WFIU’s featured Contemporary Composer for August is Rick Sowash.
A Composer Whose Humor Belies His Gravity
Unlike most composers, Sowash has not sought an academic or commercial career in music. Following the example of Charles Ives, Sowash practices his art as an avocation, earning most of his living as a storyteller and banquet speaker, with a line of recordings of his humorous stories.
Sowash has also worked as a radio broadcaster, theater manager, innkeeper, and county commissioner. He is the author of the books Ripsnorting Whoppers: Humor from America’s Heartland and co-author of Heroes of Ohio: 23 True Tales of Courage and Character.
Yet though there is humor in his music, Sowash is a serious composer, a member of ASCAP and the American Music Center. He’s written some 160 compositions, mostly for chamber ensembles, choral ensembles, also many art songs and a handful of orchestral works. A dozen of his chamber works have been commercially recorded and twenty-five of his scores have been published. His Concerto for Cello and Strings with Clarinet, written for the Bulgarian-American cellist Kalin Ivanov, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2007.
Celebrating ‘American Classical’
His tonal, accessible, often pastoral music has been described as folky, but not hokey. “As a composer,” he writes “my goal is to write music that will help me connect with other people, listeners and musicians alike.”
A self-described regionalist, Sowash composes from the point of view of an Ohioan. His piece The View from the Carew was inspired by the tallest building in downtown Cincinnati.
Sowash was a featured composer at the Adirondacks Festival of American Music in 1995, where the Gregg Smith Singers performed thirteen of his art songs and five of his choral works.
WFIU will feature music by Rick Sowash throughout the month of August.