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Accidentally on purpose

The accidental music festival brings out the best in Orlando's new music scene

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On a recent Saturday morning, composer Keith Lay sits down at a table at Urban ReThink and briefly surveys the room before settling into a conversation about his music.

Sitting in an armchair near the window is young composer John Alvarez, who studied with two of the most well-known modern composers in Florida: Stella Sung and Ladislav Kubík. Modern jazz composer and up-and-coming trumpet player Matt McCarthy is talking with guitarist John Krasula, and Kevin Strang, bass clarinetist, is posing for a photo with double bass player Tylor Delgado. Across the room local jazz heavyweight percussionist Michael Welch is standing with Benoit Glazer, conductor for Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba and creator of Timucua, an exquisite performance space in Wadeview Park in which most of the musicians who have gathered here have visited, if not played, at some point in their careers. Lay himself is an accomplished modern classical composer whose work has been performed at Lincoln Center in New York City, and who was hailed by the New York Times as a “composer to watch for” in 2004.

These musicians and composers represent a dense cross-section of Orlando’s contemporary music scene: all the genres are represented by some of the most accomplished players in their fields, from jazz to modern classical to electronic to experimental.

Looking around the room, Lay says, he realized that he knows most everyone here from his 21 years of working in music in the Orlando area, but he’s never seen them all gathered in one room like this before.

They’ve just never come together before for the kind of showcase of local talent and musical innovation that’s about to kick off on Sept. 4 with the Accidental Music Festival.

“There has always been this kind of culture in this town,” he says. “The town has not always been aware of it, itself, but it exists. It exists in pockets. All of the music, all of the elements have been in place.”

Like all happy accidents, this Accidental Music Festival had a pretty humble beginning. Alvarez had recently graduated from FSU, and he started talking with friend and fellow musician Chris Belt about planning a concert that would give modern composers an opportunity to introduce their work.

Belt approached Pat Greene, programming director of Urban ReThink and a member of the volunteer music-presenting group the Civic Minded 5, about using the space to hold a mini-festival of modern composers. Belt booked three dates at Urban ReThink, and Greene says it just so happened that the Civic Minded 5 had booked two local shows of its own during the same week: one by modern flautist/vocal improviser Emily Hay and one by modern electronic composers Jason Kahn and Bryan Eubanks. Serendipitously, the dates booked by Belt dovetailed with the two shows booked by the Civic Minded 5.

“I told [Civic Minded 5 member] Matt Gorney what we had going on here, and he said ‘It’s like an accidental music festival,’” Green says. So they went with it.

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