Thirty-two years ago, George Flynn decided it was time for DePaul to host a contemporary music series.
“In the late ‘70s, there was simply no new music being performed in the city, except at the University of Chicago. So, I started a group with Eugene Gratovich, a violinist and colleague at DePaul. We called our group ‘Chicago Soundings” and played the music of contemporary composers — myself, Oliver Messiaen, Luciano Barrio, and others whose music we liked and thought worthwhile — at various places, such as the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art on the west side and the Second Unitarian Church on the north side,” he recalls.
“Soon enough, it felt like I was spending all my waking hours organizing the concerts and writing grants. So, I suggested to the Dean of the School of Music, Fred Miller, ‘Let’s bring this on campus — let’s put on contemporary music performances in the concert hall.’ A series would put DePaul on the music map in Chicago and, if nothing else, my colleagues at DePaul — wonderful musicians — would have additional opportunities to play.”
Miller agreed, and they called the series New Music DePaul. Three decades later, it’s still a good idea.
That was just one of Flynn’s initiatives that helped put DePaul’s School of Music on the map.
Another was the Composer’s Forum. Sponsored by and run by the composers and composition teachers in the department, the Forum gives student composers an opportunity to have their works performed in a public forum. A student submits a piece, and then faculty members find the performers. “That’s the easy part, given the number of talented student musicians in the school,” says Flynn. The concerts are held every quarter.
A third initiative was the Orchestral Readings. Every year, students can submit pieces to the DePaul Symphony Orchestra to be “read” which means that the orchestra plays the music. While the readings are not advertised as a public concert, they are open to the public. “This unique experience is of extraordinary value for the student,” says Flynn. “One can’t just approach some orchestra and ask, ‘Would you take time out and play this for me?’ That’s not going to happen.”
Now, because of Flynn and others like him, the School of Music has a national reputation.
“I think our ‘personal’ approach makes the school stand out,” says Flynn.
“Students get the right kind of attention here — the kind they need to flourish. For example, in the composition and musicianship studies department, the faculty will work with a student composing a piece in the most sympathetic, and yet helpful, way possible. The Composer’s Forum and the Orchestral Readings are just two ways we go that extra mile to help our students succeed. And of course, our faculty is amazing — Ilya Kaler is an internationally recognized violinist; Bob Lark, the trumpet player and director of jazz studies, is known everywhere; soprano Jane Bunnel and musicologist Cathy Ann Elias stand out in their fields — these are just a few of our stars.”
Speaking of stars, Flynn is renowned among critics and fans around the world.
One critic noted the “brilliance of [his] multidimensional voicing,” calling Flynn an “uplifting hero” (Doyle Armbrust, Time Out Chicago, November 5-11, 2009). Upon the release of the “Trinity” CD (2008), Dominy Clements wrote in MusicWeb-International: “Taken as a whole, this is one of those works which can have a serious impact on the way you regard music for piano, or the way music functions in general … I sincerely believe this piece to be an exceptional achievement and a powerful contribution to global culture.”
In 2009, Flynn received an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in recognition of his 2008 compositional activities and performances.