About Composing in the Wilderness

Now in its seventh year, this unusual field course is offered by the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival in collaboration with Alaska Geographic and the National Park Service.  It is led by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias.

Working with experienced guides, naturalists, and scientists, we take experienced composers into the backcountry of Alaska's wilderness and provide them with an intense and immersive adventure. With this as their inspiration, the composers then have the opportunity to compose original chamber music that is premiered by top-notch contemporary music performers on staff at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.

The "Denali Adventure" field course (started in 2012), allows composers to spend four days in the back country of Denali National Park, after which they are flown by bush plane to the remote Coal Creek Mining Camp in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve where they have four more days to compose.  Returning to Fairbanks, the group meets up with "Corvus" - the contemporary music ensemble of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival and their new pieces are rehearsed and then premiered both in Fairbanks and in the visitors center of Denali National Park.

2018 will see the introduction of an exciting, and much more immersive, second offering.  The "Arctic Adventure" will take adventurous composers on a week-long canoe trip in the second-largest national park in the USA (Gates of the Arctic).  Following nearly a hundred miles on the river, the group will have a few days to begin their compositions while relaxing in the remote fly-in-only town of Bettles.  Their pieces, completed in the following months, will be premiered in New York City at the iconic Federal Hall Historic Site.

Each year, our group is made up of a diverse group of composers from all levels of their career (student, professional, professor, freelance), and from many countries around the world.  We value this diversity and encourage applicants of all ages and nationalities.

It is the mission of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival to help participants awaken their inner artist; enrich lives by increasing personal and professional growth; and engage the spirit, intellect and energy in an empowering way.  Composing in the Wilderness supports this vision by providing a life-changing artistic adventure, a deep sense of community, and a genuine connection to wilderness.

(articles and testimonials)

 Nan Eagleson (Naturalist from the Murie Science and Learning Center) and Stephen Lias

Nan Eagleson (Naturalist from the Murie Science and Learning Center) and Stephen Lias

ABOUT THE PERFORMERS:

Drawing on experts in every discipline, the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival brings together high-level musicians, chefs, dancers, actors, photographers, and artists of all types for two intense weeks in July.  The resident contemporary music ensemble for the festival (Corvus) is led by two New-York-based performers with deep Alaskan roots: Andie Springer (violin) and Katie Cox (flute).  Each year they enlist other accomplished performers to create a dynamic chamber ensemble which presents concerts in Fairbanks, as well as outreach events in rural communities of interior Alaska.  Participants in Composing in the Wilderness have the privilege not only to have their pieces premiered by Corvus, but also to develop a lasting working relationship with these musicians.  

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“And one can not say enough about the players of Corvus. With even less time than the composers had to write them, they had to master nine completely new pieces for their premieres. They played—and sang—exceptionally through the program. How fortunate the composers are to have such support in their performers. Bravo to all!”
— Peter Alexander (Music Critic for Boulder Daily Camera)