turn toward turn towards the sweeter side, exploring a consonant adiatonicism. His music has been performed extensively in the U.S. as well as garnering performances in Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, Austria, the Phillipines, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

His commissions have included funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Omaha Symphony, the Indiana Arts Commission, The Indiana Repertory Theatre, Dance Kaleidoscope, Music Teachers National Association, the Wyoming State Arts Board, the Indianapolis Youth Symphony, Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma as well as many private commissions and consortia.  A recording of electronic and electro-acoustic music entitled "Sidewalk Music" is available on Capstone Records & Ravello records on iTunes, Naxos and other online sites.

Frank began his musical studies in Hamilton, Montana, singing, playing piano, guitar and double bass. His interest in composition began through participation with a number of rock bands, one of which, Graffiti, toured the western United States and the Far East in 1986-1987. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, the University of Colorado, and Butler University, studying with Michael Schelle, Daniel Breedon, Luiz Gonzalez, and James Day. Most recently he has studied with Dominick Argento, Alex Lubet, Lloyd Ultan, and Judith Lang Zaimont at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he completed his Ph.D in 1998.

Frank currently teaches as an associate professor of composition, theory and electronic music in the School of Music, Jordan College of Arts at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is member of  the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the U.S., the American Composers Forum, the American Music Center, The Society of Composers Inc., and the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers.  Residencies include those with the Wyoming Arts Council, and the Banff Centre for the Arts and a number of mini-residencies in universities and high schools throughout the west and mid-west. In recent years he has been in demand as an electric and upright bassist, playing in a rock//funk/prog rock/big bands in the greater Indianapolis area. In addition to musical interests, he pursues his creative muse through painting, poetry, cooking, home brewing, paleontology, theology, philosophy, and basketball. He is very fortunate to be married to mezzo-soprano Mitzi Westra.

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