Our 30th season finale was an energetic celebration of Spring. An orchestra of young guitarists from all over Texas premiered Broomsticks by Mason Bynes, and the Texas Guitar Quartet dazzled us live from the AISD Performing Arts Center on Saturday May 22nd.

We were so thrilled to present the season finale in our thirtieth year at ACG with the support and collaboration of Austin ISD, Virtual Guitar Orchestra, Augustine Foundation, and Ex-Aequo. 

As part of Ex-Aequo’s Changing the Canon project that is dedicated to sharing and promoting living composers of color, the Virtual Guitar Orchestra premiered composer Mason Byne’s Broomsticks. We have been so lucky to get the opportunity to speak with Mason.

Mason Bynes is a composer, vocalist and multi-media artist from Sugar Land, TX. She stays musically inspired by chasing collaboration in a myriad of artistic disciplines, including film and television,  theatre, dance, the culinary arts and music for an acoustic/live setting. Her passion and musical curiosity has encouraged a diverse variety of commissions and collaborations with  groups like: The Westerlies, Bass Players for Black Composers, the National Youth Orchestra  of Great Britain, the Dallas Opera, the Fort Worth Opera and many others.  

Mason shared some insight about her composition process and what this project in particular meant for her:

“A  common process of mine is using the piano, guitar or my voice to compose what’s in my head.  I’ve also enjoyed processes that involved listening to music that include the instruments I’m  writing for. I’ve enjoyed processes that involve making field recordings of sounds that inspire  musical material. Other versions of my processes include taking pictures and videos to inspire  a new sound world, finding and wearing different fashion trends, or even cooking a new meal. I  love synthesizing these experiences when trying to find musical inspiration- it’s more fun to me  this way!  

This collaboration with Ex-Aequo was so fun, as was the process behind it! At the time, I had  recently discovered Brazilian guitarist, Luiz Bonfa. I soon realized that I had growing list of  Brazilian artists that I really loved to listen to: Maria Rita, Joyce Moreno, and Adriana  Calcanhotto. So this process started with a lot of listening, singing and dancing! These artists’ rhythmic styles in addition to their sense of lyricism, groove and musical transformation  overtime was helpful when writing this new piece. In addition to this part of the project, Ex Aequo also organized composer- talk sessions with different schools around the country. This  was my favorite part of the project, as there are so many bright and talented young guitarists,  performers and composers out there.” 

Broomsticks is a special composition for Mason because it is the first piece she has composed for solo classical guitar! Mason shared what this meant for her and how it influenced her growth as an artist. 

“I’ve written for rock groups  before, and I love writing for electric guitar- but I’d never written for solo classical guitar. It was  a good challenge and it was so rewarding. The compositional processes behind this piece  allowed me to deepen my listening by way of discovering new artists, and it has had a lasting  impact on the way I listen and compose as a musician. I’m also grateful for the people I’ve met  in this collaboration and for being introduced to the classical guitar community. I was intrigued  by this project when I was first approached by Ex-Aequo, because of their passion for new  music, “changing the canon”. What a thrill it will be to hear all of this incredible new music by living Black composers.”

We are so ecstatic to share Mason’s incredible composition with you! (arr. for the Virtual Guitar Orchestra by Alejandro Montiel). We hope you enjoy!