The New England Conservatory celebrates 50 years of its contemporary musical arts department

The New England Conservatory is celebrating 50 years of its contemporary musical arts department with a series of free concerts beginning Saturday.

One of the highlights of the series is the ‘Pushing the Limits’ retrospective concert on Tuesday, November 15, which will feature a wide variety of music from the past five decades.

“We both pay tribute to people who have been great innovators within our faculty, but we also present really timely work,” said department co-chair Hankus Netsky. Boston Public Radionoting that a composition included in the program focused on the Parkland shooting and another on climate change.

Netsky said the school’s contemporary music curriculum moves away from the concept of genre, instead focusing on an individual approach to music.

“It’s a program where we see music as a continuum,” he said.

Department co-chair Eden MacAdam-Somer said the program takes artists who have their own voice and idea of ​​their art, and expands their library of music and artists they are exposed to with the aim of build and clarify their own voice. in the context of this continuum.

“We give them a lot to listen to, we do tons of listening, tons of singing, and the idea is to expose you to an incredible array of music and think about being a musician holistically…bringing it all together , the tradition, the contemporary aspects of music, you really start to figure out who you want to be as an artist,” MacAdam-Somer said.

Netsky emphasized the importance of recordings in the 20th century, citing Billie Holiday’s ability to listen to and absorb Louis Armstrong when creating her own sound. Music today is also impacted by recordings, he said, but with exponentially greater access to different modern sounds.

“Now with the internet and global communication being so important, there’s really nothing – you really can’t avoid anything in your continuum, you have to listen and listen and listen,” said Netsky, who warned anyone who thinks today’s music is of a lower quality than in previous eras.

“I think it’s amazing, honestly, what people are taking these days because they have access to everything,” he said.

More information on the upcoming six days of free concerts, starting this Saturday, can be found at