Sue Feingold is an award-winning composer that has just released her magnum opus, the Waitin’ Tryptych. We were lucky enough to sit down with her to discuss her history, influences, accolades, and what the future may hold.
Waitin’ Triptych – what does it say, how do the songs interact?
In 2013 I started studying composition with Vince Peterson (whose Choral Chameleon won this years’ ASCAP Award for Adventurous Choral Conducting). In fact I had not written music for many years.
Vince saw in me the potential to be composer I am today. A brilliant musician himself, he is totally supportive, gently making invaluable suggestions. Studying with Vince, it was most natural for me to write choral music such as The Next Before.
The cabaret songs started out being ‘just for fun’. However I wrote one, then another and still another – the Triptych. The triptych is autobiographical. They all concern my “almost husband” first mentioned in Two Weeks Passin’.
“Two Weeks Passin’” took place in 1962. Then the songs fast forward to the 21st century. “Waitin again” is about emails in 2011, and “Old Love”, taking place in the present, is about the realization that he and I were never going to meet again, Old Love is the final song of the Waitin’ triptych or song-cycle consisting of three songs.
What other awards/recognitions have you won?
I have twice been chosen as one out of 8 choral composers – in a nation-wide search for Vince Peterson’s Choral Chameleon Summer Institute that premiers new choral music. Choral Chameleon won this year’s Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming .
What was your route to becoming an award-winning composer?
I was a music minor in college, where I majored in Math and Physics. I always had composition in the back of my mind. However, my college experience in composing was very disappointing. I closed my music books and thought – that was that. I didn’t compose for years. This changed by serendipity. I volunteered to set a poem written by a friend in 2012. On this basis, two musicians recognized my potential in writing music. Kelly Crandell and Vince Peterson.
Kelly conducted a community chorus in North New Jersey when I met him. He also organized my cabaret winning recording team, introducing me to amazing Sonya. Kelly was impressed with my 2012 song. He told me if I was serious about composing, I should study – with Vince Peterson – an excellent teacher.
Vince Peterson, saw in me the potential to be composer I am today. In fact I have decided to give Vince a Sue Feingold Award for Creative Teaching. He made all the difference between Sue Feingold of Columbia U and the Sue Feingold you are interviewing today. A brilliant musician himself, he is totally supportive, gently making invaluable suggestions.
What was your educational and personal background?
After college, I spent a year in Physic Graduate School at Columbia University where I met my ‘almost husband’. Following that, events lead to my spending 36 years in Israel where my daughter was born and grew up. To earn a living there I worked as a scientific advisor at the Technion Computer Center. I was fortunate to be able to get a Masters and a D.Sc. on the job, in an early application of Artificial Intelligence. I also free-lanced in the Technion Physics Department.
But I always wanted to come back to the States. That only happened when my (real) husband passed away. I returned in 2003.
Other musical pursuits
Studying with Vince, it was most natural for me to write choral music. The cabaret songs started out being ‘just for fun’.
I have also written an operetta commemorating my Adventure in Southern Spain. In 2012 I rushed to bedside of my closest friend who lived there. Kelly, who is also an opera specialist, is going to conduct this operetta in April of 2016.
I am currently composing an Environment Suite for chorus, my way of creating interest in the environment. In addition, I’m thinking of another song for Sonya.
How can our readers find you and your music?
The public is invited to visit my blog-site: susanjfeingold.wordpress.com on which I publish my performed music.
I have both a YouTube and a SoundCloud channel. On the SoundCloud channel, I post drafts of upcoming songs and occasionally performed music, such as The Next Before, which was performed in Peterson’s 2015 Institute.
Besides music, what are your other interests?
Besides my concern with the Environment, I’m also an animal advocate. I have adopted a tribe of Lakota Indians living on a reservation in very, very bleak conditions in South Dakota. I consider the Native Americans our most forgotten minority.
I do most of my endorsements on Twitter, (which I find is an excellent way of learning to be concise. As a lyricist that counts.)
Are you a feminist?
I do not consider myself a feminist. When I took Freshman Physics in college there were 150 guys and two girls in the class. So what! Because I’m a bit of a loner, I am not much influenced by peer pressure, never even heard the “you ought to stay at home and have babies” mantra. Wanted a career in theoretical physics. That didn’t happen but composing did.
Truthfully I now spend almost all of my time composing.
I used to write pop-science articles (no math needed) based on my background in Physics – I have been published in 5 Physics Journals. These were posted on my blog. The one with the music, I really have to organize this.
The one science article I still have in my mind is based on a talk that I gave at a “Defenders of Wildlife” Wolf Conference in 1996. I flew to Albany from Israel for that one. I actually explained, to a bunch of animal advocates, a statistical method for calculating wolf-caribou survival rates under varying conditions. And the audience “got it”.
Final, open-ended question – what would you tell our readers?
Someone once asked me if I planned to write a memoir. My music is my memoir.
Sue Feingold won TheAkedemia.com August 2015 award for best cabaret song with Old Love, featuring the ravishing voice of Sonya Headlam. To put this award into perspective, Alicia Keyes won the Award for best R&B song in 2013 so Sue is in good company.