“This year’s FeNAM includes Grateful Dead pair”
October 26, 2015 (Craig Kosho)

With 10 days to fill, Sacramento State’s Festival of New American Music ( has a lineup Nov. 6-15 to please all music lovers with a variety of forms and artists, and even includes a couple of former members of the Grateful Dead.

FeNAM’s featured composer is Kurt Rohde, who will present a keynote address at noon, Friday, Nov. 13. A recipient of the Rome Prize, Berlin Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Rohde also is a founder of and performs with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble.

“His music is really exciting and technically virtuosic,” says FeNAM Artistic Director Keith Bohm. “He pushes the limits of what the musical instruments can do.”

“He’s also a professor at UC Davis so he’s our friend and neighbor,” says co-director Stephen Blumberg. “His music is complex and rich, but it’s quite accessible.”

Rohde is appearing at the Festival in conjunction with the Lydian String Quartet, which commissioned him to write a big piece for the concert they’ll present at 8 the night of Rohde’s address.

FeNAM kicks off with the traditional Gala Performance at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

Performing that night, and again at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, is the duo Dose Hermanos, which consists of duo keyboardists and Grateful Dead alumni Tom Constanten and Bob Bralove. Constanten was with the Dead from 1968 to ’70, and Bralove was a co-producer with the group from 1987 to ’95. But Deadheads might not recognize the music they’re creating now.

“Their music is hard to classify,” Blumberg says. “It’s not strictly rock or contemporary classical. It’s improvisational but it’s not jazz, but it has influences of all these things.”

During the Gala Concert they’ll perform a piece Blumberg wrote especially for them.

The gala also features Cabalito Negro, a duo comprising flutist Tessa Brinckman and alumnus Terry Longshore on percussion; and baritone Eugene Villanueva, another Sac State alumnus. (Read our profile and watch our Made at Sac State video on Villanueva.)

Another of the featured groups is the Lydian String Quartet, a world-renowned ensemble with a modern and contemporary repertoire. In addition to an 8 p.m. concert Friday, Nov. 13, they’ll conduct one of FeNAM’s several student master classes earlier that day.

“That’s what I love about the Festival,” says Bohm. “The group not only has an impact on the audience at the concert, but also with the students, one-on-one, during their master class.”

Other performers include pianist Geoffrey Burleson, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and Eco Ensemble.

Bohm and Blumberg strive to make sure there’s a variety of styles throughout the Festival’s run. That runs the gamut from Eco Ensemble’s instrumental virtuosity with live electronics to the chamber ensemble of the Lydian String Quartet, to the swinging improvisations of the Sacramento Jazz Orchestra.

“We try not to have the same direction every night,” says Bohm. “That keeps people interested.”

There are no concerts Veterans Day, Nov. 11. For details on the lineup, visit (, or call (916) 278-5191.

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