World premiere music coming to Monmouth

The world premiere of a piece commissioned by Monmouth College music professor Justin Swearinger will be featured during the Monmouth Wind Ensemble’s final concert of the academic year.

Maxwell Lafontant’s “Paideia Fanfare” will have a “soft premiere” three days prior to the Wind Ensemble’s concert, when the group performs the six-minute work as part of the College’s Scholars Day on April 25. Swearinger estimates that the work will be performed at 3 p.m., just inside the south entrance of the Huff Athletic Center.

The interior of Monmouth’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

Swearinger will then conduct the piece again during the Wind Ensemble concert at 7:30 p.m. April 28 in the Kasch Performance Hall of Dahl Chapel and Auditorium (700 E. Broadway, Monmouth). It is free and open to the public.

Celebrating the liberal arts

A graduate of three different universities, Swearinger is best friends with Lafontant, who graduated from Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa. Like Monmouth, Luther is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM).

Justin Swearinger is Monmouth College assistant professor of music and director of instrumental activities. H

“Max and I were discussing the importance of a liberal arts education, especially now more than ever,” Swearinger said in a Monmouth release of the idea behind the commissioned work. “From that conversation was born the idea of ‘Paideia Fanfare’.”

It is a single-movement piece for wind ensemble that celebrates the Midwest liberal arts college experience in the vein of Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. It explores traditional academic formalities through a contemporary lens, giving audiences a fresh perspective on a classic form, the release said.

The concept of the ancient Greek word “paideia” is a training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad, enlightened and mature outlook, harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development.

After 20 years of collaboration, Lafontant and Swearinger — who met as fourth-grade students in Marion, Iowa — have a creative understanding and working relationship, which has a proven record of success, Monmouth said.

Music played worldwide

Based in Minneapolis, Lafontant has had his music performed nationally and internationally, including premieres by the Nevada Chamber Orchestra, the Mivos Quartet, Aliro Voices, and the New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble. He’s also played in several rock bands that have had one performance and then broken up, including Ferrofluid, Psuedosynesthesia, and This Robot, according to his website.

Max Lofantant was born in 1990.

Lafontant earned his master’s in music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Swearinger is Monmouth assistant professor of music and director of instrumental activities. He earned a bachelor’s in percussion performance from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and a master’s in wind conducting from Florida International University. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in wind conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi. 

“My mom was visiting me, and she talked about how cool and meaningful it was for her that Max and I are doing this,” Swearinger said in the Monmouth release. “She’s seen our whole journey from fourth graders to putting something like this together.”

Other highlights of the April 28 Wind Ensemble concert will include “honoring and remembering our graduating musicians,” said Swearinger. That will include a performance of a piece titled “Reminiscence.”

Swearinger conducts the Monmouth College Wind Ensemble in an October 2022 concert.

Senior Kaitlyn McCullough of Springfield, Ill., will be the “amplified soprano” on a piece based on a poem by e.e. cummings, and the ensemble will perform both movements of composer David Maslanka’s short symphony, “Give Us This Day.”

Lafontant will be on campus throughout the week of the premieres, and he’ll interact with Monmouth music students on several occasions. His composition will be performed this fall at Luther during its homecoming celebration and at least two other members of the ACM — St. Olaf and Ripon — plan to stage performances of the piece during the upcoming academic year.

For more on Monmouth’s music department, visit its website HERE.

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