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There are times in every community when independent, edgy performing artists emerge with a taste of something new.
Salt Lake City audiences have been able to see two performances by independent modern-dance choreographers within the past four months, and this weekend will see the debut of a group of young composers.
Six members of the Salty Cricket Composers Collective - M. Ryan Taylor, Rick Mortensen, Gary Gerber, Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Rebeca Dawn and John Newman - unveil their work Saturday at the Pickle Company in downtown Salt Lake City. The program includes a sequence of piano pieces, songs from an opera still being written, an electronic improvisation set, music set to a film clip and more. Many of the composers will perform their own or each other's work.
"For music, there is a 'glory' period . . . Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms," said Heidi Schmidt, a member of Salty Cricket's board whose day job is public-relations director for Repertory Dance Theatre. "But for us, what we're focused on are new compositions for the classical mold - basically, new music for the concert hall."
"Art has to be fresh to survive. It has to be true to the vibe and community that it comes from," said Young-Otterstrom, the audience-development manager for Utah Symphony & Opera who volunteers as the marketing director for Salty Cricket and is also a composer and singer. "We're really committed to celebrating new, local music."
Non-establishment groups have always performed the work of local, independent artists as a way to give them exposure, said Stephen Brown, founder of SB Dance, who describes his work as "zany."
"It's very important that these new artists get their work seen. But Salt Lake City is a really hard place to do all that, and I think it's because a lot of performing arts are based in tradition," he said. "This stuff ebbs and flows. Sometimes there are a lot of performers here that stick around and want to produce."
Utah composer Phillip Bimstein recalls the time an independent Salt Lake performing-arts group commissioned him to write a piece that eventually boosted his career to the national level. "I think it's important for audiences to be given the opportunity to hear new music. I've had firsthand experience at what organizations like Salty Cricket can do for new artists, and so maybe that is something they can give back to the artists and the community," he said. "If Utah is going to have a vibrant, ongoing culture it has to continually refresh itself from within."
* SALTY CRICKET COMPOSERS COLLECTIVE performs Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Pickle Company, 741 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City. Suggested donation is $20, $10 for students at the door. For more information, visit http://www.saltycricket.org.