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Bay Area Gems: Guerrilla Composers Guild

The Guerilla Composers Guild hit the nail on the head with their name because us Bay Area new music heads are truly at war. With declining arts funding, increasing rent and disappearing music education programs, musicians are traveling up an increasingly steep hill. Guerilla founders and Danny Clay and Nick Benavides are giving bay area musicians extra food and water to make the hike and I love them for it. They have been doing a hell of a job presenting concerts that feature local emerging composers and ensembles. People show up, journalists review, and everyone drinks beer and enjoys good music. And the performers even make some cash at the end of the night, what a world! A world that would not be possible without the hard work of the Guerilla Composers Guild.

“Anyone who thinks classical music is going the way of the telephone booth needs to be kidnapped by the Guerrilla Composers Guild (GCG) and taken to the Center for New Music holding pen… dozens of new-music lovers crammed into the concert space to hear the evolving group Phonochrome and friends play six new chamber works by as many worthy composers. Almost everyone — performers, composers, and, most significantly, audience members — was apparently under 30. I can now die in peace knowing art music will continue to prosper… Speaking in Early Telephone Booth lingo, my Hat Is Off to all concerned with this Guerrilla enterprise.”

Jeff Dunn in San Francisco Classical Voice

Co-founder Danny Clay has been drenching the social networks in name-your-own-price, ambient goodness for years now. This guy puts out more high quality music than anyone I know, it’s ridiculous. I threw on his album, Archive, while hiking in Utah and it was pure magic.

Danny writes great music and he’s also a secret weapon in the battle to preserve musical innovation. He teaches at Zion Elementary and inspires unbelievable creativity in his students. His Facebook feed is an onslaught of their endlessly entertaining drawings and scores. He also, ahem, borrows their creations and brilliantly uses them for his own compositions. Do the children bring it out of Danny or vice versa? Check out a vintage Danny Clay-Friction Quartet collaboration where he used drawings that his students made while listening to Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue as material for a graphic score.

He regularly works with Little Opera, an invaluable organization that guides children through the creation of an opera. Danny helps hone the kids’ uninhibited brilliance into musical notation. He nurtures budding composers so that their open minds continue to open further on their path towards becoming forward thinking artists.

Co-founder Nick Benavides also does great work on the education front. He’s on the board of Composers and Schools in Concert and teaches at UC Berkeley and Academy of Art University. It’s brought me great joy to watch Nick blossom as a composer since we first met three years ago. Check out his extremely cool piece, Bog Bodies, from a Guerilla Composers Guild showcase at Hot Air Music Festival.

One of our first gigs was a fundraiser for Composers and Schools in Concert playing music by Nick and Danny. They both graciously offered bar friendly jams for our Hot Air After Party (review by Dustin Soiseth) with Mobius Trio and Andy from The Living Earth Show. They are dear friends who have also been great supporters of the quartet from the beginning. I wish them and Guerrilla Composers Guild the best as they continue to lift artists up. Now I leave you with one my all time favorite works written for Friction, Danny Clay’s The First and the Last, written for the Hot Air After Party at Hotel Utah.

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