CCM alumnus' choral commission shares hope for those struggling with memory loss

Alex Gartner’s “Toward Something New” will be premiered by the Durham Children’s Choir in late May

UC College-Conservatory of Music alumnus Alex Gartner (BM Music Education, ‘12) recently finished a 10-minute choral work for treble chorus that was commissioned by a coalition of memory care associations, including TimeSlips Creative Storytelling and Dementia Inclusive Durham. The piece “Toward Something New” will be premiered by North Carolina's Durham Children’s Choir in late May.

A headshot of Alex Gartner

Alex Gartner. Photo/Provided.

The work focuses on memory loss and being present in the moment, honoring the experiences of both the person struggling with memory and their loved ones. "Its message is one of hope — hope that new memories and shared experiences can be forged through impactful encounters with music and the arts," Gartner says.

“The primary emotion associated with memory loss is appropriately named: loss," he adds. "A person experiencing memory loss for the first time — perhaps due to dementia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, natural aging and the like — often replaces lost memories and shared experiences with feelings of loss, frustration and loneliness. However, this piece exists in a different sphere, one that is defined not so much by pain, but by possibility."

"When we open ourselves to experience another without judgement, without fear and without our own baggage, we can begin to see the beauty and authenticity in the person in front of us. As choirs embark on this work, each singer is encouraged to consider that it means to approach someone new without any preconceived notions — just two people sharing a space with one another.”

In addition to composition, Gartner is an educator and conductor currently serving as the Artistic and Executive Director of the Pensacola’s Children’s Chorus. The choir will make their Carnegie Hall debut on June 13, 2022. He also has a book entitled The Business of Choir set to be published this summer. 

“I suppose I really found my compositional voice with my experience with the Cincinnati Youth Choir, where I started as an accompanist during my undergraduate years at CCM," Gartner says. "I later became an intern through the music education division, and after graduation I was hired as the Richard W. Wesp Assistant Director. Working with choirs of all ages helped me realize what youth voices are capable of. So much of the repertoire out there is trite and is frankly disrespectful of what children can do with their voice. I was doubly blessed with a top-notch education through the music education division and the division of choral studies who instilled me with high standards for music making and learning.”

“I strive to create music that is meaningful, challenges the preconceived notion of the listener about what youth are capable of, and provide opportunities for young people to express themselves through the beauty of choral music. It’s really fun and challenging work.”

Learn more about Alex Gartner’s work and upcoming performances.

Headshot of Jaime Sharp

Jaime Sharp

CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications

Jaime Sharp is a master's student studying Vocal Performance at CCM. She serves as the Vice President of the CCM Graduate Student Association and Student Liaison for the CCM DEI Committee. Jaime holds a bachelor's from the University of Michigan.

Featured image at the top: Alex Gartner leading a choir during a performance. Photo/

Additional Contacts

Curt Whitacre | Director of Marketing/Communications | UC College-Conservatory of Music

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